How Refusing to Forgive Hurts You More than Helps

Picture of the words forgive

There have been times in all our lives where we have been hurt, taken advantage of, lied to, etc. Although we may have physically removed ourselves from the person, the anger, the resentment, and even hatred lingers. It occupies every aspect of our lives. We carry it with us from relationship to relationship (including our relationship with God), from life experience to life experience. How refusing to forgive hurts, you more than helps will help you better understand the destructive effects of unforgiveness.

Why is it so hard to forgive?


Human nature. In it in our very nature to protect ourselves from danger, threat, or vulnerability. We do not think; we only react. Our nature is controlled by what psychologists call the automatic brain or AB. Once the AB detects the danger, it will cause us to fight or flee.
When you have been wronged, your AB detects the threat and has you fighting or fleeing. The fight or flight appears in several ways, for example: anger (fight), withdrawal/depression (flight), self-sabotage (flight—so you don’t get hurt again), relationship sabotage (fight/flight—so you don’t get hurt), numbness (flight).
We cannot be Disciples and allow unforgiveness in our hearts. Nelson Mandela described unforgiveness as “poison that we take to hurt the other person.” If we cannot forgive, we cannot follow Jesus because that person or thing still has control over us.

Scriptural Reference Genesis 32: 6-11; 33:1-4
6 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7 In great fear and distress, Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8 He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.” 9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, LORD, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and the mothers with their children.

33 Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. 4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Context

In Genesis 32, we find Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau. And how scared Jacob had to be! He had tricked his brother Esau and deceived him.

He had received birthrights that rightfully belonged to Esau. When this happened, Jacob fled! He went far away. He fled because he was afraid Esau would kill him. He just knew at that time that if Esau found him, he was as good as dead. Now 20 years have passed, and Jacob was returning home at the Lord’s direction

Practical Application

Our past sins have frozen many of us against someone, or, a past hurt someone has committed against us.
Think about it! How many of us are still trapped in the past because we cannot forgive ourselves for something we have done or because of a wrong that someone has done to us?

Are you a Jacob or an Esau?

(a) Jacob had been carrying around the burden of his sin against his twin brother for years. He knew he had done wrong. Jacob had experienced the consequences of those wrongs (leaving his homeland and the inability to return) and learned from them. He was now a more influential person because God had given him a new purpose.

(b) Esau was devastated by his brother’s betrayal. Probably one of the few people he believed he could trust no matter what had taken everything from him with the help of their mother—Rebecca—no less. Esau vowed to kill Jacob (Genesis 27:41), but their mother again helped Jacob escape. Esau tormented by his hate and his desire for revenge.

How does our refusal to forgive affect our lives?



1. Keeps us Imprisoned in the Past (Leviticus 19:17-18): 
  • Can you vividly recall the offense or offender?
  • Do you know precisely when and how the knife punctured your peace?
  • Does the mere mention of the person or sight of them cause you turmoil?
  • If so, you are still struggling with unforgiveness.
  • If you fail to identify and forgive offenders/offenses—including yourself—you will be shackled by your past. You will be unable to heal and that inability to heal leaves an open sore that causes you to lash out at innocent bystanders, especially those you are looking to build a closer relationship.
  • Those triggers to our past and something that we have yet to forgive someone. These triggers create unreasonable intolerances that will leave you vulnerable and ultimately miserable—even if you are with someone.

2. Creates Long-Lasting Bitterness (Ephesians 4:31):
  • Bitterness is a devastating sin directly traced to our failure to forgive. We become toxic when we continually nurse a wound that was inflicted by another person/ourselves.
  • Destructive thoughts and harassing memories eventually distort how we look at life. Ultimately, our emotions, as well as our minds, run wild and turn simple conflicts into significant fights.
  • Not only are bitter people difficult in general; they eventually repulse others and demean their self-worth.
  • You can always tell an angry person by the company they keep. Either they surround themselves with other angry people, or they reinforce their bitterness. Bitterness is like a drug (1 John 2:9-11) that eventually impacts every aspect of our lives.
  • We can try to fake like we are not bitter about things, but honestly, we all have issues that we need to resolve.

3. Invites Demonic Influence (Ephesians 4:26-27):
  • Unforgiveness leads to sin! Eventually, the resentment and negative emotions that we harbor will corrupt us and cause us to turn from God.
  • The unresolved anger and bitterness that accompanies a failure to forgive is a welcome door for demonic activity.

