It is impossible to stress how important attitude is in life. It is our compass which defines our direction. It is our altimeter which influences our level of functioning. It is the motor that drives our values and beliefs. Unless our attitude is attached to something immoveable such as our belief in God and his Word, our attitude will fluctuate in reaction to day-to-day events. If we have been hurt, and we will be, our attitude will often reflect resentment, bitterness and even hatred. When this happens, we need healing—healing that comes from forgiveness.
Thanks to neuroscientists such as Daniel Amen, Marian Diamond, Caroline Leaf and many more, we now know so much more about the brain. We know that love, affirmation and positive home environment can built a better and stronger emotional intelligence for our children. We also know that a negative environment where there is anxiety and stress will inhibit and impede the growth of a child’s brain power. We also know that in adults the presence of strong negative emotion can have a devastating effect on their brain.[i]
Vengeful feelings, for example, can flood the brain with toxic chemicals. This happens when we think malicious thoughts or experience strong negative emotion. These researchers describe the results of the chemicals that are released as burning tunnels into the branches of our nerve cells. Amazingly enough however, when people forgive and begin to heal, so do the black holes in the brain. New memories can replace the old. And one of the virtues Dr. Leaf identifies as bringing the most healing is forgiveness.
One of my favorite authors is Lewis Smedes; he writes about the importance of forgiveness in a fine book entitled Forgive & Forget:
The point is that hate’s searing flame coexists with love’s soothing flow; the hate that pushes us apart lives inside us right along with the love that pulls us together. Indeed, we can hate most painfully the people we love most passionately.
Hate eventually needs healing. Passive or aggressive, hate is a malignancy; it is dangerous—deadly, if allowed to run its course. Nothing good comes from a hate that has a person in its sights; and it surely hurts the hater more that it hurts the hated.
We must not confuse hate with anger. It is hate and not anger that needs healing.
Anger is a sign that we are alive and well. Hate is a sign that we are sick and need to be healed.
Healthy anger drives us to do something to change what makes us angry; anger can energize us to make things better. Hate does not want to change things for the better; it wants to make things worse. Hate wants to belch the foul breath of death over a life that love alone creates.
Forgiveness just might be the best way to control our attitude, and most likely we need to be forgiven on a regular basis, and we need to forgive on a regular basis, too.