• Thursday, July 25, 2024
businessday logo


Ten negative effects of unforgiveness

Ten ways to practise unforgiveness

Unforgiveness, a negative character trait, is a capacity everyone possesses under certain circumstances. It’s important to note that not everyone tends to be unforgiving. The likelihood of being unforgiving depends on various factors, such as the nature of the offence, personality traits, life experiences, cultural background, personal values, and set beliefs. Unforgiveness is a complex aspect of human nature where both parties involved are negatively affected, whether through action or inaction.

As unavoidable as offending or being offended is in our daily lives, many religions believe in the repercussions of such an act of offence or injustice. Whether it is the law of sowing and reaping, karma, or what goes around goes around, we all take solace in the fact that there will be judgement for wrongdoings.

Read also: Spiritual head advocates for selfless governance and people-centered policies

Another interesting aspect of unforgiveness is the variety of offences that can trigger it. Whether the offence was a genuine mistake, a betrayal, a deliberate act of wickedness, costly negligence or carelessness, or even an ‘act of God,’ there always seems to be someone at the receiving end. It may surprise you that even God is not spared, as we sometimes hold Him or ourselves responsible for certain things, leading to unforgiveness towards ourselves or our maker.

This resentment or act of blaming God has led to certain ideologies, like atheism or agnosticism. For example, during the Vietnam War, an American syndicated newspaper columnist who identified himself as an agnostic made a thought-provoking remark paraphrased thus: “If there is a Supreme Being who created everything and has everything under His control, why would he allow wars where people kill each other, little children die of hunger, and women suffer? If this Supreme Being has everything under control, could he possibly be the one running these wars?

The truth is, wars break out from offences caused by humans, with the offended determined to retaliate based on self-defence or reciprocity due to unforgiveness. However, the sad reality about any war is that you may know how and when it starts; no party can know how or when it will end. This shows that unforgiveness does not negatively affect only spiritual wellbeing but all the dimensions of wellness.

Unforgiveness, a byproduct of anger, is a trap we all must strive to avoid because its impact is far-reaching. Not only does it linger indefinitely, but it also fuels the anger, trapping us in a constant fight-or-flight mode. This mode is detrimental to all parties involved, leading to a cycle of negativity that is hard to break. Here are the adverse effects of constantly being caught in this mode:

Decreased immunity: constant fight-or-flight mode releases excess cortisol and other hormonal chemical reactions. This can weaken or suppress the immune system to the point that the body becomes susceptible to all diseases.

Physical health challenges: When the body becomes prone to diseases, it’s easy to pick up even lifestyle diseases such as diabetes due to the drowning cortisol level, hypertension, heart rate fluctuations, and hormonal imbalance. A few studies have also shown links between unforgiveness and the inability to drive certain cancers into remission.

Negative emotions: Anger is not the only emotion associated with unforgiveness. Other feelings include resentment, bitterness, and deeply seated hatred.

Mental distress: with negative emotions come restlessness, lack of focus, insomnia, poor sleep quality, terrible sleep hygiene, and habits that can easily lead to dependency or addiction.

Cognitive impairment: Sleeplessness and other health outcomes of mental stress can negatively affect cognitive functions such as focusing, committing things to memory, or solving problems.

Read also: How Tinubu battled spiritual forces before inauguration as president — Akande

Social disconnect: Anyone experiencing all the above-listed problems is bound to be socially disconnected from people. This is so because they may become unnecessarily irritable, highly suspicious, and judgmental. They may also find it challenging to be in a relationship.

Low life satisfaction: Poor quality of life sets in as unforgiveness drives the individual down the slippery slope of self-destruction.

Missed opportunities: Beclouded judgements due to unforgiveness can lead to missed opportunities to get help, be healed, be trusting, or be reconciled.

Poor personal growth: Missed opportunities can lead to no or poor personal growth. Bad behaviours like malice, holding grudges, and a lack of empathy continue to harden such individuals.

Spiritual drought: Unforgiveness can lead to spiritual drought, a state of spiritual emptiness or disconnection. This disconnects one from oneself and God. Spiritual wilderness can be a terrible place to be since spirituality is a great place to find solace, respite, and strength, even when one cannot express the burden. Unforgiveness disrupts mindfulness and hinders prayer.

Call to Action

Forgiveness is a powerful balm that not only soothes pain but also unlocks blessings. While it may seem daunting at first, especially considering the depth of the hurt, once you embrace forgiveness, your soul is set free like a bird escaping the snare of a fowler. I encourage you to share your healing from forgiveness stories with me. I eagerly await to hear from both sides of the divide, from the stories of offenders and the offended.


Kindly email me at [email protected]. Olayinka Opaleye is a Wellbeing Specialist and Corporate Wellness Strategist from Lagos. She can also be reached on 09091131150 or via www.linkedin.com/in/olayinkaopaleye.