You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

Is Forgiveness a Public Health Issue?
Thursday August 16th 2018, 9:38 pm
Filed under: medicine and religion,public health,spirituality and mental health

By Tyler VanderWeele

It’s said that to err is human and to forgive is divine, but forgiveness may be a health-promoting behavior as well. Though often considered to be a very personal behavior, often linked with ethics or religion, a recent meta-analysis of 54 interventional studies on forgiveness suggests that this act has major health benefits as well. [4]

Forgiveness is sometimes defined as the victim’s choice reduce negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and replace these with positive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors toward the offender.[1-3]  It should be noted that forgiveness is distinct from condoning, justifying, or sanctioning the behavior of the wrongdoer, and it is not appropriate in situations of ongoing, sustained violence or abuse.

One example of community forgiveness comes from a 2016 incident in which a young, intoxicated man vandalized a mosque in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He subsequently realized the cruelty of his impulsive act, apologizing to the mosque community and asking for their forgiveness, which they freely gave. [8]. The members of the mosque community did not justify or excuse his actions but they made clear that they forgave him for and did not want to ruin his life. One member of the mosque wrote on social media, “we forgave you from the first time you apologized, don’t let that mistake bring you down  […] we don’t hold grudges against anybody!” The mosque members even asked for a more lenient sentence for the offender; though the case was eventually treated as a felony courts. However, sustained by the forgiveness of the community he had wronged, the former vandal gained a deeper awareness of the effects of his actions on others and become determined to never again commit such a heinous act. [8] (more…)

Comments Off on Is Forgiveness a Public Health Issue?

Author Interview: Psychiatric Medicine and Spirituality
Tuesday May 22nd 2018, 7:33 pm
Filed under: medicine and religion,spirituality and mental health

Though psychiatric medications are widely used, their diverse effects upon all aspects of patients’ lives are still understudied. In her groundbreaking book Psychiatric Medication and Spirituality: An Unforeseen Relationship, Dr. Lynne Vanderpot focuses her attention on the positive and negative ways that psychiatric medications affect the spiritual and religious experiences of patients.

Alexandra Nichipor of the Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality was able to ask Dr. Vanderpot some questions about her recent book. 


Alexandra Nichipor: One of the most interesting things about your book was the diversity of experiences among interviewees. What were some of the different ways that your interviewees described the impact of psychiatric medications on their spirituality? 

Lynne Vanderpot: It’s really true that the people I interviewed for my research shared a fair range of experiences. There’s an obvious reason for this—each participant had a subjective understanding of spirituality and what it meant to them, so perceptions of how psychiatric medication impacted spirituality were also therefore unique. Modern expressions of spirituality have shifted from their traditional location, and beliefs may come from a variety of religious and non-religious sources. It’s been said that no one has been able to articulate the hodge-podge spirituality that our culture has produced, and yet through research we know it is a significant, even crucial, aspect of recovery from mental illness for many patients.