Here is yet another speech I gave at my Toastmaster club on the 23rd of May. It was made with the content from my previous blog posts about forgiveness:

My previous blog posts in turn were made using content fro the following articles:

Sometimes, during our lifes we have to face difficult circumstances. There are different ways to react to them. And some studies have found that the way we face these circumstances can have a big impact on our lives.

I am going to talk about one specific way which is forgiveness. And I am going to talk about it in different contexts.

The religious context, the scientific context, the animal training context and then the relationship context.

All the major religions have something good to say about forgiveness. In fact, it's a very important part of many of them. For example:

Judaism says: "When asked by an offender for forgiveness, one should forgive with a sincere mind and a willing spirit."

Christianity: "If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also."

Islam: "Although the just requital for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, those who pardon and maintain righteousness are rewarded by GOD."

Hinduism: "There is one only defect in forgiving persons, and not another; that defect is that people take a forgiving person to be weak. That defect, however, should not be taken into consideration, for forgiveness is a great power."

And science agrees with the main religions that forgiveness is good. Studies have found that forgiving persons are both happier and healthier than those who hold resentment. They have less stress and better immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems.

So it looks like those who fail to forgive punish themselves.

Studies also found that forgiving in a secular or religious context provides the same benefits and that older people are more likely to forgive.

And you can get some benefits by forgiving yourself too. People who are self compassionate have less depression and anxiety and tend to be happier, more optimistic and more likely to loose weight.

The last thing is very interesting, because you might think that if you are tough on yourself, regarding food for example, you are more likely to behave well. But the contrary is true, if you try to be tough on yourself you will feel bad and guilty about food, and this will fuel your need for something like food to feel better.

In the animal training context, there is a very important concept related to this called the least reinforcing syndrome. This idea states that to train an animal you should reward behavior you like and ignore behavior you don't.

For example when a dolphin does something wrong, the trainer does not respond in any way. He stands still for a few beats, careful not to look at the dolphin, and then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or negative, fuels a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it typically dies away.

This means that the trainer should basically forgive any bad behavior right away.

This leads us to the relationship context, where some people reported great success by using the same animal training method on their spouse.

For example one woman reports: "after two years of exotic animal training, my marriage is far smoother, my husband much easier to love. I used to take his faults personally; his dirty clothes on the floor were an affront, a symbol of how he didn't care enough about me. But thinking of my husband as an exotic species gave me the distance I needed to consider our differences more objectively."

This is very important because researchers who study couples found that for a relationship to be a happy one, there should be at least 5 times more positive interactions than negative interactions.

This fact by itself shows that we are usually not very forgiving. And you can easily imagine that if we fuel our partner's bad behaviors by nagging for example, then negative interactions can easily take over the good ones and we will not be happy anymore.

On the contrary, if we train ourselves to forgive and if possible to forgive right away, there is a good chance that eventually the bad behaviors will die away or will be not be perceived as so annoying.

Overall I would say that forgiving is the best way to forget the bad circumstances and to keep in mind the good ones. Indeed, over the long run, we don't have many choices about what to do with bad ones.

If we keep them in mind we will stay upset and not be very happy. If we just try to forget them, we might throw the baby out with the bathwater and forget many good ones as well, because often we have both good and bad ones in the same framework.

So forgiving is indeed difficult, like goldmining, it means we have to refine in our mind what happens to us so that we keep the good and let go of the bad. By forgiving we accumulate a treasure in our mind. Forgiveness is the way to health, happiness and love.