In a study exploring the effect of having a forgiving personality on both psychological and physical stress responses, University of Tennessee (UT) students discussed two betrayal experiences—by a parent and by a friend or romantic partner. As they spoke, researchers measured their blood pressure, heart rate, forehead muscle tension and skin conduction responses. The results, presented at the 2000 American Psychosomatic Society Annual Meeting, showed that "high" forgivers—those who forgive easily—had both a lower resting blood pressure and smaller increases in blood pressure rate than "low" forgivers—bigger grudge-holders.
Talking about betrayal can make anyone's blood boil, says Kathleen Lawler, head researcher and psychology professor at UT, but forgiving transgressions appears to promote better overall health: High forgivers reported fewer physician visits for physical ailments. "Forgiveness might enhance health by reducing the excessive physiological burden that comes with unresolved stressful experiences, like the hurt and offense attributed to others," she explained.