Forgiveness is one of those things that we all struggle with throughout our life. It is often when working with people I find that many of the issues they are dealing with is the ability to forgive someone who is hurt or harm them in the past. I have heard people state “I will never forgive them as long as I live” and I’ve also heard “I will forgive them when they…” Both of these statements are ones that confirm our inability to forgive as Christ has called us to. I believe the problem comes to understanding what forgiveness really is and what it looks like. I believe many people confuse forgiveness with reconciliation and also with forgetting, but these are all three different entities.
Forgiveness does not mean that the wrongs that were done to you were acceptable in any way; it does not diminish what was done against you nor is it a denial of what happened. It is a key part of letting those who have harmed you in the past no longer have control of view in the present and the future. Forgiveness allows us to let go and to move forward with our lives and it empties the pain so that there may be more room for love of our fellow brother or sister.
Forgiveness does not take away the consequences the other person will face because of their sin, we will all be judged by Christ and we will all have to account for the sins that we have done to one another on this earth. Forgiveness is about letting go of that desire you have to hurt the other person because that desire is a seed of evil that will lead you down a path of behavior that will become even more sinful. Forgiveness is not a comfortable process and is very difficult, but God provides us the grace and strength to forgive and to maintain a heart of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not a weakness as many believe. It is one of the most powerful things you can do and is one of the most distrustful things in the eyes of Satan because it is he that does not want us to forgive but to continue to hurt, resent, and dwell on our pain.
Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation takes two people but it only takes one to forgive. The person that harmed us does not have to be accepting or even worthy of our active forgiving because forgiveness is one way and that one way allows us to release the control the other person has over us.
Forgiveness does not depend on others actions nor is it probationary or conditional. As Christ forgave us as a gift, He calls on us to do the same to others.
Forgiveness does not mean that we have to become a doormat and continue to allow a person to hurt us again and again. We have to take responsibility and not put ourselves into situations with people we know are going to hurt us or harm us. There are many people who believe that they can forgive someone over and over again but in reality this is not forgiving but condoning and in a blink of behavior that is unacceptable. In cases such as this, we should not look for approval from the person we are forgiving, the forgiveness does not require approval it is an act on our part to free ourselves from the control of the other person so that we may open our heart and be free to love others without malice and bitterness getting in the way.
Forgiveness sets us free to move on with our live and it allows us to refuse to let that person who hurt us have any power over our life. It opens up our relationship with God because we need His strength and guidance to work through our ability to forgive. Forgiveness keeps us from becoming bitter, from becoming like the person who hurt us, and protects those around us from being hurt by our actions caused by our own inability to forgive. When we look at the active forgiving we must understand that it is not only an act but a process.
The inability to forgive can cause physical problems such as lack of energy, sleeplessness, headaches, joint pain, or back pain. It can also be the root cause of depression and anxiety. Our inability to forgive can disrupt our lives to the extent that it can paralyze our life. We must remember that the opposite of forgiveness is un-forgiveness. Un-forgiveness is like a cancer that eats away at the very soul of a person until the soul is destroyed and there is nothing but bitterness, anger, resentment and malice for the others. It is for this reason that we see the instruction in Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” These things listed are all results of someone who is unable to forgive. Christ gave us the ultimate example of forgiveness as a model for us to follow in if we follow, then our hearts will be open to forgiveness of others and will not be filled with such evil thoughts and behaviors.
People often will bring of situations such as child abuse, sexual crimes, and other horrible acts as being unforgivable. We must remember, we are not forgiving the act that occurred, nor are we forgetting that it occurred, nor are we trying to dismiss what happened. What we are trying to accomplish is to understand that that individual was created by God, lives on this earth as we do, and is full of sin just as we are. We never want to dismiss nor minimize harm that has come to a person but we must also recognize it for what it is in that is sinful behavior by an individual who deserves God’s grace just as much as we do. It is an act of humility to be able to forgive someone and it is an act of letting go so that we can move forward without having chains to hold us back or tie us down. We have all committed sins against other people and have hurt them often without even realizing it. Granted, our sins may not be as serious as others that we are all deserving of forgiveness whether we want it or not. We must be willing and able to pray for the person so that they may be enlightened to what they have done and realize the pain and hurt they have caused. Forgiveness is a one-way street; we forgive the other person whether they want it or deserve it because that is what Christ has called us to do.
We must live by the power of love and loving one another because we are all created by God in His image and it is this freedom of love that allows us to forgive, to move on, and rejoice in all that Christ has given us with in our lives. We are to be imitators of God and that means we are to forgive. In 1 Corinthians it explains the importance of love, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every (13:4-7 NLT). As we read the description of love we must be able to forgive in order to be able to love.
If you are one that is struggling with forgiveness, we asked that you reach out for help in order to learn how to forgive and how to move forward. We are here to help in any way we can and walk you through the process of forgiveness according to God’s guidelines. It is not an easy process but one that is liberating and will create an environment of God’s love and grace that will be seen by all who surround you.