Spiritual Effects Of Unforgiveness
Learn the spiritual effects of unforgiveness and how to overcome it and forgive someone, or yourself – even if they’re not sorry
Forgiveness Is Not Condoning The Actions Of Another
Throughout this entire article we ask you to remember that forgiveness is not condoning what someone has done against you. It is not agreeing that they are right. It is not a ticket for them to continue doing whatever it is they have done or are doing.
Forgiveness is the act of letting go of the feelings of malice you may hold against them for the things they have done to you. These very natural feelings of wanting to get back at them – have your revenge as it were – are doing you additional harm that you might, until now, be unaware of.
The Spiritual Effects of Unforgiveness Are Many
Unforgiveness. That bitter part of you that no matter how spiritual you are wants to see some sort of pay back for something someone has done to you. Or, often worse, that you’ve done to yourself. But the spiritual effects of unforgiveness are many and incredibly damaging.
Unforgiveness impacts on our relationships with other people. Relationship is all there is spiritually. We are not here to gather riches (though they’re nice). We’re not here to gather wisdom (though it helps). We’re not here to learn science (though it does improve our physical lives considerably). We are here to experience full and meaningful relationships with each other. By interfering with our inter-personal relationships, unforgiveness destroys the very spiritual thing we are here to achieve.
Unforgiveness poisons our mind. It blinkers our approach to life. Joyce Meyer once said on stage that she’d heard this phrase, “Holding unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will die”. What could be more ridiculous?
But that is what unforgiveness is. Because the poison affects you. It often does not affect the other person, in the slightest. They may not be aware that you have not forgiven them. They may not even even be aware that they have done anything you need to forgive them for!
Whether you believe in the Christian God, or any other entity, or even no other entity it’s time to do yourself a favour and begin to forgive all those that have trespassed against you. This post is not written specifically to Christians (since this site is clearly not specifically for Christians, and many wouldn’t even like it) because everyone needs to learn the spiritual effects of unforgiveness and how to forgive others or themselves.
One of the most incredible stories of forgiveness – which proves that you can do it too – is shown below. It’s about 15 minutes long but if you’re struggling with unforgiveness it’s well worth a watch, from beginning to end. But you might need a box of Kleenex.
What Are The Negative Effects of Unforgiveness?
There are many many negative effects of unforgiveness. These range from physical effects on the body, mental and spiritual effects on your mind, and even effects on your community. Later we’ll look at the diseases that can be caused or exacerbated by unforgiveness. We’ve covered the spiritual effects of unforgiveness in the section above.
But the mental health burdens of unforgiveness are significant too and should not be overlooked. When you carry around unforgiveness you are burdening yourself with a grudge that the other person may be completely unaware of. Your unforgiveness affects you not them.
The energy that’s put into carrying on the bitterness, resentment and hostility toward the person you won’t forgive weighs on you. It creates additional long term stress which is known to lead to psychological problems. Eating disorders, depression, paranoia and potentially even suicidal ideation can result from this.
If you’re struggling with these issues as a result of unforgiveness it can be very hard to overcome. You will almost certainly need some assistance. Reach out to your primary healthcare provider or find a suitable counsellor who can help guide you through it. It’s a complicated and individual process that professionally trained people can help you with.
What Are The Spiritual Benefits of Forgiveness?
Being able to forgive someone is a fundamental part of spiritual growth because it helps you become more compassion and have more empathy with others. It doesn’t mean you see what the other person did as right. But releasing the anger that goes with unforgiveness will reduce your chronic stress levels and will reduce the interference between the soul and the body.
Learning to forgive may in fact be one of the biggest catalysts to beginning a spiritual awakening. This is because as you learn to forgive you begin to awaken yourself to the possibility of others all being connected. It also helps us understand that we are in control of our mind, and our reactions to events within our lives.
This is not to say that when we forgive someone we should continue to allow them to cause us harm. Forgiveness does not make us a doormat to be continually walked over. Sometimes part of forgiveness is realising that we must no longer live in the past, but must move forward. If we move forward and the other person continues in their old ways, then we must leave them behind.
