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The holidays are upon us, which means you’ll soon see your spoon-thieving aunt, that cousin who “accidentally” forgot to invite you to her wedding, and your brother who owes you $47. As hard as it might be to forgive such transgressions, it may be best for your own health. Luckily, UW–Madison has an expert to help. Robert Enright, a professor of developmental psychology, is the founder of the scientific study of forgiveness. He defines forgiveness as the “foregoing of resentment or revenge,” but it doesn’t have to involve giving benevolence to one’s wrongdoer or forgetting what they’ve done. (Return the spoon, Aunt Edna.) As a pioneering researcher in the study of moral development, he cofounded the International Forgiveness Institute and has spent more than 35 years developing step-by-step models for forgiveness. Enright’s Process Model of Forgiveness includes four phases: uncovering, decision, work, and outcome. These phases lead individuals to become aware of their resentments, find strategies they can use to heal them, and deepen their understanding about what they’ve uncovered. In studies from around the globe, these techniques have shown that forgiveness can reduce the negative health effects of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and anger. And not only does forgiveness lessen adverse symptoms, but it can also promote positive results in practitioners, including hopefulness, peace, and increased self-esteem. So, this holiday season, listen to Professor Enright discuss the healing effects of forgiveness and leave the saltiness for the turkey brine.

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