Forgiving Others Decreases Depression, Anxiety, and Anger

The current economic situation in America has caused many individuals to lose their homes. Families that were self-supporting may now find themselves in unique living arrangements. Extended family members, in-laws, or parents may be part of the household as people try to survive financially. These conditions can place an immense amount of stress on everyone. Tension can develop from unmet expectations, criticisms, and hurts that have gone unhealed. These experiences can fester and turn into large resentments that lead to anger and hostility. Unresolved issues can create negative feelings that can develop into serious mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety. Forgiving these transgressions is not easy but can provide immense health benefits for people dealing with emotional unrest.

In other cultures, this type of living arrangement and the accompanying stress are more common. In Pakistan, married women are expected to live with their in-laws and abide by their rules. They must ask permission to venture out and are financially dependent upon them. When criticism and emotional hurts arise, these married women must decide whether to forgive or to react negatively by avoiding or getting revenge. To determine how these behaviors affect the mental health of these women, Riffat Sadiq of the Institute of Clinical Psychology and the Department of Psychology at the University of Karachi in Pakistan recently led a study examining the psychological impact of forgiveness.

Sadiq evaluated 120 married women who were living with their in-laws and found that those who forgave negative actions and words had lower levels of depression, anxiety, and anger than those who did not. The forgiving women also had higher levels of relationship satisfaction with members of their families and better overall life satisfaction than those who were unforgiving. Loss of individuality is a factor that many of these women struggle with because of the integrated family dynamic. Sadiq said, “Her view revolves around the loss of self and world and she becomes unable to recover from pain.” Women who are unable to forgive often grieve for their former independence and may develop significant mental health problems as a result, including posttraumatic stress. Sadiq believes the results of this study clearly demonstrate the multiple inter and intrapersonal benefits of forgiveness.

Sadiq, R., Zehra Ali, A. (2012). Forgiveness and its relationship with well-being among married women in joint family. Pakistan Journal of Clinical Psychology, 11.1, 59-68.

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  • Isla

    June 12th, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    I know that living with the in laws is hard, because we have been there, done that.
    No it was not ideal. I think that all of us would admit to that. But you know what? We didn’t have a choice, and now that I can look back on the experience, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought that it would be.
    I would have rather had my own space, but financially we were not able to do it at the time. So we saved money and lived with them until my husband finished school.
    We occassionally had words and I cried some, but they were the support that we needed at the right time that we needed it, and for us it just made sense.

  • AMY

    June 12th, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Seems like keeping all that resentment inside you is not good for your health…Forgiveness does more good to you than the one you are forgiving…lets us all try and banish hate.

  • Antoine

    June 12th, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    Don’t harbor ill will or anything like that against my wife’s parents but the thought of living with them makes me want to stick a fork in my eye! I love them but I do not live with them any more than they want to live with me. There have been times in my marriage that they have said some mean and negative things and it took me a long time to let go of it all. But once I did, you are right, it just makes you feel better about life overall. There is no sense in holding onto all of that anger, all of that negative energy in your life does nothing good for the soul.

  • Dian

    June 13th, 2012 at 12:56 AM

    I completely agree with Amy well said.

  • Fran

    June 13th, 2012 at 4:24 AM

    Forgiveness is a very powerful thing.
    But don’t do it until you are truly ready.
    You have to be in the right frame of mind to be able to forgive and to let go of all the animosity that could have been building up for some time.
    You don’t have to compromise who you are and your personal beliefs in order to offer forgiveness and move on with your life.

  • alita

    June 13th, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    We all know what it is like to experience hurt by someone that we love. Doesn’t it always seem that the people who we love the most are also the ones who can hurt us the most? But the power of being able to forgive and forget is so uplifting and quite frankly one of the best things that we can ever learn to do for ourselves.
    There have been times when I have wanted to hold onto the hate, embrace the anger and be that horrible person that I did not want anyone else to be, but there I was being that which I did not want to be around. What good is that doing anyone? You just have to turn it over, and move toward a better place.

  • Steven

    June 14th, 2012 at 6:33 AM

    Oh but it’s so hard to get to that point where we can willingly offer up forgiveness isn’t it?

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