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You CAN forgive ... and live longer


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If you have an on-going feud with your brother, or secretly seethe over something your boss has done, beware. You are in danger.

An offense by your partner or friend may be so wounding you think your only choice is to stay mad and stay distant. Health researchers at Harvard Medical School say forgiveness is not a shortcut around anger. It is a way to move on once anger has subsided. Here are some ways to start the process:

* Acknowledge your anger. You need to feel righteous anger before you can move on.

* Consider the offender. He may still have redeeming qualities. Someone still loves this person if it is only his mother or his dog.

* Don't slander. If you have to speak about him, speak no evil.

* Focus on freeing yourself of resentment. Think about it before going to sleep.

* Think kind thoughts. A woman whose child was murdered pictured the man finding a valued object that had been lost, or catching a fish.

* Keep going. Don't worry if it takes a long time to forgive. The important thing is to start.

Many studies show that people who forgive have lower levels of anxiety, higher self-esteem and better emotional health than those who do not. A Taiwanese study of women struggling to forgive betrayal by a friend or coworker showed that those who got rid of grudges had lower blood pressure.

Short bursts of rage aren't that harmful. But feeling the anger again and again over months or years has devastating effects. Pounding blood can erode coronary artery walls. Platelets will then clump to fill the abrasions. Over time plaque will accumulate in the damaged areas, leading to coronary artery disease.

It is reasonable to assume that forgiveness, by providing an antidote to anger and stress, will interrupt the heart-damaging process.

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