Newswise — Many of us look forward to getting together with friends and family during the holidays to renew relationships and create memories to be relished in the future.
Some people, though, worry about upcoming gatherings where past hurts and arguments may loom over the proceedings. They may see social events as opportunities to open up and resolve baggage from the past and seem willing to renew anger, resentment and hostilities over old or unresolved grievances " either real or perceived.
But besides casting a pall over the event for others, lingering anger likely has real and negative effects on the person in whose soul it lives, said Russell Robertson, M.D., professor and chair of family medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Robertson noted that researchers have been looking at the health-related effects of an ancient remedy for anger and resentment: forgiveness.
"A growing body of evidence suggests that people who stop holding a grudge often find a new lease on life. People who forgive have improved relationships, fewer health problems and a lower incidence of the most serious health problems," Robertson said.
"Many forgivers also experience significant reduction in depression and gain in self-confidence, vitality and hope," he said.
On the other hand, vengeful people get caught up in rumination, hang on to their anger, and fail to make an effort to change negative emotions to positive. Some suggest that these behaviors are facilitated when people think of themselves as victims.
"Forgiveness is as a multi-step process that in many ways parallels the way one deals with grief. One first feels anger and hurt and then must find a way to forgive the specific offense, to let go of resentments and blame, and to even love the individual - even though disagreeing with his or her behaviors and ideas," Robertson advised.
If you have a great deal of anxiety about the prospect of being in the vicinity of someone against whom you've been nurturing a grudge and want to do something about resolving the issue, consider taking the following actions:
"¢Call the person ahead of time and arrange a separate meeting before the event to forgive them. "¢If you can't meet first, broach the subject in a phone call and offer to meet quietly and/or in a private space at the gathering. "¢Do not publicly forgive them in a manner intended to embarrass or humiliate - this is nothing less than a thinly veiled attempt at revenge. "¢If your issues are truly complex (on the level of having been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused), develop a strategy in conjunction with a trusted professional - such as a therapist - before proceeding.
Remember to protect yourself, too. Be wise after forgiving the person and try to not put yourself in the position to be hurt again.