God tells us that sin has clear consequences. And that is very true for unforgiveness. In fact, there are severe consequences for unforgiveness. So, if you are thinking clearly, please avoid them and forgive.  

While there are probably more, here are six dire consequences you escape if you forgive.

7 Consequences for Unforgiveness

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.– Ephesians 4:32

Loss of a Walk with God

 If someone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. -  1 John 4:20-21 (NKJV)

The great news is even if you don't forgive, you still have the gift of eternal life with our Lord Jesus Christ. You are still God’s child, so praise God for that. But, your unforgiving spirit separates you from fellowship with God. It separates you from enjoying the benefits of dependence on His wisdom and from growing more of the Fruit of the Spirit in your life.

Loss of Health and Vitality

Psalms 32 is believed to be written by David after his sin with Bathsheba and after having Uriah killed. While this scripture is more about confession, it still provides the precise impact of losing health without forgiveness. Listen to David contrast the joy of forgiveness with the physical suffering of unconfessed sin.

 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah - Psalm 32:1-5 (NKJV)

God provides healing and blessing through forgiveness, both for those confessing (seeking forgiveness) and those forgiving. But when David did not confess, he suffered physically. Do you want physical consequences for unforgiveness like David suffered? Research shows that bitterness and grudges impact your health.

How about you? Are your physical struggles more spiritual than medical? This does not say all sicknesses or physical ailments are from specific sin in your life, which forgiveness will cure! But, the consequences for unconfessed sin are dire. And, if you refuse to forgive, don’t expect to be as healthy and happy as before.

Loss of Joy

It is a simple but sometimes forgotten truth that the greatest enemy to present joy and high hopes is the cultivation of retrospective bitterness. – Robert G. Menzies

The only alternative to forgiveness is vengeance and bitterness. Think about it, there is no middle ground, no matter how you try to avoid the issue. So, ask yourself – do I want to forgive or be bitter and vengeful?

Do you really want the consequences of unforgiveness?

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. - Proverbs 15:17 (NKJV)

 …looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled… - Hebrews 12:15 (NKJV)

Bitterness and vengeance fuel wars and the disputes you have with your enemies. They are probably at the heart of your marriage or family struggle. Bitterness and vengeance always hurt and destroy you as well as others. Forgiveness, though, heals. Which do you want?

Loss of Freedom: Consumed with, Controlled by, and Become Like the Offender

This is possibly the worst of the consequences of unforgiveness, and it is so easy to fall into this trap.

Consumed with the offender – How can you be free when you spend so much time thinking about how they hurt you? Your mind is stuck on resolving something that only God can handle effectively. Spending that much time thinking about them is like building a lovely house for them in your mind and moving them in. You paint and maintain the house because you constantly visit it and THEM.

Bitterness and vengeance are traps. Vengeance is considered a “right.” Bitterness blinds you and moves you to a place you never wanted or intended to be. You think it will make you better, but it just makes you bitter. And bitterness is an open wound, draining life from you.

Controlled by the offender – They consume your mind and, worse yet, control you. The longer you carry the grudge, the more they control your thoughts, actions, and feelings. The more you want vengeance; the more energy drains from you as you plot, seek, or try to get revenge. And, even if you get revenge, you often have regrets, second-guesses, or feel it wasn’t enough. Enjoy the consequences of unforgiveness!

Conformed to be like the offender – Consider this. If you want to learn golf or tennis, you spend time playing and thinking about it. If you want to learn something new, you read about it and think about it. When you immerse yourself in something, it becomes part of you. So, the more energy you use and the more time you spend thinking about the person who wronged you, the greater the chance they have to influence your thoughts and actions. You increase the possibility of becoming just like them. 

The Lord has a better path for you. He wants you to renew your mind. He wants your mind controlled by His thinking, by truth. Most importantly, He does not want you to renew your mind to just anything; renew your mind to the truth.

Loss of Hope

Depression is often born from an unhealthy focus on past events. It can be birthed from trying to control a past event, the unfairness of what happened, and the lost hope for justice. Hope, like joy, doesn’t grow from vengeance, bitterness, or holding grudges. Hope takes root in the soil of forgiveness.

Can you right a wrong that has occurred in the past? Of course not! It happened; it is a fact, part of history, and you cannot change it. But you can accept that it happened, learn from it, forgive, and move on because your PERFECT Father God knows about it and will turn it into the “best” for you as you trust Him.

Finally, forgiveness encourages hope and a new future for your life. That's what forgiveness is about. 

Loss of Future Generations’ Health

Research shows parents’ unresolved issues pass on to children. The feuds and hatreds of people and families who cling to bitterness are evidence of the tenacity of sin and its transmission from father to son. Attitudes, words, and actions pass on to your children. Even if they learn from your mistakes and do not repeat them, they still suffer in other ways for your mistakes.

Why let the consequences of unforgiveness create problems for your children and grandchildren?

God clearly states this:

 …For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me… - Exodus 20:5 (NKJV)

But like everything our marvelous Lord does, He provides a solution. There is hope, joy, and a blessing if you pay attention to what He says.

 …but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. - Exodus 20:6 (NKJV)

The past is over. Move on! Trust God to redeem your past! He knows what is best for you. And, He is using this situation for your best and the other person's best. Trust His PERFECTION! Doing it any other way will create more problems.

Your Choice

God seems to say, “Forgiveness is the best way to deal with your memory of wrongful pain. It’s an opportunity to be free of pain and probably help others, even those who hurt you. It’s your choice to trust My way or yours. And by the way, the alternative to forgiving – bitterness and vengeance – only makes the pain last longer. It will affect you emotionally, mentally, physically, and for generations to come. Please, don’t choose that.”

Forgiveness puts a new future before you and gives you a new way to see those who hurt you. It may be the one act that allows you to imitate God, the original Master Forgiver. 

Your choice - the consequences for unforgiveness or freedom! 

PURSUING THEIR BEST - Freedom in Relationships

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