The Science of Forgiveness – Elaine Voci, Ph.D.

The Science of Forgiveness

Elaine Voci, Ph.D.

Forgiveness is a “gift you give yourself.” Corrosive emotions of anger, resentment, and the desire for revenge are “toxic” to the human body and spirit. Left untended, these fester and grow in the person harboring them, gradually destroying their health, happiness and inner peace. It was Nelson Mandela who wisely noted, during the Truth and Reconciliation hearings in South Africa that “revenge is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Forgiveness is an act of choice and it can mean different things to different people. It is a personal journey that can be agonizingly difficult and costly, but also transformative and healing. It is seldom a single event and more often a process that takes place over time. Forgiveness is an act of liberation that releases the person who has been hurt from the emotional and psychological grip of the perpetrator and lets them move on with their lives. In this way, forgiveness is also an act of self-healing.

Giving and receiving forgiveness may be two sides of the same coin. When we forgive someone for injuring us, we open our heart to allow a space in which a new intentional choice can be made in order to live in peace. Even if we never forget what happened, and never condone what was done, we can still forgive when peace is our goal. Likewise, when we forgive ourselves for injuring someone else, it is our open heart that permits us to humbly see our own human frailty, to honestly examine our motives and to make sincere amends.

A unique dimension of forgiveness is its relationship to time; the persons we seek to forgive, or to receive forgiveness from, may have passed away many years before. Their presence and participation is not necessary for the gift of forgiveness to be given. There are many such stories reported in The Forgiveness Project, a UK-based charitable organization which explores forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution through the stories of real-life human experiences (

Forgiveness and Coherent Heart Rhythms

We are often unaware of how emotions affect our bodies, our thoughts and our responses to events in our lives. The Institute of Heart Math ( has for 18 years conducted research on heart-brain communications and found that one of the easiest ways to observe how our feelings affect us is to examine the effects on our heart rhythms. Among the innovative tools and techniques that they have introduced, Heart Math has created a scientifically validated and patented monitoring system with software that tracks and displays heart rhythms on computer monitors. When we feel revengeful, angry or fearful our heart rhythms are jagged like mountain tops, and irregular. When we feel appreciation, gratitude and forgiveness, our rhythms are in a “highly ordered” or coherent pattern. In coherence, the mind, body and emotions all operate in harmony which, in turn, leads to increased mental clarity and focus, improved decision making and a greater sense of well being.

Forgiveness and Intent Heals Workshops

In the Intent Heals Journal workshops that I facilitate, many participants confront past painful experiences to intentionally seek to forgive others through a combined process of prayer, gratitude and a mini-life review. One man resolved, “I am not going to carry this anger around for the rest of my life; it is time to put it down. I can’t afford the time and effort it takes to stay angry; I have more important things to accomplish on this earth in the time I have left.” A woman at first resisted writing the names of the people who had abused her as a child into her Intent Heals Journal; then a solution came to her – to write their names only on one page, keeping them separate from the names of other people she loved. Blinking through her tears, she asserted that “Giving them their own page won’t contaminate the others and it will help me keep them in perspective because I don’t want to give them power over me anymore.” Still others write in their Journals about forgiving themselves for things done to others that they now regret. One person wrote “I hold the Journal between my hands each morning and know that my love is being directed at each and every person I have named, and I know that all prayer heals, so I am healing myself and them.”

The Power of Heartful Intention

The Intent Heals Journal Workshop is designed to introduce people to the power of their hearts through the direct experience of intentional prayer, gratitude, forgiveness and appreciation. Many of the world’s oldest spiritual teachings emphasize gratitude as a transformative spiritual practice that brings awareness of the amazing gifts and blessings present in our lives. In the workshop, we are led to discover that happiness and inner peace are generated from the inside-out, rather than from the material or external world. And daily use of the Journal is one of the quickest and most direct paths to restoring balance and harmony in our lives that, in turn, fosters more gratitude and appreciation.

There is power in writing the names of those we appreciate, along with acts of kindness, beauty, blessings, or to give special attention to pray for a troubled part of the world – all enhance our sense of well being and bring a deep feeling of connectedness to fellow human beings around the world. As we give thanks and feel gratitude in our hearts it serves to remind us that each day is a gift unto itself and we are prompted to ask ourselves, “How do I choose to live today? What will I pay attention to today? How shall I choose peace over anger today? How can I help heal myself and others today?”


Elaine Voci, Ph.D.

Life Skills Coach and Intent Heals Journal Workshop Facilitator

Elaine Voci Life Skills Coaching, LLC

11805 N. Pennsylvania Street, Ste 136

Carmel, IN 46032


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