Institute in Basic Life Principles

Giving the World a "New" Approach to Life!

What consequences occur when I don’t forgive an offender?

Consequences of Bitterness
how a lack of forgiveness affects body, soul, and spirit

Harboring bitterness in your heart brings consequences that affect you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Physical Consequences

  • Chemical imbalance

    Resentment causes imbalance in the hormones from the various glands of the body, producing many physical symptoms and diseases.

  • Weakened immune system

    The stress of bitterness weakens the immune system and heightens your susceptibility to physical ailments. Often doctors can trace physical disorders to a point in time when bitterness began to develop.

  • Diminished comeliness

    Refusal to forgive causes fatigue and loss of sleep. Soon your eyes and facial features reflect your inner distress.

Mental and Emotional Consequences

  • Depression

    It takes emotional energy to maintain a grudge. When your emotional energy is exhausted, you become depressed.

  • Stress

    Hating someone produces stress hormones in your body. You become worn out and unable to cope with daily challenges.

  • Detrimental emotional focus

    Bitterness and resentment create an emotional focus toward the person who offended you. This focus causes you to become like the one you resent. The more you think about his actions, the more you begin to reflect the basic attitudes that prompted his actions.

Spiritual Consequences

  • Inability to love God

    “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also” (I John 4:20–21).

  • Doubts about our relationship with God

    Jesus said, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14–15).

  • Major hindrances in the spiritual development of others

    Bitterness is easily passed from one generation to another, and it will have a significant impact on your children. (See Deuteronomy 5:9.) Attitudes of bitterness also cause your family, friends, and acquaintances to discredit your Christian testimony.

Scripture relates bitterness to gall and describes it as something that can grow and spread to hurt many people. (See Acts 8:23 and Hebrews 12:15.) When Jesus instructed His disciples to forgive again and again, “until seventy times seven” (see Matthew 18:21–22), He challenged them to a lifestyle of forgiveness that offered freedom from the consequences of bitterness.

“Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:30–32).

This material is adapted from the Basic Seminar Textbook, pages 82–85, and page 80 of the Basic Seminar Follow-Up Course.

For Further Study



How can I help my parent(s) with the bitterness they hold against someone who once hurt me and I myself have forgiven? They claim they have forgiven them but it is very evident they have not.

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