The lesson a New York Spanish teacher Lissedia Batista wants to leave her students with goes far beyond verb conjugations. Although Batista miscarried after she was accidentally pushed while trying to break up a fight between two of her students, she returns to the classroom this week with only forgiveness and understanding for the pair.
"They're so young, and for something like that to follow them for the rest of their lives? I think they were already stressed enough with the fact that they felt they caused the death of someone's child," Batista, who teaches at Exploration Academy in the Bronx, told the New York Post.
"I can't put anybody through that," she said.
The accident that ended with the loss of Batista's unborn child began when two 15-year-old students, one in ninth grade and the other in tenth, argued over a classroom chair, Marge Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Education, told ABC News at the time of the accident.
When Batista tried to break up the fight, she was accidentally pushed and fell to the ground. She was rushed to the hospital where doctors determined that she had miscarried.
Batista said she would not press charges against the two teenagers because she didn't want them to end up in the criminal justice system, someone close to Batista told WABC-TV.
Despite her loss, Batista seems more worried about the welfare of the two students than she is about her own.
"You don't know how some people might take it. Some people just really go into deep depressions, and teenagers nowadays have a lot to go through and they are the ones that commit the most suicides out of all the age groups. I didn't want something like that to happen at all. I don't hold any sour feelings toward them at all," she told the New York Post.
Why to Forgive Is Truly Divine
While Batista's actions might seem extraordinarily self-sacrificing, psychologists say that forgiveness is the key to healing.
"It's not easy to forgive, even though it's the best thing you can do for yourself. Asking people to forgive is asking them to grow in wisdom and maturity," said Ryan Howes, a Pasadena, California, psychologist.
"People need to know that letting go and forgiveness is something that benefits themselves. The instinct when hurt is oftentimes thinking about what's going to make the other person feel the pain, eye for an eye. But what will really help you heal is to forgive. Regardless of the other person, forgiveness is the best thing for you," said Howes.
People tend to hold onto grudges because they believe that they are powerful -- that the people who wronged them owe them something, said Howes, but "they don't realize that holding onto a grudge is like holding onto acid in your stomach. It just burns a hole in you."
Research seems to support this concept. Studies have found that forgiveness is healthy, both psychologically and physically. Those who are better forgivers tend to have lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, and better relationships.
Decreased cardiovascular functioning, gastrointestinal problems and substance abuse have been connected with holding onto grudges and resentment, said Mark Sichel, a psychologist and author of "Healing From Family Rifts."
How to Let Go
Unlike for grief, there are no established stages of forgiveness, but Howes pointed to key elements that need to be in place for people to move on from resentment. First, the emotions of the event that triggered the resentment have to be fully expressed, whether that's anger, sorrow, frustration.
"Sometimes people will rush into forgiveness, wanting to put things behind them without properly processing what happened," he said. This, he said, is a kind of hollow forgiveness.
Next, it's necessary to create a sense of safety around the wrong. In Batista's case, Howes said, she is returning to her school, but she might change the way she responds to student fights so that she feels protected against the same thing happening again.
For those who ask for forgiveness, it's necessary to accept full responsibility for the actions, intentional or unintentional, that led to the hurt, said Sichel. Full acknowledgement of the consequences of one's actions helps the forgiver believe that the actions are less likely to happen again, thereby aiding in the sense of safety that will help the wronged person let go and move on.