Character Building - Forgiveness

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Social Psychology
Character Building Project
Forgiveness
Forgiveness; it’s not something people often think about. It’s also not something highly publicized. However, it is hugely important. Forgiving others and being forgiven, impacts our whole lives. Forgiveness can impact your health, your happiness, your relationships, and more. Forgiveness is something all parents need to be sure to take the time to teach their children. Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to children. They may not always listen or grow up remembering and abiding by the morals and ethics you tried to teach them, but a lot of the time they do. I define forgiveness as the letting go of anger, hurt, and hate towards a person (or people) who has wronged or harmed you physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Refusing to forgive someone has several repercussions. To begin with, withholding forgiveness can actually harm you physically. By refusing to forgive someone, you are not allowing yourself to heal and move on. In response, you body turns that anger and resentment into stress, high blood pressure, lower immunity, anxiety, and even depression (Mayo Clinic staff, 2011). That same anger can also make you bitter. You will begin to be angry with everyone, you won’t be able to enjoy the present, you life could begin to lack meaning and purpose, make you at odds with your spiritual beliefs, and cause you to lose your connection with others (Mayo Clinic staff, 2011). You have to be careful with your anger so you don’t hurt others around you. You could be threatening your relationships with those you love. If you’re acting like a jerk to those around you, relational interdependence could decrease due to the way you treat them. Also, due to social exchange, they may treat you the way you are treating them. Creating more hate and hurt for you and just making your already bad situation worse.

Not forgiving also makes you just as bad as the person who hurt you. The longer you hold onto your anger, the more you will desire revenge. Revenge makes you your worst self and puts you on the same level as that person you hate (Orloff, 2011). This could also be referred to as cognitive dissonance. You believe that it is wrong to hate or hurt someone, yet you are unwilling to forgive the person who has harmed you.

The best place for forgiveness to start is with parents. Parents need to start teaching their children about forgiveness in a way they can understand at as young an age as possible. The sooner they are exposed to forgiveness, the more likely they are to retain it, even if they don’t fully understand it yet. A perfect way for parents to teach this to their children is through example. Children are very impressionable and want to be just like their parents when they are young. They will imitate what they have seen. The more the parent demonstrates forgiveness, the more likely the child will remember it as they get older. Being a good example is also a good way to prime your child to forgiveness. If they see it all the time, they are more likely to react in a similar fashion. In my opinion, you cannot talk to your children enough. Talk to them about everything, even if you have to take the time to put it into context that they can understand. Answer all their questions as best as you can. Children will remember. Even better, as they age, your child will continue to come to you to talk if you are always open and available to them. Being an example also applies to any other adult in a child’s life that has contact with them; teachers, coaches, relatives, etc. Forgiveness begins at home.

It is very easy to think of a time when you needed to forgive someone. A good example is being out somewhere and having some stranger with whom you have contact who is rude, short, or angry with you. It is natural to feel angry at them for lashing out at your for no reason, but you must forgive them all the same. You have no idea what they are going through....
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