Two Women Holding Hands
Emotional Wellness

7 Harms to You of an Unforgiving Spirit

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Did you know that forgiveness is much like money?

You can choose to spend forgiveness freely and mercifully on others, or stow away forgiveness and only use it for yourself.

We should work to foster generous spending habits when it comes to forgiveness.

Why?

A vengeful or unforgiving spirit may only worsen matters and can harm your health.

Take the example of Betty.

Betty refused to talk to her sister-in-law for over eight years because, as Betty says, “she did me an unbelievable and unforgivable hurt when talking behind my back.”Two Women Holding Hands

Betty gave her sister-in-law the silent treatment.

But did ignoring her sister-in-law satisfy Betty’s desire for revenge?

No.

The cold shoulder treatment allowed the grudge to grow and fester.

If you don’t break the cycle, the firm grip of vengeance can ruin your relationships and even your health.

What should you do?

Forgive.

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “to err is human, to forgive is divine.”

Many people believe that the saying is from the Bible.

Not so.

The phrase is originally from a poem written in 1711 by English poet Alexander Pope titled An Essay on Criticism, Part II.

 But the sentiment of Alexander Pope’s words is true.

It’s interesting that the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), when discussing preventable patient death in the United States and Canada, used this famous line from Alexander Pope in their report on patient safety: To err is human.

The CMAJ article states, “Many things can go wrong in looking after patients, but diagnostic failure may be the worst of them.”

Errors in diagnosis.

We all make mistakes.

So, when others make mistakes or cause injury to us in a personal way, such as in the case of Betty mentioned above, we should aspire to the words in Scripture at Ephesians 4:32:

“Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.”

Forgiveness is the antidote to the bitterness of hate.

Forgiving others have essential health benefits; unforgiving can cause serious detriment to your health.

7 Harms to You of an Unforgiving Spirit:

  •  Shattered relationships. Not letting go of grudges and bitterness can destroy relationships. Who hasn’t been hurt by the words or actions of another? Perhaps a college friend sabotaged a project, or your loved one cheated on you. Or, a family member who promised to handle a task for Mom then lies, causing friction within the family. No question that these hurts cause physical and emotional pain.
  • You have wrecked your mental health. When someone has wronged or hurt you profoundly, this could impact your mental health irreparably. You will feel stuck in the past, ruminating on the issue constantly. You may lash out and commit violence against others or harm yourself.
  • You experience deep anxiety, stress, and hostility. The ill effects are numerous: headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, and arthritis. Your decision-making skills and memory may suffer. Stress can cause sleeplessness.
  • Consistently high blood pressure. Blood pressure measured always above average leads to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. And death.
  • You have a weakened immune system. When your immune system does its job, you can fight off bacteria, and viruses, such as COVID, parasites, and more. A compromised immune system could lead to frequent infections, illnesses, weight loss, chronic diarrhea, and other consequences.
  • Symptoms of depression. We all feel in the dumps from time to time. However, when you experience depression, your life is usually dark. Perhaps you feel:
    • Persistent sadness
    • Irritability
    • Lack of energy
    • Loss of concentration
    • Insomnia
    • Thoughts of death or suicide
    • Lethargic (slow thinking; constantly tired)
    • Low self-esteem. You wouldn’t think your self-esteem could be affected by your emotions or an unwillingness to forgive. But it’s true. Self-esteem refers to a person’s overall sense of self. Do you value yourself? Do you believe you deserve love? If so, you will forgive yourself for past mistakes. Release the negative feelings you have. Life is not perfect. People are not perfect. Have empathy for yourself and the other person.

Discover the Benefits of Forgiveness

Ask yourself:

  • Must I remain in severe emotional turmoil feeling intensely hurt and angry?
  • Must I stay dominated by outrage at the offender into the foreseeable future?
  • Must I remain wounded and disgusted by the culprit’s actions?

Or will I forgive and move on?

True forgiveness comes from the heart and involves excusing wrongdoers’ mistakes and giving up any desire for revenge.

Overlooking another person’s unkind or nasty acts against us may not be easy, but the good that the act of forgiveness does for our heart and well-being are many:

  • Lowers risk of heart attacks
  • Improves cholesterol levels
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces pain
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Reduces levels of anxiety
  • Replaces hurt with healing
  • Frees you from the bitterness of hate
  • It gets you out of victim mode

More Reasons to Forgive

Dr. William S. Sadler wrote: “No one can appreciate so fully as a doctor the amazingly large percentage of human disease and suffering which is directly traceable to worry, fear, conflict…unwholesome thinking and unclean living.”

Bitterness, resentment, and spite slowly corrode the body similarly, to what rust does to a car.

And how much damage does emotional turmoil cause?

One medical publication: “Statistics… indicated that two thirds of patients who went to a physician had symptoms caused by aggravated mental stress.”

Forgiving others is an active process. You make a conscious decision not to dwell on negative feelings.

You can choose how to feel.

In forgiveness, you release anger, resentment, and hostility.

Forgiveness promotes good relations.

And it’s crucial that when you forgive (and you must), you do so profoundly, which means you understand that no one is perfect.

You begin to empathize with the person who has wronged you.

Start Now!

It may take some time before you get over the anger you feel against those who hurt you.

And forgiving others who caused you emotional injury doesn’t mean you’re condoning the offender’s actions or words.

Forgiveness means you’ll no longer carry around the pain.

Forgiveness means you’ll no longer allow a full-fledged grudge to develop.

Forgiveness means you’ll break the cycle of tit-for-tat revenge or getting even.

Ahh

Do you feel the release?

Do you sense the stress leaving your body and feeling calm?

Do you see the dark, heavy clouds leaving, the new fluffy clouds opening up, and the sun shining?

Yes!

No longer feel victim to the 7 Harms to You of an Unforgiving Spirit:

  • Destroyed relationships
  • Damaged mental health
  • Overwhelming stress
  • Dangerously high blood pressure
  • Compromised immune system
  • Depression
  • Poor sense of self

I implore you to begin today!

Learn to forgive, excusing those who have offended and hurt you somehow.

Pardon the errors others have made against you.

Let go of grudges and bitterness.

Forgiving others helps us remember that we ourselves are in need of forgiveness from time to time.

The result?

You will have happiness, inner peace, and joy.

Start now!