Is Unforgiveness Really Affecting My Health?


Forgiveness is not an easy thing, but unforgiveness can make you hold on to a lot of negative emotions that can take a toll on your health in the long run. Psychology professor emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and forgiveness expert Everett L. Worthington Jr., Ph.D., says there are two main types of forgiveness: emotional and decisional.

This means forgiving before or after feeling some emotional shift is possible. In addition, forgiveness and the ability to express forgiveness to others will improve your health because of the positive effects on your relationships. Worthington considers this a direct link between mental and physical well-being.

What Are the Effects of Unforgiveness?

Below are some of the ways unforgiveness can affect your health.


The inability to forgive has been linked to adverse psychological and physiological outcomes, such as increased resentment, hatred, and stress.

Researchers in a study involving more than 330 adults between the ages of 16 and 79 discovered that those who could forgive reported reduced stress, regardless of age. There was also a corresponding reduction in emotional suffering.

Nervous System

The parasympathetic nervous system is impacted by forgiving others, leading to a decrease in heart rate and breathing rate and an increase in digestive output. It’s the opposite of the stress-induced “fight or flight” reaction. It involves regulating basic biological processes like resting and digesting, which prepares the body for more strenuous physical activity).

Your body’s ability to maintain proper blood pressure and heart rate regulation in stressful and non-stressful conditions is a joint effort of your sympathetic and parasympathetic neural systems. When everything is working as it should, you become healthier.

Psychological Disorders

Rumination, which may be defined as the process of repeatedly replaying an event, is nearly always a defining characteristic of unforgiveness or refusing to forgive someone.

Even if everyone does it, ruminating has a certain degree of individuality. Sometimes, people do it out of anger, hopelessness, or depression. Some people contemplate out of worry, and this behavior, if sustained over time, can lead to mental health problems.

More than 1,800 Black adults participated in a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2019. The study found that Black women, compared to Black men, were more likely to experience stressful situations and participate in rumination. As a result, they had an increased risk of hypertension over the thirteen years the study continued.