“Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.” This is the maxim for those who choose not to forgive. However, there are many benefits of forgiveness that far outweigh the risks of being duped or looking like a fool. These benefits all have to do with our health; physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and relationally.
- Our health is affected physically when we do not forgive. Research has shown that migraine headaches, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis are correlated with unforgiveness. It seems that unforgiveness is somehow toxic to our system. Forgiveness reduces that toxicity and can improve our physical health.
- Mental disorders can be linked to unforgiveness. Depression is often diagnosed as anger turned inward. Trying to hold in the powerful emotion of anger is like trying to hold a beach ball under water. It is exhausting and increases depression. Resolving the anger through forgiveness can decrease depression dramatically.
- When we are harboring unforgiveness, it often consumes much of our thinking. The offense is always churning around in the back of our minds, shadowing every waking moment and even creeping into our dreams. Letting go of the offense frees our mind to focus on the task at hand and to be more open-minded to concepts and ideas.
- Unforgiveness affects us spiritually because when we are walking in unforgiveness we are telling God that he is not doing a good job. Pushing him off the throne, we take his place as judge. We become angry at God for not protecting us and judge him for being too soft on our offender. Forgiveness is the act of trusting God (see Definition of Forgiveness.) It strengthens our relationship with him as we exercise our faith in trusting God to be the best judge.
- Finally, holding on to unforgiveness produces distrust in our other relationships. The anger we hold spills out onto other relationships hurting those who were never involved in the offense. For example, a wife may distrust her husband because someone else cheated on her in the past. Forgiveness improves our relationships because the more we trust God to protect our hearts and heal us from hurt, the more we are able to trust other people.
Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions states that “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison expecting the other person to die.” When we forgive we cleanse ourselves of the poisonous toxins of resentment and bitterness and live a healthier life.