The roots of unforgiveness grow deep. Twisting and entangling in the soil, the roots grip and tighten on their sturdy foundations. Their establishment is strong. A small seed planted has now sprouted and formed a robust tree. Although seemingly in the form of a tree, it’s actually a weed.
It was left abandoned and broken. Moving into our new house, my overgrown backyard was covered in trees. Removing all the unwanted trees was expensive and time consuming. Through the removal process, I found out not all the growths in my yard were actually trees; they were weeds. Interestingly enough, I was informed the smooth exterior of the trees and the hollow inside were examples of weeds left to grow and flourish. The weeds looked like trees, but there was no bark. The weeds looked like trees, but there were no inner rings to count the life of the tree, only a hollow center void of life. A deceptive image received as truth because of physical appearance, I had believed a lie. The weed was not a tree after all.
The resemblance of the weed and tree reminded me of the Monarch and Viceroy butterflies – two identical species of butterfly, but only one is deadly. The Monarch butterfly is toxic due to a diet of milkweed. The Viceroy butterfly is non-toxic. The similarity between the black and orange butterflies is remarkable. Due to this parallel resemblance, a predator often mistakes one for the other making a terrible error.
These two images give us a corresponding view to unforgiveness. Although weeds look like trees, they suck the life out of everything around them. Although the Monarch resembles the Viceroy, it is actually a toxic and poisonous butterfly. Although we may believe we are protecting our heart from pain and suffering by unforgiveness, we are actually suffocating our spirits – literally choking the life out of our purpose for the kingdom of God.
Just as God’s fruits permeate our spirits with joy, the fruits of unforgiveness weave their tentacles around our hearts obstructing our witness as Christians. The pungent, sour fruit of holding onto pain and hurt are: bitterness, frustration, anger, resentment, anxiety, distrust, and depression. These rancorous impostors Christians may feed on develop into behavioral identities hindering our connection with God.
The Lord put several identities we may develop while rehashing our pain and suffering in our world of unforgiveness. The Wounded Dog – a receiving spirit of low self-esteem, lack of worth, negative expectation, lack of trust, doubt, oppression, depression, and anxiety. The Hard Heart – cold, lack of compassion and empathy, demanding, judgmental, critical, oppressive, argumentative, and projective of feelings on others. The Defiant – argumentative, lack of concern and compassion, emotionally void of feelings, the refusal to acknowledge wrong doings, stubborn, and deceptive. The Self-Abused – drugs, alcohol, cutting, sexually promiscuous, selfish, lack of emotions, prideful, arrogant, and an overly exaggerated sense of self-worth.
Each of these identities will be examined with definitions, Scripture, and truth. Christians can assume the guise of any one of these traits if they refuse to accept Christ’s command of forgiving. Like a masquerade ball, a person can dress the part, profess Scripture, teach, preach, or serve with their whole heart in church. But, in the secret recess of their heart, the Christian may be holding onto a stronghold never reaching their full potential. The church may never know due to their abundance of service, but God knows. It must break His heart to see potential never reached, never fulfilled because of disobedience. Unforgiveness keeps them in bondage and mental anguish.
Michigan State University undertook the research to examine forgiveness and mental/physical health. It is no surprise their research showed a powerful connection between forgiving others and personal wellbeing. Their research on forgiveness found that people more likely to forgive had fewer cases of depression, lower blood pressure, fewer stress-related health issues, a better immune system, and lower rates of heart disease. “The practice of forgiveness has been shown to reduce anger, hurt, depression and stress, and leads to greater feelings of hope, peace, compassion, and self-confidence. Michigan State University Extension says that practicing forgiveness leads to healthy relationships as well as improved physical health and a positive attitude.”2
Johns Hopkins Medicine also wrote an article regarding forgiveness, Forgiveness: Your Health Depends on It. Their research found forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health: lowering the risk of heart attack, improving cholesterol levels and sleep, reducing blood pressure, anxiety levels, depression, and stress. “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Chronic anger puts you into a fight or flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and immune responses. These changes increase the risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes. Forgiveness however calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”1
Swartz recognizes in her research forgiveness is a choice. “It is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not.” People who are naturally more forgiving tend to be more satisfied with their lives and have less depression, anxiety, anger, and hostility. People who hold onto grudges, however, are more likely to experience severe depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.1
Research concludes what the Bible has professed for centuries. Forgiveness releases mental, physical, and spiritual strongholds. Research concurs that practicing forgiveness is a learned habit and practicing forgiveness is a choice. As Jesus Christ preached to His followers, Christians are to forgive quickly, releasing the offense to God. When believers hold onto grievances, offenses, hurts, and pain our identities in Christ are affected. Our foundational truth is compromised. A lie has penetrated our spirit causing doubt, distrust, and frustration with God. Our identity has taken on a new form: a wounded dog, a hard heart, a defiant spirit, or a self-abusive attitude.
