“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4″

“To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; 11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

Forgiveness is not something extended towards someone once or twice, instead, it is a divine principle of life that carries eternal reward or consequence. Unforgiveness allows Satan to get an advantage over us, and this advantage affects both our spiritual and physical wellbeing.

 

Symptoms of Unforgiveness

Spiritual Symptoms & Diseases:

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

According to the Apostle Paul, unforgiveness can be a symptom or cause of the following spiritual maladies:

  • Bitterness
  • Wrath
  • Anger
  • Clamor (Agitation)
  • Evil Speaking
  • Malice

 

Physical Symptoms & Diseases:

“Several years ago, researchers with the National Comorbidity Study asked nearly 10,000 U.S. residents, “Would you say this is true or false? I’ve held grudges against people for years.” Slightly more than 6,500 people responded to the question. Writing in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology in 2010, researchers Erick Messias, Anil Saini, Philip Sinato, and Stephen Welch report that those who said they tended to hold grudges reported higher rates of heart disease and cardiac arrest, elevated blood pressure, stomach ulcers, arthritis, back problems, headaches, and chronic pain than those who didn’t share this tendency. Though most scientists note that much more research is needed on the subject, this isn’t the only study linking unforgiveness to health problems…

“In a 2003 study by Neal Krause and Christopher Ellison in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, researchers interviewed 1,500 older adults (age 66 and older) from across the United States, all of whom had considered themselves Christian. Not surprisingly, the findings showed in general that those who tended to practice forgiveness reported greater personal well-being, including lower levels of depression and physical health complaints as well as higher levels of life satisfaction. But the study’s results became far more nuanced when the researchers examined two different kinds of forgiveness.

“Experts sometimes distinguish forgiveness that is given unconditionally from forgiveness that is given only when the wrongdoer displays contrition by apologizing or paying compensation. Krause and Ellison found that unconditional forgiveness was associated with higher levels of well-being, but forgiveness that required the wrongdoer’s contrition was actually associated with lower levels of well-being. Though the reasons for this finding are not fully understood, it makes sense: By requiring the offender’s contrition, we’re letting a person who harmed us decide if or when we can benefit from forgiveness. That’s giving the wrongdoer a lot of control over our lives.” — David B. Feldman Ph.D., Co-written with Lee Daniel Kravetz, “Grudge Match: Can Unforgiveness Be Bad for Our Health?”, Psychology Today, September 17, 2013.

Note the following list taken from a Mayo Clinic article titled, “Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness”, November 11, 2014:

What are the benefits of forgiving someone?

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem

If you’re unforgiving, you might:

  • Bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
  • Become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present
  • Become depressed or anxious
  • Feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs
  • Lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others

Inability or unwillingness to forgive is classified in medical books as a real health condition or disease. Dr. Steven Standiford, chief of surgery at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, claims that untreated emotional wounds and unforgiveness is one of the true hidden causes of many serious health problems including cancer and numerous autoimmune diseases. For this reason, professional forgiveness therapies are now offered to improve treatments of different health problems, such as cancer. According to the book “Forgiveness Project”, written by Dr. Michael Barry, the majority of cancer patients have forgiveness issues which trigger different negative emotions such as hatred or anger. Those bad feelings lead to chronic anxiety and increased levels of stress hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol, which suppress the immune system especially the killer T-cells responsible for fighting cancer.

“A study published in the American Heart Association Journal shows a link between coronary heart disease and anger, particularly in men. “In other words, we observed a gradient in CHD risk, with evidence of increased risk even among men with apparently “average” levels of anger.”

Florida State University found a correlation between forgiveness and improved cardiovascular function. And the European Heart Journal published a meta-analysis that concluded that outbursts of anger are associated with the short-term risk of heart attacks, strokes, and disturbances in cardiac rhythm.

“If that’s not convincing enough, letting go of anger and resentment can also help with anxiety and mental health. Concordia University found that anger has a powerful and serious health consequences “for millions of individuals around the world who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, anger is more than an emotion; it’s an agent that exacerbates their illness.”

“Forgiveness can also make your life feel easier. A study done at Erasmus University showed that holding onto grudges can literally weigh you down.

“Metaphorically, unforgiveness is a burden that can be lightened by forgiveness; we show that people induced to feel forgiveness perceive hills to be less steep (Study 1) and jump higher in an ostensible fitness test (Study 2) than people who are induced to feel unforgiveness. These findings suggest that forgiveness may lighten the physical burden of unforgiveness, providing evidence that forgiveness can help victims overcome the negative effects of conflict.” — https://www.hormonesmatter.com/forgiveness/

 

Ultimate Result of Unforgiveness & How We Can Forgive

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:12, 14-15

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. 23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” Matthew 18:21-35

“In the prayer that Christ taught His disciples was the request: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We cannot repeat this prayer from the heart and dare to be unforgiving, for we ask the Lord to forgive our trespasses against Him in the same manner that we forgive those who trespass against us. But few realize the true import of this prayer. If those who are unforgiving did comprehend the depth of its meaning they would not dare to repeat it and ask God to deal with them as they deal with their fellow mortals. And yet this spirit of hardness and lack of forgiveness exists even among brethren to a fearful extent. Brother is exacting with brother.” {3T 95.1}

