This blog began as way to communicate my personal experiences with getting out of debt and managing my personal finances. However, it quickly grew into something more encompassing; how to live a more profitable life. Turns out forgiveness is the first step toward a profitable life. Why? Good question.
Why is Forgiveness Step 1?
Forgiveness is the first step toward a profitable life? Yes. This Lady thinks so.
Why? Because no matter how you define a profitable life for yourself, it implies that you want something different than what you have now. It implies that a change is necessary to achieve a better life. Change causes stress. And being stressed is no way to start any self-improvement journey.
Self-improvement and Stress
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that stress affects our health. A Harris Poll on behalf of the The American Psychological Association reports on the top causes of stress for Americans. 61% reported money as the top cause of stress with work and personal health concerns following right behind, both at 58%.
If your desired profitable life involves changes to your money, your career, your health, or “D, all of the above”, it’s likely to be a stressful journey. But knowing this is a good thing. If you know change is coming, and that it may cause you stress, you can front load the process with something that is inherently designed to help you let go and move on. Forgiveness.
What is Forgiveness?
The Greater Good Science Center of University of California, Berkley website says that “psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”
So letting go is a big part of forgiveness. However, Bob Enright, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison who pioneered the study of forgiveness three decades ago says there is more letting go of negative feelings.
“True forgiveness goes a step further, offering something positive—empathy, compassion, understanding—toward the person who hurt you.”
And isn’t that what we are looking for? To let go of the bad and bring in the good?
Benefits of Forgiveness
Physical and Mental Health
A myriad of studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. Research has also shown that forgiveness is linked to mental health outcomes such as reduced anxiety, depression and major psychiatric disorders, as well as with fewer physical health symptoms and lower mortality rates.
As is reported in one benchmark study, people who had greater levels of accumulated lifetime stress exhibited worse mental health outcomes. But among the subset of volunteers who scored high on measures of forgiveness, high lifetime stress didn’t predict poor mental health. The power of forgiveness to erase that link was surprising, the lead researcher says.
“We thought forgiveness would knock something off the relationship [between stress and psychological distress], but we didn’t expect it to zero it out.”
In fact, researchers have amassed enough evidence of the benefits of forgiveness to fill a book; “Forgiveness and Health.”
Forgiveness can also help rebuild self-esteem, Enright adds. “When people are beaten down by injustice, you know who they end up not liking? Themselves,” he says. “When you stand up to the pain of what happened to you and offer goodness to the person who hurt you, you change your view of yourself.”
Forgiveness therapy is described by a number of clinicians and researchers as a promising new approach to anger-reduction and the restoration of emotional health. A 2006 publication by the American Psychological Association distributed at a UN Conference workshop on forgiveness stated
“By finding positive meaning in events previously viewed as mostly negative, the forgiver releases resentment and may find a new life purpose. This allows for the possibility of healthy emotional regulation and a re-examination of self as more than just a victim.”
In one DailyWorth article, 19 Things Unhappy People Do, not forgiving hits at 17. “17. They refuse to forgive. Unhappy people tend to hold on to grudges, but there is freedom and peace in letting go of things and offering forgiveness to yourself and others.”
Dr. Wayne Dyer promotes forgiveness as essential for spiritual growth. In his blog, How to Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt Your in 15 Steps, he states that “these thoughts of resentment, anger, and hatred represent slow, debilitating energies that will dis-empower you if you continue to let these thoughts occupy space in your head.”
As you may know, many personal finances experts start the “taking control of your finances” steps with assessing your current state. While I agree that this assessment is an essential part of the process, I contend it might not be the best first step.
With all the documented benefits on our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, it’s not really that far of a stretch to assume that forgiveness can have a positive impact on our financial health as well.
In fact, I propose that before you pull out all the bills and spreadsheets (and your hair out), take some time to contemplate how you got into your current situation. Truth is there are many reasons why people struggle for finances. Only you really know why. Think of all of the reasons you can think of and if you are holding negative feelings toward them. Sort it all out and see what you can do toward forgiving the “guilty parties”, even if the biggest offender is yourself.
Approaching your finances with a calm, positive mindset is imperative. It’s especially important to achieve a position of empowerment before you dig into dirty details of your debt. By forgiving yourself and others upfront, you may minimize the shame, anger, frustration, and defeatist attitude that often accompany the first steps in the journey to a profitable life.
How to Forgive
Ok, we get it, right? Forgiving is the new cool thing and an essential first step in moving toward a profitable life. Great. Now what?
It’s proven that some people of more skilled at the whole forgiving thing. I like to believe I’m forgiving but if I’m honest I fall more into the “woman scorned” thing…except when I’m not and forgive people who repeatedly hurt me. Yes, forgiveness is a complex issue and may not come easily.
The good is there a LOT of research and resources out there to help. Quite honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed so I’ve limited my coverage here to two credible, landmark clinical models to help to promote forgiveness and the mental health benefits that go along with it. (NOTE: Despite the differences in the interventions, a meta-analysis of 54 forgiveness studies found that both the Worthington and Enright models helped people forgive and also improved their mental health.)
Enright Process Model of Forgiveness
Robert D. Enright is professor in the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is president of the International Forgiveness Institute at UW Madison and is considered a pioneer the scientific study of forgiveness. Enright stresses the need to acknowledge one’s own pain, without getting stuck in the hurt.
His eight keys to forgiveness are:
- Know what forgiveness is and why it matters
- Become “forgivingly fit”
- Address your inner pain
- Develop a forgiving mind through empathy
- Find meaning in your suffering
- When forgiveness is hard, call upon other strengths
- Forgive yourself
- Develop a forgiving heart
Worthington REACH Forgiveness model
Everett Worthington is a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University and a clinical psychologist. His research and writing focus on forgiveness and other virtues, religion and spirituality, and issues related to marriage and family.
- Recall the hurt
- Empathize with the one who hurt you
- Offer an Altruistic gift of forgiveness
- Make the Commitment to forgive
- Hold on to the forgiveness
There are lots of exercises out there to help you bulk up your forgiveness muscles. I ran across many ideas for professional therapy, journaling, prayer, meditation, etc. Then I ran across a post from Denise Duffiled-Thomas on her LuckyBitch.com website. And seems like my kind of Lady, swear words and all!
I strongly suggest you read her article but to sum it up:
- Make a list in a journal of “every single thing that has been done to you that you can’t forgive.”
- Mentally affirm to each infraction the simple mantra of “I forgive you, I’m sorry, and I love you.” (I have heard this from Dr. Joe Vitale Law of Attraction stuff as well.)
- Check back with your list. Be aware of the shifts in your feelings.
I also saw another idea during my research. Write to the person who caused you pain then burn the letter. That’s kind of symbolic and beautiful.
The journey toward a profitable life is just as unique as the individual taking the journey. However, if you want life to pay you higher returns than your initial investment, there are certain steps, or pillars, that you’ll likely leverage along the way.
Forgiveness is the strongest first step to set the stage for some positive personal growth and improved personal finances, if that’s part of your journey as it is mine.