Does Unforgiveness Cause Cancer? | How Unforgiveness Hurts You
Unforgiveness and Physical Health
Does unforgiveness cause cancer or other physical health problems?
It might not seem logical to think there could be a correlation between unforgiveness and disease and other physical infirmity, but I’m here to tell you all about how and why resentment (repressed anger) does, in fact, lead to all sorts of physical problems.
If you have an interest in this topic you will find no shortage of books and articles on the internet telling you how to control or manage anger. Or an endless sea of ways to cope with anger, or distract yourself from it. But these techniques can be ultimately counterproductive, and I set out to provide a comprehensive solution, in this outing, rather than making the problem worse by merely gathering methods of tolerating and accommodating the problem. This only allows your anger to grow stronger.
Some anger is warranted, and even healthy, if handled properly. But that isn’t what this article is about.
How Unforgiveness Causes Sickness
Let’s talk about just how unforgiveness hurts you, and likely others around you, ultimately.
We tend to think that we are somehow hurting the person back who hurt us, by white knuckling our rage towards them. You have probably heard the sayings, “Unforgiveness is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die“, or, “Not forgiving someone is like giving them free rent in your head“.
While these sayings are very true, and few would argue, they don’t really address what the physical ramifications of repressed rage will be, when the harboring of these feelings is prolonged.
And I will say right up front that if you are repressing and harboring deep anger towards another person, this anger will manifest in your body as sickness, at some point.
Does Unforgiveness Cause Cancer?
Many things “cause” cancer, and many things feed cancer, once it is present in your body. We aren’t here to discuss the things that cause cancer, so much as to find out whether or not there is a correlation between unforgiveness and cancer, or other disease or infirmity. And if so, to provide a scientific explanation.
I hear you thinking, “Answer the question that brought me here, Craig. Does unforgiveness cause cancer, or not?“.
Yes. It does! It is well-documented that suppressed rage causes cancer (apparently 61% of polled cancer victims were found to have unforgiveness issues), but also is both a seed and fodder for a bountiful array of other health problems.
How Does Anger Affect the Body?
From a scientific standpoint, anger affects the body negatively by activating a part of the brain which plays a major role in the processing of emotions, called the amygdala, a wee almond-shaped component of the brain located in the medial temporal lobe of the brain.
In short, the body’s stress response system is triggered by the amygdala, once the amygdala identifies a stressful event.
Your body’s stress response system is referred to among scientists as the HPA axis. HPS stands for Hypothalamus, Pituitary, and Adrenal, and these three components work like an assembly line, to process a stress signal via a chain of hormones.
The signal moves from the amygdala to the hypothalamus, which then tells the pituitary gland to release corticotropin, which the adrenal glands then respond to by releasing more hormones.
The pituitary gland signals the adrenal glands by releasing the hormone adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH) which then tells the adrenal gland to secrete cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These are stress hormones, which enter your neurons and your cells, subsequently making you feel like you want to stab someone in the eye with something, several times.
Unforgiveness Is a Poison You Drink
Actually it is probably more like an IV drip.
As the saying cited earlier goes, resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for your enemy to die from it. Unforgiveness is a poison.
Anger is always rooted to an event (or events). And that event can be hard to identify, once it has been stowed away for some time. That type of suppressed anger is like a seething and festering demon deep inside you, which, when agitated, will not seem like it was so deep at all. It can explode forth, and have you reacting in some nasty outward way, before you even realize what is happening. This can be very dangerous, in several ways.
It is potentially harmful to someone else, but also very harmful to you, especially the more you keep pushing it back down, rather than identifying and addressing its root, and then making a decision to let go of it in an appropriate and deliberate way.
Is Forgiveness a Choice?
Yes. It is a decision you make. Simple.
Never easy! Just like ripping off a band-aid, only entirely different.
Although forgiveness is a choice, it will become either easier or harder, the longer you wait. Overall, it is harder, because of all the anguish it causes you until you finally let it go. The next time I am faced with the dilemma of whether or not to forgive someone (and it is always just around the corner), I will confront it very promptly, now that I know it is possible, having done it. Now that I know it will free me from walking around tied in knots, consumed with it, eating me away from the inside, like battery acid.
Of course, the need to forgive can be much less obvious than this, and the hurt behind it far more mild, but it is still doing you as much good as a second set of tonsils, and will steal some measure of joy from you, and cause damage, somewhere down the road.
