Grudges. They are so easy to pick up and so hard to let go. The cause of grudges can range from the minor offense of ‘not speaking’ to the greater abuses that plagues many of our communities. But the results of long-term unforgiveness (holding grudges) are the same—the upheaval of our physical and emotional health.
Dr. Karen Swartz, a practicing psychiatrist at the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center, studies the negative health consequences of unforgiveness. They include:
- High Blood Pressure
- and Depression
In an interview with Johns Hopkins Health, Dr. Swartz explains that the health costs are a result of…
“Someone [being] stuck in an angry state, they’re essentially in a state of adrenaline. You are constantly putting your energy somewhere else.”
But Forgiveness Shouldn’t Be Confused with Reconciliation
Forgiveness is not forgetting.
When we forgive, it doesn’t mean that the relationship is automatically mended. Relationships are built on trust, communication and reliability. But if trust has been broken in an awful way, there may be no space to move forward.
Dr. Swartz recommends thinking of forgiveness as something we do for ourselves.
“Your thoughts drive your feelings and emotions and can drive your behavior. If you stay on negative thoughts, you are constantly in a negative state. Forgiveness [says] ‘I am not going to have these negative emotions consume me. I am moving forward.’”
Bishop T.D. Jakes Says
“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” – Bishop T.D. Jakes
Maybe that’s why the Bible mentions forgiveness more than 100 times…because it affects our emotional and physical health.
Letting Go is Good for Your Health
The Mayo Clinic reports that letting go of grudges clears the way for peace, happiness and health. Here are a few of the benefits of forgiveness:
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Improved Heart Health
- and a Stronger Immune System
Four Practical Steps to Practicing Forgiveness
If you, like me, struggle with forgiveness. It is something we can learn to do.
In the same article, Dr. Swartz recommends forgiveness training—it blends therapy and relaxation techniques to move people toward healing. It can be practiced with a trusted friend or your pastor. But the goal is always to identify the problem, give it time to heal and get objective feedback. She recommends four steps:
- Identify the Problem
- Question Your Initial Feelings
- Practice Relaxing
- Switch from Negative to Positive Thinking
BMWK: Is there someone in your life you need to forgive? If so, how will you move forward?