As we dive into these negative attitudes, please be in prayer. Your connection and relationship with the Lord is priceless to Him. Your daily devotion and communication is valued and prized by our King. God misses the time, connection, and relationship He has with you if unforgiveness has been allowed to control your heart.
I recently finished my 8th book, Self-Identity and Confidence in Christ with the Women of the Bible, which was #1 on Amazon’s kindle unlimited new released prayer books. I believe the Lord blessed my heart with that book because it glorifies and magnifies His name, not mine. I wrote in regards to the Confident Woman – Your Identity in Christ. I want you to slowly read these paragraphs and understand how much unforgiveness affects your relationship with the one who loves you more than anyone on Earth. Our Father misses His daughter.
“My heart desires women know who they are in Christ. I spent years of my life in turmoil – have a false conception of my own self; pride if you will. My trust and confidence relied upon my circumstances and people. My assurance in life was my family, job, bank account, and health. My confidence was shaken to the core during a post partum depression. The Lord revealed by His precious hand, only He could heal my broken heart. My trust in God has grown since the day He spoke to my spirit thirteen years ago.
He has never failed me. He has never wavered in His love for me. He has never faltered in His grace and mercy. He has never forgotten my heart. He has never missed an opportunity to spend time with me. He has never been late to our appointments together. He has never hurt my feelings. He has never once broken a promise. He has never crushed my spirit. He has never scarred my heart. He has never lied to me. He has never left me alone. He has never grown tired of me. He has never been bored with me.
He always misses me. He always loves me. He is always ready to spend time with me. He is always ready to go out on a date. He is always early. He is always truthful. He is always awake. He is always gentle. He has always provided for me. He is always thoughtful. He is always ready to remind of me everything I need to accomplish. He is encouraging. He is inspiring. He is gracious. He is hospitable. He is always ready to listen. He has always wiped my tears away. He has always been there when I was afraid. He has always loved to hear my books read aloud to Him. He always opens His arms to me.
I trust the Lord – my confidence is in Him. My prayer is you have answered your question and you are on a new journey with Christ. I pray you allow Him to lead you into new adventures and missions. I pray you invest your time and energy into a beautiful friendship. Hearing from God is an amazing experience. My prayer is you are confidently listening for His still, small voice.”
As we close, there is a prayer I pray consistently to the Lord. Show me truth Father, but prepare my heart for what you are about to tell me. May the Lord prepare your heart if He reveals any unforgiveness or an attitude of unforgiveness within your spirit. May truth open a door for healing and trust in your relationships with Jesus Christ. May His precious hand touch a sensitive area of your heart to reveal the need for Him. May the time you spend in prayer release you of oppression and allow Him to gently heal what is broken and bound. May God be exalted for His good work.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. Healthy Aging – Forgiveness: Your Health Depends on It. Web Retrieval 1, May 2018. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_connections/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it
- Penniman, Carolyn. Forgiveness is Linked to Better Mental and Physical Health. Michigan State University Extension, May 7, 2013. Web retrieval: 1, May 2018. http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/forgiveness_is_linked_to_better_mental_and_physical_health
A Receiver of Truth
Word Association: Write the first word that comes to your spirit as you see these words. What do you believe in your heart?
Lie Believed: My identity is what others say about me.
Confession: 2 Corinthians 5:17 – I am a new creation in Christ; the old has gone, the new is here! My identity is found in Christ alone.
Worship song in prayer: “In Christ Alone” by Kristian Stanfill
Journal First Emotions and Thoughts
Identities of Unforgiveness
Let us pray and CONFESS the Word of the Living God
Jehovah-Shamah, The Lord is There,
“The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me], I shall not want. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still and quiet waters. He refreshes and restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod [to protect] and your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed and refreshed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell forever in the house and in the presence of the Lord. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth I pray, amen” (Psalm 23).