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Caregivers Beware of Living with Unforgiveness: Effects and Benefits of Forgiving

Ephesians 4:26-27 New International Reader's Version (NIRV) 26 Scripture says, “When you are angry, do not sin.” (Psalm 4:4) Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. 27 Don’t give the devil a chance.

Ephesians 4:26-27 King James Version (KJV) 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.

According to studies, Doctors have found that there is a huge relationship between forgiveness and health. The fact is after being hurt, angry, suffering loss, real or false guilt, or envy, the blocked love flow profoundly affects the way your body functions, thus your health. This can cause alteration in the pattern of chemicals and electricity in your body. It also disrupts the harmony of the brain waves, making you less able to think clearly and to make good decisions.

The Stress of Not Having a Forgiving Spirit

Unforgiveness distresses your muscular-skeletal system by increasing forehead muscle tension, thereby producing headaches, and by also producing other symptoms: stomach aches, muscle tension, joint pain/aches, dizziness, and tiredness. For example, your muscles may tighten, causing imbalances or pain in your neck, back, and limbs. There is decreased blood flow to the joint surfaces. This makes it more difficult for the blood to remove wastes from the tissues. It reduces the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cells. This increases the chances of delayed or inadequate repair during sleep, impairing recovery from injury, arthritis, etc.

It can cause your teeth to clench at night contributing to problems with your teeth and jaw joints. Injury through inattention, accident, or violence is more likely. The peptide and hormonal chemical “messengers” are altered in every system of the body. The blood flow to your heart is constricted. Your digestion is impaired.

And while forgiveness may not be the sole cause of all of them, it increases your vulnerability to them. It can set the scene for them, and it can delay or even prevent your recovery. The effects when you are unforgiving to yourself can include depression; low self-esteem; depriving yourself of the good opportunities that life offers you; punishing yourself through activities or relationships that work out to harm yourself; addictions and so on.

The alternative to forgiveness is bitterness and resentment. People who refuse to forgive hurt themselves. Bitter people are no fun to be around. They can’t sleep. Ulcers line their stomach. They see the negative in every situation because their life is filled with these feelings of resentment and anger. People who are unwilling to forgive may feel they are punishing the other person but the only person paying the price is themselves.

According to the Bible, if you harbor bitter envy and contention/selfish ambition in your hearts, you will find disorder and every evil practice. This wisdom does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, and even demonic. James 3:14-16 As I traveled through life, I started to realize that if the enemy can’t get us to walk away from God, he will try the next best thing by getting us to not forgive because it hinders our prayers and therefore affects our relationship with God. David the Psalmist wrote, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear.” Psalm 66:18 If God doesn’t hear our prayers, our prayers are hindered. If God doesn’t hear when we pray, we pray without power. God commands us to walk in love.

“Jesus said a new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34 I’m so thankful that God didn’t say to forgive just to make things difficult for us. Just as an earthly father will tell us to listen for our own good, God tells us for our own good because when we walk in love, we are under God’s protection. When we walk out of love, we walk out from under God’s protection. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for

Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 The benefits of forgiving are recently being discovered by science and have long been taught by religious organizations. Scientifically validated benefits of forgiving include the reduction of chronic pain, cardiovascular problems, reduction of violent behavior, increased hope, and decreased levels of depression and anxiety.

Burden Lifted

Most people, however; when they have reached forgiveness describe having a change in feelings, behaviors, and thoughts. They feel a huge burden lifted from their shoulders and think much more clearly. They are filled with compassion and love for the offender. They also have no more desire to pursue justice regarding the offender. Their thoughts and actions no longer focus on revenge. For forgiveness to take place, a softening of the heart needs to occur in the heart of the offended. Many people have found prayer to be an invaluable part of the forgiveness process. Inviting divine help as you try to forgive someone who has offended you is a powerful way to experience a change of heart. Forgiveness is God’s antidote for anger.

Maybe you feel that you can’t forgive. I believe that if you know the Creator and choose to be strong in Him then you can forgive. Just as God’s mercy and grace have a transforming effect on your life, your extension of that grace to others has the power to transform them. An act of forgiveness is the result of God working through us enabling us to love as even he loves as we abide in him. It’s not natural but is supernatural, that’s why so many say, “How can I forgive? I can’t forgive.” Forgiveness is not an emotion, but it is an act of the will, as we set our will to do God’s will. God will honor our obedience and will fill us with his love and power. As you pray for your offender you will begin to feel the compassion and love that the Lord has for them, and you will experience a release and a freedom as a result. Dr. Enright and Zell 1989 believe that forgiveness should include both love and letting go of anger despite unjust injury. Misunderstanding still abounds regarding the true meaning of forgiveness.

Often, people say, “Forgive and forget” But how can we forget the horrible things we have endured? How can we forget the wounds and scars we wear each day? How can we forget the Holocaust? We need to forgive and remember so that the evil will not be repeated. Others say, “Forgiveness means that we need to excuse, condone, or pardon the wrongs done to us.”

But wrong is still wrong, regardless of whether we forgive the offender. When one forgives, one does not open a jail cell door but has an effective and possibly behavioral transformation toward the injurer; one can forgive and see justice realized. Some equate forgiveness with reconciliation, but how can we invite the perpetrators back into our lives, when there is no apology and no willingness to change their destructive ways?

True Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not intended to turn us into willing victims! Ideally, the forgiveness process may lead to reconciliation, but it must be a reciprocal relationship and involve acknowledging wrongdoing and making amends. Unilateral forgiveness does not necessarily lead to reconciliation. We need to know the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. It is also important to differentiate between pseudo-forgiveness and genuine forgiveness. When we say we have forgiven someone, but still harbor grudges and resentments or maintain an attitude of indifference and neutrality, we have only achieved pseudo-forgiveness. Complete forgiveness involves complete transformation toward the offender. To some, it seems reasonable to maintain a psychological or physical difference to avoid getting hurt again, until there is some indication that the perpetrator has changed his or her ways, but others would argue that such psychological barriers should disappear when one has completed the forgiveness process.

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