Does Forgiveness Let the Other Person Off the Hook? How Unforgiveness Hurts You, and Not Them
The only hook that making love to your hatred puts anybody on is the one you will find yourself on when you refuse to forgive. The other person is likely not even thinking about you. If they had any real concern for you they likely wouldn’t have been so careless as to hurting you.
And waiting for the other person to apologize could not only keep you waiting long into the second diaper phase at the opposite end of your life, it is also not a prerequisite to you being able to forgive them. When you do make the initial decision, however, you may have to make it again and again! It can be like carving your un-angry self out of rock with a chisel. But so be it!
And forgiveness, by the way, does not mean you have to like the other person. It just means that you are cutting yourself off from the hurt that their actions have caused, but which you had chosen to tether yourself to.
This IV drip of poison you’ve hooked yourself up to will steal your capacity for joy and end up killing you. All because you thought your hatred was somehow punishing them.
How Unforgiveness Hurts You, Physically | How Anger Can Ruin Your Health
Suppressed anger or rage will also tend to be triggered by events not even related to the one that caused the anger. This will end up hurting people close to you, who are innocent. And these tend to be spouses, family members, or other people who are the closest to you. So actually, your unforgiveness doesn’t ultimately hurt you only, in most cases.
But how else does this harnessed hurt-turned-to-rage harm you, and how does it become manifest in your body as physical sickness or disease?
I refer you to this great article for the more detailed scientific / medical workings of the effects of unforgiveness on your health, which are quite interesting. But in a nutshell, unresolved anger that is allowed to fester in you will wreak havoc on your heart and immune system, and increase likelihood of a stroke.
Chronic anger will also kill brain cells and cause thyroid disorders.
Moreover, I venture to say that it is a much more common root (and nourisher) of cancer and other diseases than many people realize, or are told about.
Does Anger Cause Depression? | Suppressed Anger and Depression
A more extreme case of chronic rage will eventually wear you out, and turn to depression, likely, before it does your body in, or else during the physical decline.
I strongly urge you to click the above link, which will further expound on my findings here. In that article, the author cites Psychology Today magazine, which reports that individuals who work through anger and grudges in therapy fare much better after a diagnosis of depression than those who take medication.
And: In research published by the New England Journal of Medicine, individuals receiving medication and those being counseled by a licensed professional were studied. The group receiving counseling for negative emotions had much better results than those who simply took drugs. And when forgiveness and letting go of grudges was introduced to the therapy, an impressive 70 percent of patients had an improvement in their depression without medication.
A Biblical Perspective On Forgiveness
If you are a believer, the ability to forgive anything will be more than possible. The reasons for this are that you are well aware that you yourself have been forgiven much, and this naturally would make it much easier for you to forgive others. And you have the ultimate role model and example of the level of forgiveness that is possible…
Here are some scriptures about forgiveness, if you are interested.
Many people actually believe that “people are basically good”. This sets you up for disappointment. According to the Bible, “There is none righteous; no, not one”.
That includes you!
Think about some of the times you have hurt others. Then think about the words of Jesus: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.
I find it so liberating to know that I am not anyone’s judge. It is not my job to avenge the wrongs done to me. It is my job to respond in the right way to evils done against me, and it is actually none of my business, as strange as that sounds! I don’t have to be offended or resentful towards anyone, for any reason. I choose to be. Or not.
And have you considered that your anger for something done to you might actually be, at least to some degree, anger at yourself for letting someone hurt you? Just something to chew on, if you like.
How unforgiveness hurts you and how anger can ruin your health should by now be clear, if it wasn’t before. But forgiveness is difficult. I have not said anything contrary to that. To forgive is very counterintuitive. Our flesh nature hates the thought of it. But it is possible, and it sets you free.
Unforgiveness and physical health decline are inseparable. This is a fact! Some wrongs done to you are obviously much harder to forgive than others, but no amount of harbored resentment or bitter anger towards someone is healthy. Nor does it in any way bring justice for you. Justice will come by means of the “hurter” reaping what he has sown. I think we should just focus on making sure that we ourselves are as blameless as we can be in our everyday lives.
And remember how unforgiveness hurts you (and potentially others), and not the hurter. It really is that simple.
Now, go and find someone to be nice to!