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No, Thanks

Why forgiveness is the greatest painkiller

By Rita M. Hancock, MD

As a pain management physician, I am blessed with a great group of patients. Many of them know I’m Christian because of the books I’ve written, so they eagerly tell me how their faith helps them deal with life’s stressors.

Just the other day, I heard one of the best bits of wisdom ever. A patient and I were talking about forgiveness when she said, “Refusing to forgive people is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the other person.”

She’s absolutely right. Time and time again in my medical practice, I see patients who hold onto grudges and bitterness and who have aggravated pain as a result. It’s only after the patients and I get to know each other that their real emotional stressors come out—past abuse, neglect, abandonment, and other hardships. Once they finally release and forgive people who hurt them—that’s when many of my patients truly start feeling better.

Emotional and even spiritual strife (e.g. unforgiveness) literally produce physical pain and illness.

How about you? Do you suffer with spine or joint pain? How about fibromyalgia, arthritis, disc problems, muscle spasms, jaw pain, or migraine headaches? Or maybe you have other stress-induced problems, like irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, panic attacks, pseudo-seizures, unexplained rashes, or multiple food and/or drug allergies. If so, unforgiveness could be making your medical problems worse than they might otherwise have to be.

The way unforgiveness hurts you is through the mind-body-Spirit connection. Holding on to bitter, negative thoughts causes you to become physically tense. In turn, the prolonged muscular tension eventually leads to physical pain.

Just think about the posture you assume when you feel angry, threatened, or upset. Many people hike up their shoulders. Do you? If so, then I feel sorry for your poor neck and shoulder muscles. I can only imagine how much work they have to work for you to subconsciously maintain that posture all day long. It has to hurt after a while!

Unforgiveness also induces high levels of stress hormones that cause chemical wear and tear on your body.

If you’re having a hard time forgiving those who hurt you, think about what my patient said about the poison. Hanging on to bitterness doesn’t cause your enemies to suffer (not that you should even want that in the first place). In all likelihood, your bitterness is hurting only YOU. Your enemies might not even know you’re mad! Or that you’re even enemies!

In spite of this truth, some people continue to think, “They don’t deserve my forgiveness. They deserve to be punished.” But only God knows who truly deserves what kind of reward or punishment.

Besides, even if you forgive, that doesn’t require God to wipe your enemies’ slates clean. He deals with them in His own way in His own time, in the same way He deals with you and your sins. Think long and hard about that. If it wasn’t for the blood of Jesus, God wouldn’t let you into Heaven, either.

If you want God to be gracious and merciful with you on judgment day, extend mercy and grace to your enemies now, while you still can. If you don’t, your unforgiveness might make YOU sick and eventually lead YOU to into painful, miserable, and horribly expensive stress-induced illness.

By Rita M. Hancock, MD | The Eden Diet Christian Weight Loss Program. |