Do you suffer with spinal pain? Do you get headaches? Do you stress-eat, gamble, compulsively shop, or hoard? Do you have irritable bowels or migraine headaches? If so, unforgiveness could literally be at the root of your pains, illness, and addictive behaviors.
The way unforgiveness hurts you is through the mind-body-Spirit connection. Your bitter, negative thoughts cause you to become physically tense and the prolonged physical tension eventually leads to physical pain.
One way unforgiveness hurts your physical body is through the posture you assume when you feel angry, threatened, or upset. Do you hike your shoulders up next to your ears when you’re under stress? I suspect you do. Just think about how hard your poor neck and shoulder muscles have to work for you to subconsciously maintain that posture all day long. It has to hurt after a while!
If you’re having a hard time forgiving those who hurt you, ask these questions: “Are my negative thoughts actually righting any wrongs? Is my bitterness causing my enemies to regret hurting me? Are my negative thoughts “getting back” at those who hurt me?” Probably, your bitterness isn’t doing any of those things. In all likelihood, your bitterness is hurting only YOU and having no impact whatsoever on those you call your enemies.
Now realize this very important point: when you forgive people, you don’t “let them off the hook” with the judicial system or with God. You just let go of the burden of carrying the responsibility for their punishment. And you let yourself off the hook from experiencing additional pain that compounds your initial injury. On the contrary, when you refuse to forgive, it’s like you stab yourself in the back, willfully compounding your own hurts and endangering your own health.
Knowing this, why do some people choose to continue carrying chips on their shoulders? I think some people enjoy feeling like martyrs.
I recently overheard a child apologize to his mom for some minor infraction. But instead of the mom replying, "That's okay, honey, just please don't do it again," the mom said, "So you know how I feel, I want you to go crinkle up a piece of paper and then try to get the wrinkles out after you open it up." She never actually accepted the child's apology!
The idea the mom was trying to convey was that you once you say something hurtful, it's too late to take it back. While that's technically true, I think it would have been better for her to use the opportunity to model forgiveness.
I suspect I know why the boy's mom responded this way. As I said, she probably has a martyr complex. She carries around past hurts around like notches in her belt. Maybe she's afraid of not being anybody at all if she isn't a "victim" anymore. Sadly, lots of people feel that way.
It's a good thing God doesn't collect and dwell on our sins like some people ruminate on their past hurts. God forgives and totally forgets, as it says in Micah 7:19, "You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea."
If you want grace and mercy, extend grace and mercy. Forgive people who hurt you even if they don't ever apologize. Completely trust God to dole out the punishment at the right time, as He sees fit. Doing that is way better than carrying around resentment, which makes YOU sick and eventually leads you to stress-eat or fall into other unhealthy behaviors.