It took a couple of thousand years but science has discovered the healing power of forgiveness.
In a recent presentation at the Pontifical College of the Holy Cross in Rome, Dr. Robert Enright, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, said that forgiveness is not just a virtue but a valuable therapeutic method.
“Hatred has a long shelf life,” Enright says. “Once it enters into the human heart, it’s hard to get it out. It breeds destruction, discouragement, and hopelessness.” He defines forgiveness as “the foregoing of resentment or revenge when the wrongdoer’s actions deserve it and giving the gifts of mercy, generosity and love when the wrongdoer does not deserve them. As we give the gift of forgiveness we ourselves are healed.”
Of course Dr. Enright is right on target; his wording is more pragmatic than theological but two millennia before Dr. Enright Jesus not only taught forgiveness but forgiveness without limit, not seven times but seventy times seven.
Every Catholic knows that “scrubbed clean” feeling after you have made a good confession and how a weight is lifted when, after bearing a hurt for a long time, you forgive and ask forgiveness. We also know that anger and hatred poison us more than the object of our scorn.
It is appropriate that the Sacrament of Penance is referred to as the Rite of Reconciliation because forgiveness brings about reconciliation, a healing and a sense of being whole again. One of the powerful elements of the Rite of Reconciliation is that we are told that we are forgiven.
I congratulate Dr. Enright on his work and hope that many learn the healing power of forgiveness from his efforts.
Perhaps it will also remind Catholics of the great gift that they have in the Sacrament of Penance.