Forgiveness and Cancer
Practising forgiveness is not only the right way to live — it is also the healthy way to live. Medical experts tell us that anger accelerates the ageing process. Anger is indeed a very natural human reaction – and it is a mature emotion when we don’t allow it to last very long, and when it does not hurt anyone. But if we let anger remain in the heart, it ceases to be mature and natural – it festers into a grudge. When we refuse to forgive people, we are letting grudge control our life.
Anger held in the heart gnaws us from the inside, wears us down, operating like toxic waste that has seeped into our system. This leads us to a state of permanent stress. And we either take flight or fight. The fight or flight pattern of behaviour was suited to our primitive ancestor who had to deal with wild animals and unforeseen challenges. When we are nursing a grudge constantly, we get into this primitive ‘fight or flight’ situation. We are in a continuous state that prompts us to either attack – give vent to our anger – or escape from an unbearable situation. Our nerves could get damaged with this. Our physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual energies are so stressed, that we slip into overall lethargy. This accelerates the ageing process. In this sense anger is the extreme opposite of what was called the fountain of youth. One therapist calls it ‘The Tub of Ageing.’
Holding on to anger and resentment can also tax our immune system which is a complex assemblage of several parts, processes and healing procedures, say therapists. This complex system responds to stimuli from within and without. Even a relatively minor ailment like a cold, can challenge the system and put it on high alert. External events like a traffic holdup, a child’s stubborn behaviour, the harsh temper of a superior, or a quarrel with your spouse, can have adverse impact on your immune system. Stress causes insomnia – and so can bitterness! Researchers found a relationship between unresolved anger and cardiac arrest. The cancer of bitterness destroys both body and soul.
We still can’t explain or even understand how the body-mind-soul connection works. But there is a vast amount of documented research which links the working of the body with the thoughts and feelings of the mind. Our emotional turmoil is manifested in our body. We wage war with ourselves. Doctors have a peculiar word, somaticise, which means taking an emotional issue and unconsciously displacing it on to our own body. The result can be anything from a perforated ulcer to a cancerous growth.
Resentment, unforgiveness, hostility, guilt, anger, and enmity cause diseases related to heart, lungs, chest, stomach, intestines, ear, nose, and throat. These researches show that repressed resentment, anger and being unforgiving lead to definite problems in the organs of digestion, as well as in the head, eyes and ears. These negative emotions are “bottled up” inside us, and we keep “swallowing” their toxic contents, until they affect our health adversely.
Forgiveness sets us free. It allows us to be freed from the grievances, penalties, and shackles of past mistakes. It heals the one who forgives – and the one who is forgiven.