What are the benefits of forgiving and the consequences of not forgiving? Why do people choose not to forgive? Let me start with the latter question first. Forgiveness is a choice and many individuals hang onto anger, resentment, hurt and sadness to punish others which ultimately punishes themselves. Even if you decide to cut off ties with the other person, hanging onto to emotional pain prevents healing and closure. Some people carry those negative emotions around as a shield of protection and a reminder to not allow others to get too close. Being hurt by others can be very painful and may cause us to avoid vulnerability and emotional intimacy at all cost. Some reject others before being rejected as a defense against anticipated future pain. Rejection and emotional pain are part of everyone’s life, but choosing to hang onto it is up to you. To answer the first question, the consequences of not forgiving are many including increased physical and emotional problems, relationship conflicts, isolation, and loneliness. Forgiveness is not forgetting the past hurt, condoning the actions, nor is it resuming complete trust. Instead, forgiveness is releasing the emotional pain, letting go of your need for retribution, and choosing to avoid bringing up the issue over and over again. Forgiveness is also a process that doesn’t just happen overnight, but takes time. Forgiveness liberates you from the emotional hold that has consumed your life. Whether you need to forgive others, yourself, or both, the benefits are innumerable. Think albatross around neck, thorn in side, knot in stomach. There is tremendous healing power in forgiveness and peace in letting go of emotional pain. Learn next week how to forgive and how the process works.