SOUTH PORTLAND — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins recently told an audience at Colby College “how the hyperpartisanship and incivility in Washington, and throughout our nation, elevate extremism and prevent progress” (“Collins: Incivility holding U.S. back,” April 10).

Compare that to the Press Herald editorial board’s statement earlier this year that not every important political issue “is surrounded by people yelling at each other” (“Our View: Not all bills important to Maine are controversial this year,” Feb. 17).

Wouldn’t it be great if yelling never surrounded any major political topic? What a boon more-civil discourse would be for our public policy – and for our health.

Take Bob Spencer of Camden, for example. He had a penchant for being resentful about the inaccuracies he felt were coming from Fox News, and in conversations with fellow progressives he had not been bashful about his disdain for some of the station’s talking heads. The political angst he felt was often at the boiling point.

But things started to change for him when he heard about the training practices of a political consulting firm that ran campaigns for such Republican luminaries as Ronald Reagan, as well as for prominent Democrats. The firm instructed trainees to prepare for debates on major hot-button issues, but they were not told which side they would have to argue. They always had to prepare both sides.

The point was not lost on Spencer. He realized that, although he may not agree with the other side, both sides have valid points. This started to take the sting out of debates for him, and allowed him to begin talking politics with people of a different ilk without getting worked up.

Spencer even began an ongoing dialogue with a conservative friend. But before beginning, they made ground rules: They agreed to talk issues only, without any snide comments or getting into personalities.

“Those discussions were actually quite civil,” Spencer said. “We would dig into particulars.”

Not only that, Spencer’s new approach has positively affected his health. “It’s a real point of healing. I feel less stressed. I feel harmonious instead of clenched teeth when talking politics,” he said. For him, letting go of his resentment was significant.

Lasting resentment is detrimental to our physical health, according to Dr. Michael Linden, author of “Embitterment: Societal, Psychological and Clinical Perspectives.” The destructive stress it causes negatively impacts the body’s cardiovascular, immune and hormonal systems, according to Linden and fellow researcher Carsten Wrosch, a psychology professor at Montreal’s Concordia University.

To let go of toxic resentment, according to the Mayo Clinic, a form of forgiveness is key. Spirituality can help us get there.

It’s a critical lesson that Kevin Benton, a former University of Delaware student, learned firsthand, a reporter for CNN found. Benton resented some fellow students who had taunted him and the only other African-American living on the floor in their dorm.

The angst it caused kept him awake at night, led to panic attacks and eventually to a potentially fatal diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Ironically, that’s a thickening of the heart.

While he was in the hospital, a janitor happened by and serendipitously took Benton’s hand and prayed. When she finished, he felt an immediate change come over his body and physical relief on the area around his heart. He then chose to forgive the students who had tormented him. Three days later he was issued a clean bill of health.

“If I hadn’t forgiven them, I’d be dead,” Benton told CNN.

One famous forgiving soul who never let resentment build up was Jesus. It brought healthy results for himself and his detractors. He felt no ill will when he restored the ear of a soldier sent to arrest him. A little later, he absolved his murderers before his life was revived.

It wasn’t just physical violence that the former carpenter rejected, but also underlying feelings of animosity and resentment, according to Mary Baker Eddy, a Christian author whose ideas predate some of the latest medical evidence on the relationship between thought, spirituality and health.

For Bob Spencer, the Camden progressive, forgiveness in a political context meant seeing the humanity in his opponents and refusing to demonize them. This brought the issues into focus and helped him release his pent-up resentment and angst.

“I’m starting to feel better about the whole thing,” he said.