Feeding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting your adversary to die.
Now, we know it destroys both your health and brain. As we age, the more grudges we hold, and the more forgiveness we need for those who have trespassed against us. That is how we see it. However, those trespassers may in fact feel trampled upon themselves. Whether you are the trampled or the tramper, one sure result is that there’s a lot of bad feelings and heartbreak.
My years as a board-certified psychiatrist and neurologist, father and husband have taught me that whenever one has bad feelings, one also has anger. If this is not resolved quickly, the anger turns into vindictiveness or grudge. It’s those grudges, more than the heartbreak that causes damage, not only to your spirit, but to your brain. The healing question is, how do you let go of anger?
It is well-known that people who are able to forgive have a decrease in cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, and depression and an overall improvement in emotional disposition.
At Hope College in Michigan, 71 people were asked about transgressions they experienced. They found that once they had forgiven the transgressor, their blood pressure showed a marked decrease and overall decrease in coronary artery disease.
There are three steps to forgiveness.
- Refuse to see yourself as a victim.
For instance, if a husband leaves his wife, the wife should not consider herself a victim, but rather that she was a devoted person and was stronger than her spouse.
- Attempt to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and you may see your part in the transgression.
- Do not assume forgiving will give full relief. Often, one who does the transgression does not see it that way, but by forgiving, it allows you to move on.
ANGER AND THE BRAIN
The question is, Does letting go of anger help your brain and heart?
In Lancet 2005, it was noted in a Harvard-based determinant of myocardial infarction onset study that 1 in 40 people with MI’s admit to a major anger episode two hours before having an MI. They equate things such as depression, chronic stress, anxiety, and anger to cholesterol and hypertension as risk factors.
An Israeli biochemist and physician showed that there was an increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier with stress. He took two groups of mice, stressed them by dunking them in water, and injected the rodents with a dye measuring its intensity in the autopsied brain. He found that the dye had passed much more readily into the brain of the stressed animals. The significance is that stress increases blood-brain barrier permeability and therefore will subject the brain to many toxins that normally would not enter it.
In another study, when adverse visual stimuli, such as horrid pictures were seen by a conscious patient, there was an increase in neuron firing along with an increase in metabolic rate. This means that stress by visual stimuli (that so many youngsters obtain through watching violent video games and movies) can in fact cause agitation to areas of the brain and exhaustion of the neurons, therefore increasing their stress and cortisol levels that will interfere with good neuronal transmission.
The results: poor grades, negative attitudes, and yes, obesity. As a child begins to fail he seeks relief through others that share that attitude and escape through drugs and alcohol.
Here are some quotes on anger and forgiveness to contemplate:
“It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”
-St. Francis of Assisi
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”
“Arguing creates little light but a lot of heat.”
“Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.”
-Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac
“Returning fire with fire leaves ashes.”
“Don’t get mad, don’t get even, get ahead.”