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Archive for February, 2010

By: Shannon Hanson 

Happy Friday!  It is Valentine’s weekend, and so for that reason, I decided to write a blog that had to do with relationships. Whether you are married, engaged, dating, or simply friends with someone, it is likely that from time to time that person will wrong you, or you will do something to upset them.  It’s inevitable.  So then what happens?  Well, you can go on like nothing happened and harbor a deep resentment, or you can go through the sometimes painful process of apologies and forgiveness.   Now, I’ve tried my hand at both, and I would definitely have to say that the latter is much more beneficial.  There is a freeing power in forgiveness that cannot be found through any other type of resolution or coping strategy.

The other day I was driving along listening to KLOVE, a nation-wide Christian radio station, and I heard this article mentioned: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/media/releases/2010/lambert.cfm. I decided to check it out, and it is pretty to the point, so rather than summarizing, I will just post it for you.

Prayer Increases Forgiveness

We have all been guilty of a transgression at one time or another. That’s because we’re not perfect. We all commit hurtful acts, violate trust, and hope for forgiveness.

That’s simply a fact, and here’s another one: Nine out of 10 Americans say that they pray—at least on occasion. Florida State University psychologist Nathaniel Lambert put these two facts together and came up with an idea: Why not take all that prayer and direct it at the people who have wronged us? Is it possible that directed prayer might spark forgiveness in those doing the praying—and in the process preserve relationships?

Lambert and his colleagues decided to test this scientifically in two experiments appearing in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. In the first, they had a group of men and women pray one single prayer for their romantic partner’s well being. Others—the experimental controls—they simply described their partner, speaking into a tape recorder.

Then they measured forgiveness. The scientists defined forgiveness as the diminishing of the initial negative feelings that arise when you’ve been wronged. Their results showed that those who had prayed for their partner harbored fewer vengeful thoughts and emotions: They were more ready to forgive and move on.

If one single prayer can cause such a striking difference in feelings, then what could prayer over a period of time do for a relationship? In a second study, the researchers had a group of men and women pray for a close friend every day for four weeks. Others simply reflected on the relationship, thinking positive thoughts but not praying for their friend’s well-being. They also added another dimension. They used a scale to measure selfless concern for others—not any particular person but other people generally. They speculated that prayer would increase selfless concern, which in turn would boost forgiveness.

And that’s just what they found. But why? How does this common spiritual practice exert its healing effects? The psychological scientists have an idea: Most of the time, couples profess and believe in shared goals, but when they hit a rough patch, they often switch to adversarial goals like retribution and resentment. These adversarial goals shift cognitive focus to the self, and it can be tough to shake that self-focus. Prayer appears to shift attention from the self back to others, which allows the resentments to fade.

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What a powerful article!  It can be very difficult to pray for your enemies, or even for the people you love who have upset you.  Matthew 5:44 says, “But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you.”  Now, I know that we should treat everyone the way we want to be treated, but it is the last part of that verse that stands out to me – we are told to PRAY for those who spitefully use us and persecute us.  Have you tried this?  At times it can seem impossible.  We want to tell God about how our own feelings were hurt, not pray for the one who wronged us.  But perhaps at that moment, the other person could need prayer even more than you do.  When praying for the person, God will likely open your eyes to the struggles that the other person is facing, which could help to explain their hurtful behavior.

Another part of the article that interested me was that simply talking about the person, even if thoughts were only positive, did not encourage forgiveness.  Often times, forgiving someone does not come naturally to us.  Especially in our self-centered society, we are more likely to focus on our own feelings than those of people we are upset with.  That is why it is essential to pray about the situation and invite God to help you do something that you likely could not do on your own – truly forgive.

So, the next time you get in a fight with a friend or significant other, try to take a step back and talk to God about the situation.  Forgiveness and healing might be just around the corner.

Please share your thoughts and comments, and have a happy Valentine’s Day!

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