Confession of the Peasant

A Graceful Response to the Harsh Impulses We Share

Rudeness is on the rise, says Jennifer Finney Boylan. It’s hard to miss, and few of us can claim to be innocent. Certainly, it’s easy to see in others, when they are taken off a plane because they refuse to wear a face mask. We also see it very clearly in the rudeness of healthcare providers toward patients with obesity. But perhaps the pleasure we feel in calling out the rudeness of others adds to the rising tide of rudeness. Boylan suggests we need a more graceful response to the harsh impulses we all share – forgiveness.

Forgiveness for Health

It turns out that a considerable body of research suggests forgiveness is good for both physical and mental health. Not surprisingly, much of the research on forgiveness has focused on its effects for mental health and happiness. Even so, Loren Toussaint and colleagues reviewed the research on physical health in 2015 and found 55 studies, most of which found a connection to forgiveness. They write:

“The weight of intrapersonal and interpersonal transgressions and the stress created by these events could quite possibly be the most underrated source of stress in our modern world. How we cope with this, by forgiving or not, appears to have consequences for our physical health.”

So perhaps your mother was right when she told you, “Your anger will eat you up.”

A Graceful Response to Bigots

Oxford tells us that a bigot is a person who is obstinately or unreasonably attached to a belief, opinion, or faction. With that definition, most if not all of us may qualify. So though we may have a strong attachment to concerns about racism and weight bias, we also need a graceful response. Boylan describes how her mother prescribed forgiveness as a graceful and therapeutic response to bigots:

“It was her opinion that forgiveness not only restored dignity to those who have lost it; it also gave one a certain power over the meanies of the world. She always thought the best of people, whether or not they actually deserved it.”

She offers us an excellent alternative to an endless spiral of rudeness – if we can embrace it.

Click here for Boylan’s commentary and here for Toussaint’s review of forgiveness and physical health.

Confession of the Peasant, painting by Octav Bancila / WikiArt

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December 12, 2021

3 Responses to “A Graceful Response to the Harsh Impulses We Share”

  1. December 12, 2021 at 8:29 am, Andrew Brown said:

    Two quotations come to mind:
    ‘Hanlon’s razor is an adage or rule of thumb that states “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”‘ (From the Hanlon’s razor Wikipedia page)

    ‘New International Version
    On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”’

    The first is benefit of the doubt and second is vindictive love. I wonder if it matters for wellbeing which someone uses?

  2. December 12, 2021 at 10:08 am, Allen Browne said:



    Have a good day!


  3. December 12, 2021 at 2:21 pm, Cathy A Arsenault said:

    Thank you Ted. We need to talk about this A LOT more.