Unforgiveness and your health

Unforgiveness is when you are unwilling or unable to forgive someone for upsetting you, betraying you or breaking your trust. Forgiving is highly recommended where possible.


There are various studies that suggest that being unforgiving can bear weight and might lead to the following when built up over time:

  • Suppressed anger. People who often get angry for any reason typically have issues associated with forgiveness.
  • Low self-esteem. Lack of self-love stems from not forgiving yourself or self-acceptance.
  • Bitterness, which can increase the risk of depression.
  • Constant worrying can increase of the risk sleep deprivation and anxiety.

When someone has upset or disappointed you, the logical response would be to think that you’re hurting them by not forgiving them and holding a grudge. The harsh truth is that you’re actually causing yourself more pain by holding on to the anger, and the person that you wish not to forgive has the subconscious power to control you. However, you can get disconnected from the power of control when you forgive.

How to learn to forgive


When you feel that you have been upset by someone close to you, it’s hard to even begin to consider forgiving them, as you want them to feel the pain. However, the first step is to release the emotional pain by making a conscious decision to forgive and let go. This process may take time, due to the different emotions that you have to process.

Letting go of the baggage

True forgiveness is when you forgive and forget. However, we are imperfect human beings and, although we may forgive, we may not always forget as there may be incidents where we are triggered or reminded of past events. Even if it is a struggle to forget, it’s very important to forgive by letting go of the emotional pain that has been caused.

Take responsibility for that part that you played

You can never control anyone, the only person that you can control is yourself. Considering your role in the situation can help you set boundaries so you don’t put yourself in the same situation again.

Forgive yourself

It’s easier to forgive others when you learn to forgive yourself. Sometimes it’s easier to blame others for causing you pain. However, the depth of the pain often depends on the boundaries that you set within all your relationships. Forgive yourself for allowing others to treat you with disrespect or emotional pain.


Be aware of the negative emotions that you feel towards the other person including anger, bitterness, hurt, hatred, and jealousy. Awareness will help you to acknowledge the need to forgive. Holding on to negative emotions is unhelpful and not good for your health.


You don’t need to make excuses for the person that hurt you. Even if you don’t want them back in your life, it’s essential to accept how you feel and the fact that you can’t change the past.

Learn from the experience

Sometimes we have to go through negative and painful experiences to learn some life lessons, which help to develop ourselves. In every negative experience, it’s very important to ask yourself, what lessons you have learned. This will enable you to avoid repeating the same thing over and over again.

If you keep doing the same thing and don’t learn from the painful experiences then you will experience the same thing (pain) in your life. Life is like a classroom and people are teachers, and they come into our lives to teach certain things about us. So take the time to learn the lessons regardless of how painful they may be.

Talk about it

When you feel ready to forgive, you might want to make arrangements to contact the person that has hurt you and express yourself. Talking things over can help you to let go.


If you have decided that you no longer want to have the person that has hurt you back in your life, then that is fine. You can write a letter to that person and bin or burn the letter. Writing helps to get rid of any negative suppressed emotions.

If you need support when navigating your emotions and learning to forgive, you may benefit from speaking to a counsellor or therapist. They will work through your feelings with you in a safe, private space.

Learning to let go can be incredibly difficult, but it can begin to feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Croydon CR9 & London SW9
Written by Kate Megase, Accred, Couples, Individuals, Psychotherapist & Supervisor
Croydon CR9 & London SW9

I am a counsellor, coach and motivational speaker. I specialise in issues associated with relationships, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

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