Did you ever think about this: “The person who gains the most from forgiveness is the person who does the forgiving”? I’m giving you five reasons why you can’t afford not to forgive. We’ve looked at what Jesus said: If you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven. That certainly is reason number one. We need God’s forgiveness every day of our lives. Therefore, we can’t afford not to forgive.
Here’s reason number two: If you don’t forgive, you will become bitter, and bitterness will destroy you.
In his excellent book entitled Total Forgiveness, R. T. Kendall says that “bitterness is an excessive desire for vengeance that comes from deep resentment. It heads the list of the things that grieve the Spirit of God.” He goes on to say that bitterness “manifests itself in many ways, such as losing your temper, high blood pressure, irritability, sleeplessness, obsession with getting even, depression, isolation, a constant negative perspective, and generally feeling unwell” (pages 41-42).
Goodness! That’s a really long and awful list of things that can happen to you when you refuse to forgive and bitterness takes over. You can see that it not only affects you—your health and your well-being—but it spills over to everyone around you. We read in Hebrews 12:15 that we are to “see to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Maybe you’re thinking that you’re not bitter even though you haven’t forgiven. But I ask you to think about the ways bitterness affects people and see if you don’t have some of those symptoms. Any time you harbor unforgiveness, you really can’t avoid also harboring bitterness—even if you don’t recognize what it’s doing to you.
R.T. Kendall goes on to say that “The absence of bitterness allows the Holy Spirit to be Himself in us…Relinquishing bitterness is an open invitation for the Holy Spirit to give you His peace, His joy, and the knowledge of His will” (Page 43). It’s hard to relinquish bitterness; I know that. But it’s harder to keep it inside you where it will do so much harm. You can’t afford not to forgive.