Continuing our series on stoic quotes, let’s take a deeper look at another lesson from Marcus Aurelius about revenge. Ah, sweet revenge. Marcus says the best revenge is not to be like the people who hurt us, and that we should choose forgiveness. But are there any scientifically supported benefits to forgiveness? In this post, we’ll go over 3 key benefits that come with choosing forgiveness over revenge.
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Reduced stress and anxiety
According to several studies, forgiveness can actually help reduce stress and anxiety.
For example, a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that forgiveness was associated with reduced stress and anxiety in a group of college students (Witvliet, Ludwig, & Bauer, 2002).
Another study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that forgiveness interventions were effective in reducing stress and anxiety in a group of breast cancer patients (Worthington et al., 2004).
Improved physical health
Forgiving others can also benefit our physical health. Research has shown that forgiveness can be linked to:
Lower blood pressure
According to a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, forgiveness was tied to lower blood pressure in a group of college students (Witvliet, Ludwig, & Bauer, 2002)
Better heart health
A different study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology discovered that forgiveness interventions were helpful in lowering heart rate and blood pressure in a group of breast cancer patients (Worthington et al., 2004)
Stronger immune system
Enhanced mental well-being
Forgiving others can help us feel more confident and self-assured, as it allows us to take control of our emotions and reactions rather than being controlled by them.
Additionally, studies have also shown that forgiveness can be tied to improved mental health, such as reduced depression symptoms and increased happiness and well-being (Toussaint et al., 2016).
For example, a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that forgiveness was linked to increased self-esteem in a group of college students (Lawler-Row et al., 2007).
Similarly, another study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology discovered that forgiveness was tied to increased self-worth and self-acceptance in a group of adults (Toussaint et al., 2016). Other research has also found that forgiveness is associated with increased feelings of self-control and empowerment (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015).
Marcus Aurelius’s quote about the best revenge being to be unlike those who hurt us highlights the importance of forgiveness in leading a fulfilling and meaningful life. The scientific evidence supports this idea, as forgiveness has been shown to have a number of benefits for mental and physical health, as well as relationships. While it may take time and effort to fully forgive someone, the rewards of forgiveness can be significant and well worth the effort. By embracing forgiveness and letting go of revenge, we can move forward in a positive way and find greater happiness and well-being.
Enright, R. D., & Fitzgibbons, R. P. (2015). Forgiveness therapy: An empirical guide for resolving anger and restoring hope. American Psychological Association.
Fredrickson, B. L., Grewen, K. M., Coffey, K. A., Algoe, S. B., Firestine, A. M., Arevalo, J. M., … & Cole, S. W. (2013). A functional genomic perspective on human well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(33), 13684-13689.
Lawler-Row, K. A., Scott, C. A., Raines, R. L., Edlis-Matityahou, M., & Moore, E. W. (2007). The varieties of forgiveness experience: Working toward a comprehensive definition of forgiveness. Journal of Religion and Health, 46(2), 233-248.
Toussaint, L., Shields, G. S., Dorn, G., & Slavich, G. M. (2016). Effects of lifetime stress exposure on mental and physical health in young adulthood: How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health. Journal of health psychology, 21(6), 1004-1014.
vanOyen-Witvliet, C., Ludwig, T., & Bauer, D. J. (2002). Please forgive me: Transgressors’ emotions and physiology during imagery of seeking forgiveness and victim responses. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 21, 219.
Worthington, E. L., & Scherer, M. (2004). Forgiveness is an emotion-focused coping strategy that can reduce health risks and promote health resilience: Theory, review, and hypotheses. Psychology & Health, 19(3), 385-405.