1Forgiving is one of the hardest things we have to do. But a study featured on Prevention.com and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that humans are actually built to forgive and forget, and that apologies have a large impact on the process of forgiveness.

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Researchers from the University of Miami studied a group of 337 participants who had been wronged by someone in their life. They then observed how the volunteers' relationships progressed (or didn’t) during a 21-day period. The results were nothing new: saying “sorry” does, indeed, mend a broken bond. When an offender shows that he has repented by showing acts of apology or offers to make up for the mistake, the victims forgave quickly and reduced their anger.

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Eric Penderson, one of the study authors explains, "One of the major reasons we conducted this research is that forgiveness and reconciliation are relatively understudied by psychologists. We tend to spend a lot of time thinking about how people retaliate against those who harm them, which makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary perspective. But there are also lots of times when a relationship is worth salvaging because it can be beneficial in the future."

When spouses, boyfriends, or friends mess up, apologies and acts of repentance really do stitch up wounds. "A particularly effective apology is one that convinces the person that you still really value the relationship and that you won’t harm them again in the future. An insincere 'I’m sorry' won’t be as effective as convincingly demonstrating how you mean to treat the person in the future."

It's not easy, but science explains that humans can really bury the hatchet. After all, a grudge is like heavy stone that you carry in your heart daily. If you've ever been hurt by someone, do your best to grant forgiveness with an open heart.

(Photo courtesy of Joanne Escober via Flickr Creative Commons)

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