I ONCE IMAGINED the act of forgiveness would evoke the sort of revelry experienced by game-show winners or the tidy and peaceful resolution of a Lifetime TV movie. But true forgiveness provides more lasting spiritual nourishment.
"The more you practice forgiveness, the more it gets inside you, and then it's no longer just a skill," Enright says. "It helps transform who you are and how you think about people and how you interact with people and how you feel about people, especially those who hurt you." Learning to forgive helps relieve feelings of depression and anxiety and increases a sense of optimism, he notes; research from Hope College in Holland, Mich., indicates that conjuring up "forgiving thoughts" may lower blood pressure and heart rate.
"Good things happen to the forgiver," says Enright. "That doesn't mean forgiveness is a self-serving activity, because it's giving a gift to someone who hurt you. The paradox of forgiveness is that as you reach out with the gift to one who hurt you, you're the one who is healed."