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Faith and Mental Health - Part 5

We continue our series this week on ten benefits of faith to our mental health.

A fifth resource of faith is the transforming power of negative experiences like sin and betrayal. Because of original sin, human beings make mistakes, fail and love imperfectly. In our imperfection, at times we injure each other, leaving us wounded and in need of healing. Being wronged or hurt gives rise to strong emotions of anger and disappointment which, if not acknowledged and addressed, can lead to depression and other mental health problems.

In the Gospels, forgiveness is a core teaching. Jesus Christ reveals a merciful God who desires to forgive sins and heal wounds caused by human failings. This is the same forgiveness with which he empowers us to forgive ourselves and each other (Matt. 18:21-35). With his forgiveness we are unburdened from guilt, self-loathing and shame. We see this with the Apostles Peter and Paul who both failed Christ but who did not remain paralysed by their failings. Rather they were transformed by Christ’s mercy and by his renewed faith in them after they had fallen. With God’s forgiveness that we have received and extend to others, we are freed from anger and bitterness and other emotionally destructive feelings such as hatred and revenge. Our faith also enables us to distinguish between the sin and the sinner – to forgive the wrong done to us without denying the wrong that was committed. Gordon Wilson, St John Paul II and Nelson Mandela are among those people who were seriously wronged at some point in their lives but who learned to forgive in ways that have inspired millions (Gordon Wilson lost his daughter Marie in a bomb attack at Enniskillen in 1987. He offered forgiveness to those responsible. John Paul II visited Mehmet Ali Agca in prison to offer him forgiveness for having shot him on 13th May 1981. Following his release from prison in 1990, Nelson Mandela embarked on a mission of forgiveness and reconciliation when he became president of South Africa in 1994).


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