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As we forgive our debtors

Created date

January 24th, 2012

Several years after surviving the Ravensbruk concentration camp in Nazi Germany, Corrie ten Boom gave a public speech about the power of forgiveness. Afterward, one of the cruelest guards from the camp approached her with outstretched hand and asked, Will you forgive me? To forgive is to let go of negative thoughts, feelings, and actions, and to seek a more compassionate understanding of an offender. Interestingly, studies show that seniors are more forgiving than younger people, in part because seniors have better control over their emotions and place greater value on preserving close personal relationships.

Power of forgiveness

Practicing forgiveness lies at the core of most world religions, and now, more psychologists and neuroscientists recognize its power to improve health and reconcile relationships. Forgiveness is proving to be more effective than the traditional coping mechanisms of suppression (avoiding a situation or offender) and expression (revenge and retaliation). Forgiveness is associated with lower blood pressure, reduced stress, less depression, fewer medications taken, better sleep, more energy, a more positive outlook on life, and stronger family and social relationships. Based on such compelling evidence, more health care professionals are incorporating forgiveness therapies into their treatment programs for family counseling, heart disease, chronic pain, substance abuse, and cancer. About her encounter with the Nazi guard, Corrie ten Boom writes, I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, Jesus, help me! Woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. I forgive you, brother, I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other s hands, the former guard, the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment! To forgive is to set a prisoner free and then you may discover the prisoner was you.