It’s easy to get angry and blame others. I do it. We all do it. But even when the blame is warranted, it’s rarely a healthy thing for us to do.
Blaming and Rebuilding
In my work as a personal injury attorney in Atlanta, I see firsthand the physical and mental pain that people experience after an unforeseen traumatic event like an accident. I also get to see their extraordinary perseverance as they recover from that physical and emotional trauma.
One of the more interesting lessons I have learned from my clients is that a key component to achieving a good physical and mental recovery is the capacity to forgive.
Most of the clients I have the honor of representing have suffered some physical injury as a result of someone else’s negligence. One common emotion that almost every client expresses to me early on is the anger they feel toward the event, not necessarily the responsible person, but the event itself that caused their injury. And here is where it gets interesting—in the cases where my clients start to feel less anger, they slowly begin to feel better. As they begin to forgive, they begin to heal. In some way, letting go of the anger opens many of them to a better recovery.
This week’s Torah portion Vayigash addresses this concept of forgiveness and healing.
Judah begs the Pharoah’s governor to take him as a slave instead of his brother Benjamin. He explains that his father Jacob would be shattered by the loss of Benjamin, whose brother Joseph had died years before. He doesn’t yet realize that the governor is actually Joseph, whom he and his brothers had sold into slavery.
At this point, Joseph could easily twist the knife and exact his revenge. He doesn’t, though—Judah’s heartfelt plea causes him to break down. He reveals his true identity, forgives his brothers, and invites them to come live in Egypt. For years Joseph had lived with anger. By releasing the anger that he has every right to feel, he helps heal his own mind and body.
The ability to forgive has real power. From my own personal observations as a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta, I see the positive values of forgiveness. My injured clients aren’t necessarily forgiving the person who hurt them. What they forgive is the event that caused them their pain. There’s a subtle difference. When coupled with a physical effort to get better by doing everything their doctors tell them to do, and releasing the anger, my clients often make significant recoveries. The act of forgiving has positive health effects.