There are many consequences of unforgiveness including effects on the immune system, muscles and brain function. As well, being unforgiving affects relationships and separates individuals and families. Psychologists feel that holding grudges restricts our own personal freedom.
Many people withhold forgiveness because they feel it allows them to get retribution - "pay back" - against someone who has hurt or betrayed them. In fact, the reverse is true. Holding onto anger and unforgiveness only hurts the individual who is holding onto it.
It's important to recognize that forgiving is not the same as saying that what happened to you was right or good. Forgiveness is without judgement. Forgiving also does not mean you have to go back into relationship with the person who hurt you. This decision should be based on whether future harm is possible or whether this is the type of person who you want to be in relationship with given who you are right now.
In my career working with individuals who have been traumatized, I have been amazed at the miraculous power of forgiveness. I have seen women who were abused or neglected as children, release their trauma with forgiveness. A male patient who suffered for decades with severe depression and chronic thoughts of suicide was able to express his anger in therapy towards the person who hurt him and whose abuse almost cost him his life and eventually come to forgive this person. They both expressed feeling as if a weight was taken off their shoulders. They also felt more free to move forward with their lives rather than being stuck in the past.
I have experienced this in my own life. When my middle son was ill with depression, he was irreparably mistreated by a local psychiatrist. After his visits with this misguided physician, his condition rapidly worsened and he was unwilling to seek treatment any further. It was a missed opportunity for the physician to intervene and in my mind, his mistake contributed to my son's death as a result of his mental illness. For many years, I was angry beyond belief. But over time, I realized that my anger was hurting me. The doctor who I wanted to feel the pain I felt, didn't even know I was upset. I realized that I needed to release my anger and forgive FOR MY SAKE. It wasn't easy but it was the best course for my personal mental and physical good health.
Possibly one of the most powerful and miraculous forms of forgiveness is SELF-forgiveness. Being unforgiving to yourself may seem like just a case of having "high standards.' However, this leads to low self-esteem, self-hatred and self-defeating behaviors such as addictions, overeating, eating disorders, self-harm.
An old proverb states:- "A person who hates (blocks love), must dig two graves".
Our highest task in living is to live from our soul's deeper urges. The deepest desire of our spirits, our souls is to learn to love ourselves. This is a lifelong journey and one of the major steps to fulfilling our soul's desire is learning to practice forgiveness of ourselves and others. When we put love in place of hatred or anger towards self and others, we free ourselves to live from our authentic selves and fulfill our own unique destinies. Forgiveness is a miracle that brings vitality and healing of body, mind and spirit.