Few states of mind are more toxic to body and soul than unforgiveness – which includes both resentments towards other people, and reproachfulness towards the self. All the major world religions advocate forgiveness. This does not mean condoning wrong actions, but involves moving on from the hurt they have caused, by cultivating love and compassion instead of holding on to anger and blame.
Chronic unforgiveness has been described as ‘a deadly spiritual poison’ and many alternative healers regard it as a major risk factor for physical disease, some going so far as to say that it lies at the root of most cases of cancer. I don’t know whether this is true and it would be a challenging topic for research, but there are certainly many personal stories of remarkable recovery both from cancer and other conditions after sincere forgiveness has taken place – see this link for one man’s story. Forgiveness always benefits the one who forgives, and also the one who is forgiven, if it is possible and appropriate to tell them about it.
When I think about the occasions in my own life when forgiveness has been called for, I find that they seldom involved deliberate wrong-doing. More often there was a lack of consideration for others, a projection of personal problems onto the nearest target, even a misguided attempt to be helpful – a reminder that different people can perceive the same situation in very different ways, and always a potential ‘learning experience’.
Though we may acknowledge that forgiveness is highly desirable, many of us find it difficult. For some, the intention to forgive can best be supported through spiritual or religious counselling and practice; for others, through psychological techniques. Bach flower remedies such as Willow, Holly and Pine could be chosen to assist the process, depending on the details of each case.
Holly promotes forgiveness and love when there are negative feelings towards others. Dr Edward Bach made this comment about people who need Holly: ‘Within themselves they may suffer much, often when there is no real cause for their unhappiness’.
Pine promotes forgiveness when there is criticism and guilt towards the self. Bach wrote in his booklet The Twelve Healers: ‘For those who blame themselves. Even when successful they think they could have done better, and are never content with their efforts or the results. They are hard-working and suffer much from the faults they attach to themselves. Sometimes if there is any mistake it is due to another, but they will claim responsibility even for that.’