“Our Saviour taught His disciples to pray: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” A great blessing is here asked upon conditions. We ourselves state these conditions. We ask that the mercy of God toward us may be measured by the mercy which we extend to others. Christ declares that this is the rule by which the Lord will deal with us. “If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Wonderful terms! but how little are they understood or heeded. One of the most common sins, and one that is attended with most pernicious results, is the indulgence of an unforgiving spirit. How many will cherish animosity or revenge and then bow before God and ask to be forgiven as they forgive. Surely they can have no true sense of the import of this prayer or they would not dare to take it upon their lips. We are dependent upon the pardoning mercy of God every day and every hour; how then can we cherish bitterness and malice toward our fellow sinners! If, in all their daily intercourse, Christians would carry out the principles of this prayer, what a blessed change would be wrought in the church and in the world! This would be the most convincing testimony that could be given to the reality of Bible religion.” {5T 170.2}

“Jesus teaches that we can receive forgiveness from God only as we forgive others. It is the love of God that draws us unto Him, and that love cannot touch our hearts without creating love for our brethren.

“After completing the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus added: “If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” He who is unforgiving cuts off the very channel through which alone he can receive mercy from God. We should not think that unless those who have injured us confess the wrong we are justified in withholding from them our forgiveness. It is their part, no doubt, to humble their hearts by repentance and confession; but we are to have a spirit of compassion toward those who have trespassed against us, whether or not they confess their faults. However sorely they may have wounded us, we are not to cherish our grievances and sympathize with ourselves over our injuries; but as we hope to be pardoned for our offenses against God we are to pardon all who have done evil to us.”

“The one thing essential for us in order that we may receive and impart the forgiving love of God is to know and believe the love that He has to us. 1 John 4:16. Satan is working by every deception he can command, in order that we may not discern that love. He will lead us to think that our mistakes and transgressions have been so grievous that the Lord will not have respect unto our prayers and will not bless and save us. In ourselves we can see nothing but weakness, nothing to recommend us to God, and Satan tells us that it is of no use; we cannot remedy our defects of character. When we try to come to God, the enemy will whisper, It is of no use for you to pray; did not you do that evil thing? Have you not sinned against God and violated your own conscience? But we may tell the enemy that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7. When we feel that we have sinned and cannot pray, it is then the time to pray. Ashamed we may be and deeply humbled, but we must pray and believe. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15. Forgiveness, reconciliation with God, comes to us, not as a reward for our works, it is not bestowed because of the merit of sinful men, but it is a gift unto us, having in the spotless righteousness of Christ its foundation for bestowal.” {MB 113.2-3, 115.1}

 

Helping Others Forgive

“Years ago, when the company of believers in the soon coming of Christ was very small, the Sabbathkeepers at Topsham, Maine, met for worship in the large kitchen in the home of Brother Stockbridge Howland. One Sabbath morning Brother Howland was absent. We were surprised at this, because he was always so punctual. Soon he came in, his face aglow, shining with the glory of God. “Brethren,” he said, “I have found it. I have found that we can pursue a course of action regarding which the guarantee of God’s word is: ‘Ye shall never fall.’ I am going to tell you about it.”

“He then told us that he had noticed that one brother, a poor fisherman, had been feeling that he was not as highly respected as he ought to be and that Brother Howland and others thought themselves above him. This was not true, but it seemed true to him; and for several weeks he had not attended the meetings. So Brother Howland went to his house and knelt before him, saying: “My brother, forgive me. What is it that I have done?” The man took him by the arm and tried to raise him to his feet. “No,” said Brother Howland, “what have you against me?” “I have nothing against you.” “But you must have,” said Brother Howland, “because once we could speak to one another, but now you do not speak to me at all, and I want to know what is the matter.”

“Get up, Brother Howland,” he said. “No,” said Brother Howland, “I will not.” “Then I must get down,” he said, and he fell on his knees, and confessed how childish he had been and how many evil surmisings he had cherished. “And now,” he said, “I will put them all away.”

“As Brother Howland told this story, his face shone with the glory of the Lord. Just as he had finished, the fisherman and his family came in, and we had an excellent meeting. Suppose that some of us should follow the course pursued by Brother Howland. If when our brethren surmise evil, we would go to them, saying, “Forgive me if I have done anything to harm you,” we might break the spell of Satan and set our brethren free from their temptations. Do not let anything interpose between you and your brethren. If there is anything that you can do by sacrifice to clear away the rubbish of suspicion, do it. God wants us to love one another as brethren. He wants us to be pitiful and courteous. He wants us to educate ourselves to believe that our brethren love us, and to believe that Christ loves us. Love begets love.

“Do we expect to meet our brethren in heaven? If we can live with them here in peace and harmony we could live with them there. But how could we live with them in heaven if we cannot live with them here without continued contention and strife? Those who are following a course of action that separates them from their brethren and brings in discord and dissension, need a thorough conversion. Our hearts must be melted and subdued by the love of Christ. We must cherish the love that He showed in dying for us on the cross of Calvary. We need to draw closer and closer to the Saviour. We should be much in prayer, and we must learn to exercise faith. We must be more tenderhearted, more pitiful and courteous. We shall pass through this world but once. Shall we not strive to leave on those with whom we associate the impress of the character of Christ?

“Our hard hearts need to be broken. We need to come together in perfect unity, and we need to realize that we are the purchase of the blood of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Let each one say: “He gave His life for me, and He wants me, as I go through this world, to reveal the love that He revealed in giving Himself for me.” Christ bore our sins in His own body on the cross, that God might be just and yet the justifier of those who believe in Him. There is life, eternal life, for all who will surrender to Christ.” {CCh 289.4-290.3}

 

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