Richard Stride Commentary: Research Shows Forgiveness Can Lead to a Healthier and More Meaningful Life


“It’s much more agreeable to offend and later ask for forgiveness than to be offended and grant forgiveness,” Friedrich Nietzsche once said.

I would agree, wouldn’t you? Why is it so hard to forgive? Are there some offenses that do not deserve forgiveness? Are there some acts that are so heinous they don’t deserve forgiveness? In these cases, justice and forgiveness often clash. Sometimes, when justice is served, forgiveness may happen.

Be that as it may, let’s talk about everyday forgiveness. Studies indicate there are connections between forgiveness and physical, mental and spiritual health. It’s appropriate to talk about what forgiveness is and what it isn’t.

Researchers differ on what comprises forgiveness. Some say forgiveness is contextual. In other words, it depends on your relationship with the offender. Take, for instance, forgiving someone you want to keep a relationship with. This is much easier than those who you do not want to maintain a relationship with.

One researcher defined this type of forgiveness as being “motivated by feelings of goodwill, despite the offenders’ hurtful actions.” In contrast, rather than feelings of goodwill, one could choose to remain in a negative emotional state. People who choose this path want to keep their feelings of resentment, anger or malevolence toward the offender.

Another researcher, a psychologist at Hope College, Charlotte Witvliet, proved in a controlled setting that forgiveness can do wonders for your overall health. Forgiveness can lower your stress, blood pressure and heart rate. Not forgiving, on the other hand, is stressful.

Being in a state of unforgiveness takes a toll on your overall health. In this controlled setting, when people were asked to just imagine forgiving someone, let alone actually forgiving, or empathizing with the offender, their physical arousal trended downward.

There is no magic bullet here as to what may work in every situation that one may decide to practice forgiveness.

Let’s also be clear — forgiveness does not mean forgetting or giving clemency to the offense. We don’t forget offenses, although I think it would be nice if we could. However, we all can learn to be more forgiving, wouldn’t you agree? The research emphatically points to the fact that, with the right amount of practice, the many physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of forgiveness are available to anyone.

Let’s also be realistic. The fact of the matter is as humans interact and intermingle with one another, conflicts will naturally arise. The hurtful and sharp reactions we have with others, and others have with us, will lead to squabbles.

But, if research into forgiveness has taught us anything, it has proven that offenses do not have to lead us to a life of hurt and resentment. There are many famous examples of forgiveness we can look to and emulate.

Nelson Mandela, for instance. He demonstrated the beauty and effectiveness of forgiveness.

If you are not sure or don’t remember his story, it’s worth a read.

Forgiveness could be life-transforming for you. It could help you live longer, better and more completely.

Besides, who wants to live their lives in a constant state of hurt or resentment? I know I don’t.

I suspect you don’t either. Is there someone you need to forgive?


Richard Stride is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at