The Power of Forgiveness

Associate Editor
~ 1 min read

The Power of ForgivenessIn the 1980s psychologist Everett L. Worthington, Jr. Ph.D., began studying forgiveness while working with troubled couples. On New Year’s Eve, 1995, his mother was murdered. Dr. Worthington then dedicated his life to encouraging and educating people about forgiveness. He turned grief into mission by writing books, speaking, and founding A Campaign for Forgiveness, which has raised millions of dollars to support the search of forgiveness.

In her book, “The Law of Forgiveness,” author Connie Domino devotes a chapter to the scientific evidence for the power of forgiveness. Some of the studies she includes are fascinating, and will have you dump your righteousness and mend the strained relationships in your life before you’re ready.

For example, Dr. Fred Luskin, director and cofounder of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, conducted research on college-age adults and younger-to middle-aged adults from Northern Ireland who had lost family members to the bloodshed in that area. His first study found that people who were taught to forgive became less angry and more optimistic, compassionate, and self-confident. They also carried less stress.

Dr. Tom Farrow, a clinical psychologist from the University of Sheffield, in the United Kingdom, studied the effects of forgiveness on the brain. Using high definition magnetic resonance imaging, he and his colleagues scanned the brain, and found that when a person is forgiving there is an increase in activity in the frontal lobe of the brain, the zone also responsible for problem-solving and complex thought, or the higher functions of thinking and reasoning.

Other studies of forgiveness have found it good for your heart. One study from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine associated forgiveness with lower heart rates, lower blood pressure, and stress relief. Another from the University of Tennessee and University of Wisconsin, Madison, attributed forgiveness to fewer medically diagnosed chronic conditions and fewer physical symptoms from illness.

The first few years of my recovery from alcohol abuse, I remember the old timers warning the newbies about the danger of anger. “You have no choice but to forgive and move on,” they told us, “because if you don’t, you’ll end up drunk again.” It seemed overly dramatic and exaggerated at the time, but now, contrasting the times in my life that I have been able to forgive with the times I clung to my resentments much like a baby blankie, I recognize the wisdom of their words. With forgiveness comes a shocking amount of power and healing. It propels us from a place of dis-ease and anxiety toward emotional, physical, and spiritual health.



View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 8 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.

    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 May 2010
    Published on All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Borchard, T. (2010). The Power of Forgiveness. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 26, 2015, from


Recent Comments
  • Chet Bush: Thank you Professor Betsy Hoza for your ‘much needed Study on the ‘impotence of...
  • Lucy: Hi Shawna – you really need to get away from your father. You also need to realise that nothing he says...
  • kazchaz: This is helpful, very much so and it would be great to hear from you again, with updates on your progress,...
  • sambo: I really need some help im so depressed and anxious I cant work or leave the house im on antidepressants and...
  • Concerned: My father was a narcissist. He basically ruined my mother’s life and she ended up dying young of...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 8463
Join Us Now!