31 May How Unforgiveness is Affecting Your Health
Has anyone ever done something to you that required forgiveness? If you are human then the answer is likely yes. And like most of us, you’ve either avoided it or dealt with it. But unforgiveness has consequences that you may not realize.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is letting go of ways a person has wronged you. It is choosing to let go your anger, your negative feelings for revenge, bitterness, resentment, and even hate in some cases. .
Forgiveness can’t be earned or bought, it is only freely given. And when you are living as a child of God, you’re a walking example of the forgiveness of Jesus.
And what’s the point of forgiving?
Why do we have to forgive? What’s the point?
First, Jesus commands us to forgive. In His parable in Matthew 18:
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
But when the man left the king…
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
After reading that, what a sobering lesson! If we don’t forgive others, we won’t be forgiven.
Secondly, Jesus wants us to forgive for our own sake. It has been said, “Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Unforgiveness hurts us the most.
Ways Unforgiveness Affects Us…
When you read Jesus’ parable above, it makes you aware of your own need for God’s forgiveness on a daily basis. You and I don’t want our stubborn refusal to forgives someone else to be the reason God doesn’t forgive us.
When we refuse to forgive, it opens the door for emotional mental burdens to be part of your life. In all honesty, unforgiveness is a sin, so when we allow it to take root in our lives, we open the door for it to be a burden for us to carry and a foothold for other problems to come into our lives.
This is the part that I want to really focus on, because unforgiveness affects our health incredibly. When we don’t forgive, we put our bodies in a state of constant fight-or-flight mode. You may be familiar with this term, it speaks of a state of stress put on the body. The fight-or-flight response was originally used when a large animal was coming after us, but now, we’re experiencing other types of stress.
Some of the following symptoms come when we’re in fight or flight mode:
- Muscles tighten, causing imbalances or pain in the neck, back, and limbs
- Blood flow to the joints is restricted, making it more difficult for the blood to remove water from the tissues and reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cells
- Normal process of repair and recovery from injury or arthritis are impaired
- Clenching of the jaws contributes to problems with the teeth and jaw joints
- Headaches come more often and to a more debilitating degree
- Chronic pain is worsened
- Your cortisol levels increase and that leads to weight gain
- Blood flow to the heart is constricted
- Digestion is impaired
- Breathing can become more difficult
- Anger can impair the immune system, increasing the risk of infections and illness
- The body releases certain enzymes during anger and stress which lead to elevated cholesterol and blood pressure levels
This isn’t even an exhaustive list, but it’s clear to see how living in a state of unforgiveness was never the way God intended for us to live, spiritually, mentally, or physically. So I wanted to share some myths about forgiveness and some tips to help you begin the process of letting go of unforgiveness in your life, so you can begin living God’s best.
Myths about Forgiveness
Myth #1: You have to wait until the person apologizes.
I’m sorry to be the one who breaks it to you, but there will be times when someone wrongs you and they won’t apologize. Many times, they won’t even admit they were in the wrong. In some cases, they’ve already died before you begin to deal with your unforgiveness. Forgiveness is not contingent upon remorse or apologies.
Myth #2: Forgiving someone is condoning what they’ve done.
I’m not foolish enough to think that there are people reading this who have been seriously wronged. More than someone gossiping behind their back or hurting their feelings. There are people who have been abused, hurt, or someone hurt their children. It’s a lie from the enemy that if you forgive the offender then you are condoning what they’ve done and “letting them off the hook.”
When you forgive someone, you are basically taking them off your hook and placing them on God’s hook. You’re saying, “God deal with this injustice for me. I’m ready to be free from this, and I’m ready for You to take care of it.”
Myth #3: Forgiveness is a one time action.
In order for forgiveness to take root in your heart, you first need to soften your heart. It reminds me of pulling up weeds from a hard piece of soil. After you get rid of the weeds, then you till up the ground and good things can be planted. Sometimes those weeds keep coming up, even after you’ve gotten rid of them. Do you give up and let them overrun your garden or flowerbed? No! You keep pulling them out (and if you’re smart, you pull them when they’re small so they come out easier)!
The same is true with negative feelings that come up about the offender. We forgive, then we’re reminded of something they’ve done and it feels like we’ve started all over. At that point, we have to continue to choose forgiveness. Over and over.
Finally, the truth is that we have no chance of truly forgiving someone without the Lord. When we forgive, we are allowing God to work through us, we allow Him to enable us to love others the way He loves them.
Forgiveness is WORTH it!
When you reach the point of forgiveness, you’ll experience a change in feelings, behaviors, and thoughts. Most of all, you’ll feel a huge burden lifted from your shoulders and you’ll be able to think much more clearly. Plus, you’ll be living with more joy knowing that you’re pleasing God by become more like His Son.