By forgiving we release ourselves from the past and allow ourselves to live in the present and make healthier choices about our destiny. The forgiveness calms our mind and allows the higher vibrational signals from our souls to be received by our minds. We feel better, we hear better and we’re better equipped to navigate the next set of lessons we’re wanting to learn.
Forgiving someone means we’re letting go of the grudges against them. Doing this can improve physical and mental health as a result of;
- Healthier relationships. We’re all here on earth to have various relationships with each other.
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Reduced hostility towards everyone, not just the subject of your unforgiveness
- Lower blood pressure – better heart health
- Less depressive symptoms
- Improved immune system (less illness)
- Improved self-esteem – which can lead to better jobs, income and happiness
Forgiveness also has a wider impact on the world in which we live. Many conflicts arise within local communities, larger areas and even countries as a result of offence which leads to unforgiveness. Whole communities can be devasted by escalation of tensions arising from events from which neither side is prepared to forgive. People lose loved ones as a result. Unforgiveness only ever leads to bad things happening.
What Are The Benefits of Unforgiveness?
There are no benefits to unforgiveness. None. Only more drama, trauma and disquiet in our lives. Unforgiveness leads to myriad health problems in our lives, both physically and mentally and it blocks the signals from the one source which will lead us to the next stages of our lives.
There are only down sides to remaining in unforgiveness. There is no up side.
What Are The Causes of Unforgiveness?
Unforgiveness usually stems from a desire to see someone pay for their offence against us. Humans have, in general, a very revengeful nature and if someone hurts us we want to see them harmed in return. It’s not always the case that this is the cause of unforgiveness, but it is often so.
Another reason for harbouring unforgiveness is the sense of unfairness of the whole situation. The person who hurt us is getting away scot-free with hurting or offending us whereas we have to accept what has happened. This seems unfair because we’ve suffered and usually the other person appears to have not.
But in many cases, the person who hurts us does so out of their own pain. They often lash out at us because of their pain and so inflict pain on us instead.
Finally, when it is our pride that is dented by these events, our pride can become spiteful. Our ego has a very large pride, and with it a very large spiteful nature can also exist. This offence to our pride requires some form of payment. Unforgiveness feels like a form of payment to our pride. It thrives on it, riling us up whenever we think of the offence. Emotionally pumping us up to anger and frustration. This satisfies our pride and ego but does not satisfy the spirit.
Your unforgiveness will have no bearing on the outcome of justice for the other person. Your unforgiveness will just keep you in bondage over the offense. Obviously, you’re not saying to the other person ‘I forgive you, keep on hurting me’. No, that’s not the purpose at all. You will still need to extract yourself from the hurting situation if you haven’t already. We’ll go into that a bit later in this post.
Symptoms of Unforgiveness
Unforgiveness can, and often will, manifest itself with physical and mental symptoms that will bring negative effects to you. Some of these include (but aren’t limited to)
- Increased hostility towards everyone – especially the person. But your unforgiveness will spill over into other relationships too.
- Consumed by thoughts of how the person hurt/offended you.
- Impaired relationships with other people, especially if they’re mutual friends, and particularly if they’d prefer to remain neutral.
- Depression and anxiety.
- A feeling of helplessness. While you can’t forgive you can’t move on.
- Unable to enjoy the present because of living in the past, focusing on what happened then rather than what is happening now.
- Become more isolated as you feel you can’t trust anyone with your emotions.
Diseases Caused By Unforgiveness and Bitterness
Can Unforgiveness Cause Illness?
From what we’ve read previously in this post it should be fairly clear that unforgiveness can cause illness and disease. This can be either physical or mental illness and often both. This is because when all is said and done, our mind and body react to stimuli. Often the body will not know whether that stimulus is external or internal. In the case of unforgiveness it is internal stimulus, but the hormones produced are exactly the same.
