Refusing to Forgive

10 Ways Refusing to Forgive Ruins Happiness and Health4 min read

You and I have been hurt. None of us lives very long before we experience disappointment, or betrayal. You may have been abused emotionally, physically, or sexually. Whatever it was, it hurt.

Being wounded comes with being human.

Forgiveness doesn’t. We’re not born with it.

Born to Defend and Protect

We’re born with a natural instinct to protect ourselves.

Once we get hurt, the sensors go on.

Our sensors look out for any signs of danger. When we see signs of danger, the shields go up. If we suffer extreme or repeated hurt, our sensors become hyper-sensitive.

We may begin to sense danger where real danger doesn’t exist.

Our shields may go up permanently.

There are different kinds of shields. Some people stuff their feelings. Others fight back. Some inflict pain on themselves to numb the pain inflicted by others. Many push people away, or pull back, to avoid getting close enough to get hurt.

The Gift of Forgiveness

To forgive is to no longer wish for the people who hurt you to suffer, or die.

To forgive is to not lay awake at night dreaming up ways to get revenge on your enemies.

To forgive is to not pick at your wounds and make them bleed again and again.

We refuse to forgive thinking it gives us power. But refusing to forgive gives power only to those who hurt us to keep hurting us, even when they’re gone.

Forgiveness is supernatural. It’s divine.

It comes to us as a gift, to bring healing to open, festering wounds, and to heal broken relationships.

Forgiveness allows our wounds to strengthen us, where holding grudges only weighs us down.

Forgiveness is a superpower that separates those who fly above the mountains from those who walk in the valleys.

One study placed people at the bottom of a hill. Those who held on to resentment for those who hurt them judged the hill as steeper than those who had forgiveness in their hearts.

Another study measured the jumping height of forgiving and unforgiving people. Those who forgave jumped higher than those who didn’t forgive.

Forgiveness enables us to see less danger, and more opportunity.

The sensors recalibrate. We can put our shields down more than we put them up.

The Cost of Refusing to Forgive

When we refuse to forgive it comes to a cost to our happiness and our health.

Science counts the costs:

  1. Dysfunctional relationships
  2. Lacking spiritual and psychological well-being
  3. Added anxiety, stress and hostility
  4. High blood pressure
  5. Increased symptoms of depression
  6. Impaired immunity against disease
  7. Low self-esteem
  8. Irritableness and anger
  9. Sleeplessness
  10. Increased medication use

Jesus said it.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NKJV)

God gives His love to us at no cost. God’s love gives us a reason to live, and to be happy. God’s love heals our wounds and restores our health. His love gives us the power to love and forgive those who hurt us.

But when we stubbornly refuse to forgive, we cut ourselves off from God’s love.

We deny ourselves the happiness and healing God wants to give to us, and through us.

I held onto hurt and anger against my parents for many years. My parents divorced when I was 10 years old. I lost my home, my friends, and my sense of security in the world. I didn’t want to be hurt again, so I distanced myself from them.

They weren’t the only people I resented. The resentments added up, each time someone else disappointed me, betrayed me, or abused me.

When my wife disappointed me, I held grudges against her.

As time went on, I focused more on the negative and discounted the positive.

It came to a point where I needed to decide. Would I hold onto resentment and lose everything? Or, would I ask God to help me to forgive?

Remember, forgiveness is a gift. To receive it, ask for it. Then ask for the courage to use it.

I asked for the power to forgive. Have you?

What has refusing to forgive been costing you? Is it time for you to give up a grudge?

If offering forgiveness to someone has changed your life, please share a comment to encourage someone who’s struggling to let go of resentment.


Scripture taken from the New King James Version® (NKJV). Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Zheng, X et al. The Unburdening Effects of Forgiveness: Effects on Slant Perception and Jumping Height, Social Psychological and Personality Science. 04/2014; 6(4):431-438. DOI: 10.1177/1948550614564222


Jon Beaty

I'm a counselor, writer and believer in the power of God to help you thrive in your marriage and family. I live with my family, a small herd of Boer goats, and thousands of honeybees near Portland, Oregon.

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