What happens in your brain when you hold back forgiveness? What can you do about it?
She says that there is a neurochemistry attached to thought clusters which throws our bodies into a chemical frenzy when we plant toxic seeds and grow them. When we don’t forgive and when we hang onto pain and events, we are growing those toxic seeds.
“Sometimes it is so difficult to let go of those unbelievable and unjust things that happened to you. We feel that if we don’t nurse them they won’t get better, but that in itself is a lie from the enemy because they do get worse the more attention we pay to them.”
I found that to be true. I remember when coworkers lied about me to my boss. It took me four years to get rid of thoughts of resentment and ways I could avenge that character assassination. I wanted to unload my chest-high heaps of bricks of condemnation and bitterness and to quit the toxic thoughts, but I didn’t know how. (Okay. I knew how. I wanted to heave the bricks at those women, so it’s a good thing they weren’t in my world anymore!)
Dr Leaf says, “To . . . indulge, speak about, tear apart and wallow . . .does not bring healing; it brings destruction because of all the neurological and neurochemical reactions taking place in your body. We need to acknowledge and repent for hanging on and then we need to forgive. Forgiveness is not excusing the behavior, but it is placing the situation into God’s hands.”
Over and over I journaled about the pain in my heart. I gave my negativity over to God. I was surprised to find many psalms spoke about justice, such as The wicked man . . . makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. (Psalm 7:14, 15, ESV) I took a step back and allowed those women to experience the consequences of their snares. But I learned to break from thoughts wishing them harm, and gave them over to God. Over and over I asked the Lord to help me clear negative thoughts about them from my neuropathways, and slowly, gradually, I did—with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Caroline says, “We need to make it a habit to wire repentance and forgiveness into our brains. . . [They] stop nervousness and worry, leading to harmful anxiety disorders and all the other potential manifestations.
“To break the gift-blocker of toxic unforgiveness:
1. Use the discomfort zones to help identify and acknowledge the gift-blocking toxic unforgiveness.
2. Repent for growing toxic unforgiveness.
3. Forgive yourself and others.
5. Never do this without prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit—like any process, overcoming this gift blocker will change your life.”
(The Gift in You, pp. 223-225)
Friend, how do you detox unforgiving thoughts when an offense seems unforgivable?
This 4-part blog series explores what happens in your brain as reported by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Caroline is a communication pathologist and audiologist who has worked in the area of cognitive neuroscience since 1985. Her pioneering work on neuroplasticity—that changes in thinking actually change the brain and can effect behavioral change—paved the way for her current research on how scientific principles are supported by Scripture and vice versa. She is a prolific author.