When we carry around unforgiveness we are often angry a lot of the time. We pay a lot of attention to the wrongs others have done to us and sometimes we compared the differences. We expend a lot of energy trying to support our position of unforgiveness. And, crucially, we give ourselves additional day to day stress over the issue which we could reduce and release by forgiving.
Stress is well known to cause illness. Multiple scientific studies have confirmed this. Stress raises levels of hormones in your body which, over the long term, reduce ability to fight infection and increase blood pressure and systemic inflammation which leads to heart disease. The same paper goes on to show how long term chronic stress leads to increased tumour development and reduction on the ability of the body to destroy metastatic cancers.
Given that unforgiveness invariably causes additional stress on the mind and body of the person who cannot, or will not forgive and the effects of stress are highlighted above, we can see that unforgiveness really is literally poisoning your body while you hope the offender will be hurt instead.
Unforgiveness can therefore lead to illnesses such as;
- Heart disease and high blood pressure
- Cancerous and non-cancerous tumours
- Depression and Anxiety
- Increased cholesterol
- Heart attack
- Asthma exacerbations
- Ulcers and/or Colitis
- Increased Migraines
- Increased bacterial and viral infections
- Higher prevalence of fungal infections
Unforgiveness is killing you slowly, irrespective of any spiritual damage it is causing you.
How To Forgive Someone
Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation with the offender. Sometimes it’s not possible if they have moved away, or died, or you’re otherwise no longer in touch. It may not even be appropriate to reconcile with someone – the differences may be too vast to reconcile. But forgiveness is a process for you to reconcile what happened with yourself. To accept that it did, and to look and learn from it – and to let go of the emotional attachment to the event or events.
Forgiveness also isn’t about letting someone off the hook as such. It is definitely not condoning the offenses that took place nor is it suggesting that you should allow them to continue. You absolutely may, if possible, decide to confront your offender and tell them why their actions were inappropriate and unwelcome.
Forgiveness is about releasing yourself from bearing a grudge against the other person. This is particularly true if the other person has been confronted about the issue but refuses to apologise or change their behaviour as we’ll see in the next subsections.
How To Forgive Someone Who Isn’t Sorry
There are many times when someone will do something against us that we do not appreciate. They may go as far as outright abusing us and if we bring it up with them they refuse to apologise because they have the stern belief that they are not in the wrong.
Remember, this is their choice. If you bring the information to them in a calm and rational manner and they refuse to acknowledge your position it describes a weakness in them, not you.
At this point you have a couple of alternatives.
- Allow them to continue acting in the way they do and put up with it.
- Politely but firmly advise them that their behaviour, irrespective of their opinion on it, is unacceptable to you and you refuse to put yourself in the position where they can do that to you any longer. Then remove yourself from the toxic environment and don’t look back.
Annoyingly perhaps, it is often easier to do the first than the second. But whichever you do, you must let go of the grudge. If you continue to put up with whatever it is they are doing, you must understand it is your choice to do so and you will not change who they are. Only they can do that.
If you do the second option, then it is still up to you to release yourself from the grudge you are holding. In doing so you will evict them from living rent-free in your head. Again, realise that the problem is theirs to deal with, not yours. You have made you issue known and they have refused to see it from your point of view. You cannot fix them. Nor can you change them.
The lack of apology is their problem and their lack of compassion for you. Move away from them, keep them at arms length, but don’t feed the grudge with your emotion. Forgive them for their lack of compassion and their lack of understanding and leave them be.
This can be a lot easier typed than done sometimes and as such, if you’re really struggling with this, you should reach out to a qualified professional in your area. Counsellors or psychologists in your area can be found on Google.
How To Forgive Someone Who Is Still Hurting You
Firstly, if someone is still hurting you and you fear for your safety you should absolutely contact professionals in your area for the best advice. We are not domestic abuse advisors and cannot give you adequate advice for your safety. You may want to contact the police – or you may want to check the following links;
- UK – Home | Refuge National Domestic Abuse Helpline (nationaldahelpline.org.uk)
- US – Create a Safety Plan | The National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org)
The above links are not recommendations but are some we found by searching for ‘safety advice for victims of domestic abuse’ in those countries.
