Why forgive?

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else;
you are the one getting burned.” Buddha

It’s the start of feeling better

Anger and forgiveness go hand in hand. When your child forgives, he also lets go of his anger. Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. It helps us overcome and move on from negative emotions. It may help the other person as well, but only if they also forgive themselves.

We would all love to protect our kids from the pain of hurt feelings. But making mistakes and little hurts are (unfortunately) good for kids. When given the tools, children increase their compassion, empathy, and ability to forgive. They learn they can and will overcome pain. They become stronger and more confident.

Benefits of forgiveness

Research has shown that forgiveness is good for the forgiver.

Forgiving people tend to:

  • Be healthier, happier, calmer, have better moods
  • Be more empathetic and agreeable and have better relationships
  • Have higher self-esteem

When we forgive it can:

  • Reduce our stress, anxiety, anger, depression, hurt feelings, and our blood pressure
  • Increase our feelings of optimism, hope, and compassion
  • Increase our capability of re-establishing closeness in relationships

On the flip-side, unforgiving people tend to be:

  • More hateful, angry, anxious, depressed, and even neurotic
  • More likely to ruminate or dwell on thoughts of revenge

One study showed looked at families in Northern Ireland who lost a family member to violence. After practicing forgiveness, there was a reported 40% decrease in depression. That’s significant! (And better than many drug trials.)

Why is it hard to forgive?

Some kids find it hard to forgive. Initial research is showing that this may be linked to fixed and growth mindsets. (Read an earlier post about growth mindset here.)

In an experiment, grade 8 students were given a scenario to read about bullying. They were then asked to write down their thoughts. They were also asked to write what they would do or would want to do. Kids with a fixed mindset tended to take the situations more personally. They were more likely to write about violent retaliation and revenge. Kids with a growth mindset were more likely to say the bully had psychological problems. They believed the bullies were mean because of low-self esteem. And so their approach was to talk to the bullies and help them. They also believed they could forgive the bully.

This is of course not the only reason some kids find it harder to forgive. Forgiveness is a learned skill. This week we will help your child learn the steps to forgiveness.

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