In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, its common for people to approach friends, family, and colleagues, to ask for forgiveness from past transgressions.
The teachings of Yom Kippur is that we must seek forgiveness from and grant forgiveness to our fellow humans before we ask God to forgive us.
The Rabbis teach that if someone comes to you seeking forgiveness you must forgive.
By what does it mean to forgive someone? And why is it so important?
Is it enough to say “I forgive you?”
It may be enough for the person requesting forgiveness. But just saying the words is not enough for you as the person offering forgiveness. That’s because just saying “I forgive you” doesn’t fully clear out what you’re holding.
The Physical Consequence of Holding Anger
According to Karen Swartz, M.D.., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, “there is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,”
Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode — your nervous system gets involved. This causes changes in your heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. It also increases your risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.
Forgiveness Must Be Embodied
The process of forgiveness isn’t just about releasing the person who wronged you; it’s fundamentally about freeing yourself from the bondage created by your pain.
Because the effects of the hurt live in the body, forgiveness must be embodied too. And this is what forgiveness is: a literal shift that happens in the body. Forgiveness is a release of the pain and an opening to healing.
In this way, the act of forgiveness isn’t just about giving someone else a second chance; it also gives us a renewed lease on life.
What would become available to you if your body wasn’t spending so much energy holding on to resentment and anger?
Forgiveness is something that we can practice throughout the year, both on and off the mat.