In How to Let Go of Unresolved Conflict, I shared this Bill Clinton story about Nelson Mandela:
“Mandela made a grand, elegant, dignified exit from prison and it was very, very powerful for the world to see. But as I watched him walking down that dusty road, I wondered whether he was thinking about the last 27 years, whether he was angry all over again. Later, many years later, I had a chance to ask him. I said, ‘Come on, you were a great man, you invited your jailers to your inauguration, you put your pressures on the government. But tell me the truth. Weren’t you really angry all over again?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I was angry. And I was a little afraid. After all I’ve not been free in so long. But,’ he said, ‘when I felt that anger well up inside of me I realized that if I hated them after I got outside that gate then they would still have me.’ And he smiled and said, ‘I wanted to be free so I let it go.’ It was an astonishing moment in my life. It changed me.”
If I hated them after I got outside that gate then they would still have me.
That has to be one of the most powerful comments ever made about the act of forgiveness and the true freedom it offers.
If you’re still carrying anger or resentment about a past conflict with you, or are good at holding grudges but not letting them go, then you might appreciate a recent Mayo Clinic article. In Forgiveness: How to Let Go of Grudges and Bitterness, Mayo Clinic chaplain Dr. Katherine Piderman offers the following benefits of forgiving, found in recent research:
- Lower blood pressure
- Stress reduction
- Less hostility
- Better anger management skills
- Lower heart rate
- Lower risk of alcohol or substance abuse
- Fewer depression symptoms
- Fewer anxiety symptoms
- Reduction in chronic pain
- More friendships
- Healthier relationships
- Greater religious or spiritual well-being
- Improved psychological well-being
The article goes on to answer questions like, What if I’m the one who needs forgiveness? Doesn’t forgiving someone mean you’re forgetting or condoning what happened? How do I know it’s time to try to embrace forgiveness? What if the person I’m forgiving doesn’t change?