4. Blocks our relationship with God (Matthew 6:14-15)

  • Unforgiveness drives a wedge between you and God. This wedge will make it impossible to have the type of Godly relationship you desire with someone else.
  • When you sin as a Christian, you are to confess your sin to the Lord (1 John 1:9). Since it is a sin not to forgive someone, your attitude of unforgiveness must be confessed to God as sin and forsaken or you forfeit a measure of fellowship with God.
  • It could be that God is holding the sin of unforgiveness against you just as you are holding the offender’s sin against him. So long as you act as the judge of that person, God will stand in judgment of you.

How do Christians forgive? 


1. Be Aware of Your Emotions (Ephesians 4:31-32)

  • What you feel is your responsibility. What other people do may trigger emotions, but how we think is our responsibility.
  • Holding on to your feelings, especially those associated with an incident or experience that causes us to hurt, can lead to hate (action) and perhaps a lingering desire for retaliation or revenge. This is destructive and creates an emotional drain on us, even if we do not release it.
  • A lack of forgiveness is selfish.
  • What makes it possible to forgive is the fact that we are. (Colossians 3:12-14).
2. Be Humble (Philippians 1:1-3)
  • It is natural to hold on to hurt feelings, especially those associated with perceived injustice because we become comfortable with the sense that we are right, and the other individual is wrong.
  • Be willing to compromise your views, emotions, and personal beliefs (not your faith) to move forward, otherwise, your feelings will keep you from moving forward.

3. Be Victimless (Romans 8:37)
  • If we are angry at someone, we feel that they have committed a grave wrong against us. Whether the feeling is real or perceived, we still think that an injustice has been done and treated unfairly.
  • If we remain the victim of them, we can never get the proper perspective, the Godly perspective.
  • Most offenders are also victims.
  • We must recognize that no one owes us anything; the world does not revolve around us as an individual.
  • We should not attach expectations to a situation that may be impossible for the other person to meet (no one owes us an apology; we just want to hear one).
  • We must leave room for reasonable attempts at reconciliation to occur

4. Be Willing to Change (Romans 12:1-2)
  • Forgiveness is not something we do for the person who wrongs us; we do it for ourselves
  • The torture chamber of unforgiveness is self-imposed. When we fail to forgive, God does not have to lock us up in jail. We do it to ourselves. We lock ourselves in a prison of anger and anxiety. We rehearse the hurt over and over, and it gets bigger and bigger and continues to hurt us long after it has happened. The forgiveness of Jesus Christ is the key that unlocks the jail. It can set you free. For your own sake, you must learn to forgive.
  • Dwelling on the past only perpetuates the hurt feelings that resulted from what caused the problem in the first place. Continually bringing up sore points or issues of the history will only make the rift larger.
  • The statement “forgive and forget” has been misconstrued. To forgive, we must release ourselves from the emotional constraints that the offense caused us. We do not forget, but we do not allow the matter to guide our future (Romans 12:17-21).
  • As stated, forgiveness is not synonymous with trust or reconciliation. Consequently, it is possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation.
  • Forgiveness and trust are separate issues. Forgiveness is not an instant restoration of trust. Forgiveness is instant. Trust must be rebuilt over time.
5. Be Patient (Colossians 3:12-13)
  • Healing from a hurt may generally come with time, but you must allow yourself time to reach the level of forgiveness appropriate for the circumstances. Deeply emotional circumstances or extremely sensitive hurts will take time to move beyond the pain before a person can even begin to consider forgiving those who caused it. Change takes time and demanding work.
  • Periodic failure by an offender does not always indicate an unrepentant heart.
  • A key indicator of change is the attitude of the offender. Setbacks and disappointments are often part of the process of change. Do not give up too quickly.
6. Be Dependent on God (Psalm 62:5-7)
  • Being able to forgive or seek forgiveness is not just an intellectual decision, but there is also a spiritual dimension involved.
  • We must be willing to forgive someone for a transgression time and time again without seeking retribution. This is a powerful message. For most of us, this standard may seem impossible to meet. Nonetheless, it sets forth the objectives we should attempt to achieve in our lives.
  • To achieve this level of forgiveness, we must pray for strength, patience, and perseverance in our relationships that may require forgiveness (pray for both yourself and the offender [Luke 6:28]).
  • Know that God can work any situation for the benefit of those who are obedient (Romans 8:28).
Conclusion 

In the end, a lack of forgiveness can negatively impact our lives. How Refusing to forgive hurts you more than helps:
1. Keeps us Imprisoned in the Past
2. Creates Long-Lasting Bitterness
3. Invites Demonic Influence
4. Blocks our relationship with God.

Bible Study Resources

Bible Journal PDF
Bible Study Guide

 Be blessed and free friends,






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