Football Therapy: Forgiveness

Exploring the connections between life skills and fantasy football.

In addition to being a staff writer for Footballguys by night, I’m a therapist by day. No, I don’t put people on the couch like Sigmund does. I spend most of my day educating and empowering my clients to leave my office with fulfillment and purpose. What I’ve learned, and quite by accident might I add, is that many of the life skills that I teach and practice in therapy are actually applicable in the context of playing fantasy football. In these writings, I will seek to show the reader connections between these life skills and those needed to be a successful fantasy owner. My hope is not only to improve your prowess as an owner, but to give you skills that will help you lead a wonderful life.

Christmas… It’s the most wonderful time of the year for most of us, but for some, it’s a time to revisit the painful past. Many of my clients sit across from me and pour out their hearts about the anger, hurt, and resentment they feel toward friends, lovers, and family members. In many cases, their feelings about being wronged may be justified. What stands out to me, however, is that these people remain in a constant state of misery. In some cases, the incident that brought them to this point happened months, or even years ago.

What’s even more mystifying is that these people choose unhappiness. By failing to let go, they have put the emotional equivalent of a 300-pound pack on their back. They struggle under the load but refuse to put it down. The negativity and mental and emotional energy needed to maintain this hostility is astoundingly high. These grudge-holders become consumed by a vicious feedback loop. Negativity leads to anger that leads to more negativity that leads to more anger.This cycle of negativity not only causes a negative mental state, but a negative physical state. In my preparation for this article, I found too many research studies to list that substantiated this. Some showed holding a grudge causes increased cortisol production, (cortisol is a stress hormone) while others showed that grudges lead to elevated blood pressure, heart rate, risk of stroke, and even shorter life expectancy.

The Need to Forgive

We all make mistakes. It’s cliche, but it’s so true! If forgiveness did not exist, there would be no way to bury the hatchet and continue relationships. Even the most kindred of spirits would be exiled from one another. Without forgiveness, we would feel worthless.  The guilt we would experience would be crushing, because there would be no hope of reconciliation. Without hope and interaction with others, life becomes purposeless.

We’ve already discussed the biological and emotional consequences of withholding forgiveness. More than this, however, forgiveness has the ability to heal, both in the physical and emotional sense. In a study conducted by Luther College in Iowa, researchers found that participants who forgave reported more life satisfaction and better physical and mental health outcomes. Many anecdotal accounts of people who have experienced trauma at the hands of others validate that forgiveness provided feelings of peace, reconnection, and empowerment.

Forgiveness is a Decision

I have a guy in one of my leagues with whom I just don’t get along. He accuses me of collusion every time I make a trade. He recently made fun of me on the league message boards when I missed making the championship by less than a fourth of a point. “Some ‘fantasy expert’ you are,” he mocked. This guy knows how to get under my skin and does so every time he has a chance. On days when I’m already irritable from a long workday, lack of sleep, or both, it’s very tempting to me to lay into him. I’ve thought more than a time or two about kicking him out of the league. However, who would be helped by that? Would he change his behavior? Probably not. More likely, my dislike for him would turn into a grudge that would only hurt me. One of my favorite therapeutic expressions is “forgiveness is not an emotion, it’s a decision.” In other words, though my initial reaction is to give it right back to this guy, I’ve chosen instead to respond kindly, model positivity, forgive him, and move on.

Final Thoughts

“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” -Malachy McCourt

One thing I feel is necessary to say in closing is that forgiveness is not equivalent to letting people get away with mistreating you or forgetting the mistreatment. We can forgive someone for wrong and still demand that they make a change in their life. Forgiveness is about not holding on to the negativity created by being slighted.

There’s never a better time than the present to make a positive change in your life. If you’ve not forgiven someone in your league or in your life, ‘tis the season to let it go! Your mental and emotional health depend upon it!