The Health Benefits of Forgiveness

Navigating Difficult Apologies & Healing Through Forgiveness

Yom Kippur, also knowns as the Day of Atonement, is an important Jewish holiday that acts as a time to reflect and atone for personal sins and seal their fate for the upcoming year. An atonement is defined as reparation for a sin, or "righting a wrong," so to speak. At the heart of atonement is the complicated give-and-take of apologies and forgiveness. Is it really best to forgive and forget? When should you apologize for your actions? Is holding a grudge affecting your health?

Medical studies have proven that forgiveness is a great thing for your physiological health. Letting go of the hurt and burden of resentment reduces blood pressure, betters sleep patterns, lowers risk of heart attack, and improves cholesterol levels. Not only does forgiveness better your physical health, it reaps reward for your mental health as well. The act of true forgiveness can lower feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress.

On the opposite end of forgiveness lies apology. Much like forgiveness, apologizing for something you've done is a cathartic experience that benefits your health. Here are 3 important elements to keep in mind to get the most out of an apology, the triple A.


1. Acknowledge: Address and acknowledge what you're sorry for explicitly, don't leave it up to interpretation. Show empathy for the recipient and validate their feelings.

2. Accept: It's important to accept the consequences of your actions. Hold yourself accountable and use it as a learning experience moving forward.

3. Amends: Actions speak louder than words. Make amends with those you've wronged and actively work towards becoming a better person.

While forgiving often seems "easier" than apologizing, it's very easy to fall into the trap of conditional or pseudo-forgiveness. Conditional forgiveness occurs when you set stipulations for the interaction. For example, I'll forgive you for [this] if you do [that]". While this may provide short-term relief, it's akin to putting a band-aid on an open wound. Just saying the words "I forgive you" is not enough to truly move forward.

There is no one-size-fits-all template for apologies, but staying grounded and truly feeling your emotions while expressing empathy is always good to keep in mind.

If you or a loved one are struggling with the mental health affects of conflict, clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are here to help.

Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 x9500) for more information or to schedule an appointment.