Remember that forgiving someone does not mean you condone what they have done and you absolutely do not have to stay and keep taking whatever they’re dishing out.
If that someone is unwilling to change (or has been given multiple opportunities and has not done so) it is time to make the change for yourself. Whilst you can forgive someone who is still hurting you, you should consider whether the relationship is a healthy one. It is very likely that it isn’t, simply by virtue of the other person continually hurting you.
Get yourself to a safe space, with distance from the other person. Then, with the help of people who do respect and love you, learn to let go of the malicious feelings you will undoubtedly harbour toward that person. It helps if you understand that most people who behave in abhorrent ways do so out of either their own hurt, or their own feelings of inadequacy. These people need their own help – and you are not the person to give that to them. Sorry, but you’re not. If you were, they would have stopped by now.
So, forgive them from afar. Release yourself from the feelings of revenge that you want to get into. Accept what they did is wrong and not appropriate. But release them from the grudge you want to hold. Wish them well. Hope they find what they need in the way of help.
How To Forgive Yourself
Forgiving yourself can be the hardest thing in the world to do. But let’s pick this apart, on the same basis as we’ve said we should forgive others.
When you make a mistake it is exactly that – a mistake. Did you do it on purpose? Did you have malice in that mistake? Have you learned from your mistake? If you’re trying to forgive yourself then it’s fairly clear that you didn’t do it on purpose, and you had no malice within it whatever it was that you did.
So, if you had more information at hand you would have done better. Wouldn’t we all?
It’s particularly important that we learn to forgive ourselves, because the stress that this type of unforgiveness brings is a double whammy. We have the stress of unforgiveness, and the stress of guilt that something we did has hurt someone else. And we highlighted what stress does to a body earlier in the post. It’s imperative that you learn to forgive yourself, for the sake of your health.
So, stop holding a grudge against yourself. If you’re holding a grudge against yourself then you’ve obviously grown since the event that you need to forgive yourself for. Let’s look at how we can use that growth to help forgive ourselves.
If you need further guidance on forgiving yourself, it’s a topic all on its own. We’ve shown you the spiritual and physical benefits for forgiveness and they’re just as appropriate whether the person is someone else or yourself. For more information, this article on 12 Tips for Forgiving Yourself (healthline.com) may be able to help.
We’ve learned the spiritual effects of unforgiveness through many different sections of this post and come to realise that unforgiveness is unhealthy for us both spiritually and physically. We also learned that contrary to many people’s beliefs, forgiveness does not mean we condone what happened. We’ve learned that when we forgive we do not have to accept continuing bad behaviour from someone else.
Remember that forgiveness does not benefit the other person, but does benefit us greatly. It’s also true that there are actually no benefits whatsoever to unforgiveness.
Forgiveness may not be easy. But it is worth it. We hope we’ve given you enough guidance to help you begin the process. Remember, if you get stuck, reach out to a friend who’s been through it, or to a professional counsellor or psychologist who can help you. Sometimes two heads are better than one.
We hope you found this post useful. If you would like to add anything, or comment in general please do and we’ll do our best to respond.
We wish you all the best, peace and love.
1: Hunter C., (2014). Theravive. The Negative Effects Of Unforgiveness on Mental Health. April 28, 2014. Fetched from The Negative Effects of Unforgiveness on Mental Health (theravive.com) on 31st October 2021.
2: Griffin M., (2014). WebMD. 10 Health Problems Related To Stress That You Can Fix. April 01, 2014. Fetched from 10 Stress-Related Health Problems That You Can Fix (webmd.com) on 1st November 2021.
3: Salleh M., (2008). The Malaysian Journal Of Medical Sciences. Life Event, Stress and Illness. October 15th 2008. Fetched from Life Event, Stress and Illness (nih.gov) on 1st November 2021.