Harboring Unforgiveness is like drinking poison by Joyce Meyer

Harboring Unforgiveness is like drinking poison by Joyce Meyer

All the passages below are taken from Joyce Meyer’s book “Beauty for Ashes,” published in 1994 by Time Warner Book Group.

FOR MANY PEOPLE, forgiving the one who abused them is the most difficult part of emotional healing. It can even be the stumbling block that prevents healing. Those who have been badly wounded by others know that it is much easier to say the word forgive than it is to do it.

I have spent a great deal of time studying and praying about this problem, asking the Lord for practical answers to it. I pray that what I have to say to you on this subject will be a fresh approach to a major issue that must be dealt with.

First, let me say that it is not possible to have good emotional health while harboring bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. Harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will die! Unforgiveness poisons anyone who holds it, causing him to become bitter. And it is impossible to be bitter and get better at the same time!

If you are a victim of abuse, you have a choice to make. You can let each hurt or problem make you bitter or better. The decision is yours.

How can a hurt or problem make you a better person? God does not bring hurts and wounds upon you, but once they are inflicted upon you, He is able to cause them to benefit you if you will trust Him to do so.

God can make miracles out of mistakes!

Satan intends to destroy you, but God can take whatever the devil sends against you and turn it to your good. You must believe that or you will despair. As the psalmist wrote long ago, “What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living!” (Psalm 27:13 Amp).

Recently 1 received a letter from a woman who wrote, “I know God did not cause your abuse, but if you had not been abused, you could not have helped me.” She continued, “Please don’t feel too badly about it, because God is using your pain to set others free.”

Many years ago I had a choice. I could choose to remain bitter, full of hatred and self-pity, resenting the people who had hurt me as well as all those who were able to enjoy nice, normal lives, those who had never been hurt as I was. Or, I could choose to follow God’s path, allowing Him to make me a better person because of what I had been through. I thank Him that He gave me grace to choose His way rather than Satan’s way.

God’s way is forgiveness.

I remember when I first started trying to walk with God. One evening I realized that I could not be full of love and hate at the same time. So I asked the Lord to remove the hate from me that had been there for so long. It seemed as though He reached down inside me and just scooped it out. After that experience, I never hated my father again, but I still resented him, disliked him, and was uncomfortable when I was around him. I wanted to be free from all the sour feelings and bad attitudes inside me, but the “how to” was a big question for me.

As I continued to study and meditate on the Word of God and to fellowship with the Holy Spirit, the Lord taught me many things. I would like to share with you what I have learned in the years of my progression toward complete healing.


First, you must choose God’s way of forgiveness. He will not force it on you. If you want to lead a victorious life and enjoy full emotional health, you must believe that God’s way is best. Even if you do not understand it, choose to follow it. It works.

Next, learn about God’s grace. Grace is the power of the Holy Spirit that comes to us to help us accomplish God’s will. James says of God, “But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it)” (James 4:6 Amp).

You may choose to forgive, and yet still have to struggle with frustration because you are attempting to forgive in your own strength, when you need the strength of the Lord. The prophet Zechariah tells us that it “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit. . . says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6 Amp).

It is not necessary for you to be face to face with your abusers in order to benefit by forgiving them in your heart. In fact, even if those who abused you are no longer living, you will still enjoy great freedom if you choose to release their sins against you.

After choosing to forgive and realizing that you cannot forgive without God’s help, pray and release each person who hurt you. Repeat this prayer aloud:

I forgive———-(name) for———-(whatever was done to you). I choose to walk in Your ways, Lord. I love You, and I turn this situation over to You.

I cast my care upon You, and I believe You for my total restoration. Help me, Lord; heal me of all the wounds inflicted upon me.

There are many scriptures that tell us that God vindicates (see Isaiah 54:17). God is the One ‘Who recompenses us; He is our reward (see Isaiah 35:4 Amp). He is a God of justice, which only He can bring. He alone can repay you for the hurt done to you, and He alone is qualified to deal with your human enemies.

The Bible encourages believers to live at peace with everyone, trusting God to look after them:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God’s] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord. (Romans 12:19 Amp)

For we know Him Who said, Vengeance is Mine [retribution and the meting out of full justice rest with Me]; I will repay [I will exact the compensation], says the Lord. And again, The Lord will judge and determine and solve and settle the cause and the cases of His people.

It is a fearful (formidable and terrible) thing to incur the divine penalties and be cast into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:30-31 Amp)

One of the main truths the Lord spoke to me while I was dealing with the forgiveness issue was this: “Hurting people hurt people!”

The majority of abusers were themselves abused in one way or another. Often those who were raised in dysfunctional homes create a dysfunctional atmosphere in their own homes.

When I looked at my own life, I saw the pattern. I had grown up in a dysfunctional home, so I was creating a dysfunctional atmosphere in my own home. I did not know any other way to behave. This realization was a tremendous help to me.


I really do not believe that my father understood what he was doing to me emotionally, nor do I believe that he realized he was causing a problem for me with which I would be dealing most of my life. When I first confronted my father about what he had done to me, he acted as if he felt his actions were normal. He had been abused as a child, and a spirit of incest was motivating him to do what he had seen other family members do.

I was nearly fifty years old before God instructed me to talk to my parents about the abuse I had endured. I did not really want to talk to them about it, but God said it was time to do so. My father showed no regret at that first confrontation, and it seemed clear to me that he was doing what many people do who are not born again—living selfishly, satisfying their own perverted and demon-controlled desires, with no regard for the consequences of their actions. My father was simply determined that he was going to get what he wanted no matter what it did to me or anyone else.

In talking with my parents at that time, I realized that it did not matter that my father was not sorry, it was still important for me to tell him I forgave him. Forgiving him released me to move on.

We should remember what Jesus said as He hung on the cross suffering for things that were not His fault but were the fault of others, including the very ones responsible for His torment. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

It is easy to judge, but the Bible tells us that “mercy exults victoriously over judgment” (James 2:13 Amp). I do not mean that abusers are not accountable for their sins—all of us must be willing to take responsibility for our own wrongdoing. The Lord shared with me that mercy sees the “why” behind the “what.” Mercy and compassion do not look just at the wrongdoing; they look beyond to the person doing the wrong to the childhood, the temperament, and the entire life of the individual. We must remember that God hates sin but loves the sinner.

I had so many problems in my personality that it caused many people to judge and reject me. Jesus never rejected me, nor did He judge me. My sin was judged for what it was, but God knew my heart. Sin is sin, and my actions were wrong, no matter what caused them. But God knew that as a woman abused for fifteen years during her childhood, I was acting out major wounds—and He had mercy on me.

Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah: “He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, neither decide by the hearing of His ears” (Isaiah 11:3 Amp)

Often in my teaching, I show people a picture of a geode. This rock is hard, ugly, and crusty on the outside, but it is magnificently lined with beautiful blue and amethyst crystals on the inside.

Looking only at the exterior, who would ever have thought that all that amazing beauty lay just below the surface? That is the way people are. God sees the inside of us. He sees the possibilities. He sees into the spirit. Everyone else sees the outer man. Unless we are trained by God to see beyond what can be perceived with the natural eye, we will always live with judgment in our hearts.

Remember: Hurting people hurt people! (135-140)

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