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In many cases choosing hope has a lot to do with letting the past be the past. In the beginning, back in the garden, the Creator modeled an attitude of forgiveness. After all, He’d been wronged.

Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit. They had discounted God’s counsel and betrayed His trust in them.

How did the Creator react? Did He turn His back on those who disappointed Him? Did He start plotting against them?

No. He didn’t hold a grudge or grow bitter. Instead, He showed Adam and Eve how they could find forgiveness.

That’s the second essential component of a positive outlook—forgiveness. You have to be willing to forgive—to let go of the wrongs done to you.

Psychologist Loran Toussaint and his colleagues at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan found that forgiving others had a strong link with better self-reported mental and physical health.

Other studies have shown that holding on to hostilities and the resulting stress it produces can weaken the immune system and increase the risk for heart attack. On the other hand, possessing a spirit of forgiveness can actually reduce the same risk.

Herndon Harding tells a story of a baseball player in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ minor league system. When something went wrong, the athlete would break or throw bats, seemingly as a way to prevent other people from criticizing him first. Such behavior, though, made him somewhat of a target, particularly to two fans who heckled him on a routine and rigorous basis.

Once, after the batter had struck out, the two young men again began taunting him. The player strode over to the fence where they sat a couple rows back and gestured to them to come down.

They weren’t so sure they wanted to meet him, but they gathered their courage and went. Instead of being furious, which would have been his typical reaction, he now chose to respond differently. Flipping his bat over, he grabbed it by the barrel, extended the handle to the two men, and said, “Do you guys want a Dodgers’ bat?”

After that, they never badgered him again. Attending almost every game, they did nothing but support and encourage him just as loudly as they had previously heckled. It was one of those things that changed the baseball player’s life, because he realized that he could choose to do things differently. Not only did it alter his outlook, but it actually had an advantageous transformation on his environment as well.

He may or may not have known it, but this baseball player followed Paul’s advice when he forgivingly dealt with the two hecklers. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, NKJV). You see, if we hold on to grudges and hurts, then our hearts sicken, our souls shrivel, and eventually our bodies will physically suffer as well.