We can’t talk about loving others without talking about forgiveness. We all know (hopefully) that forgiving is always the right thing to do, but most of the time its easier said than done. I’d like to talk a little bit about the importance of forgiveness and hope to highlight what a huge blessing it can be.
I did a quick google search and found out the dictionary meaning of forgiveness is to “stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offence, flaw or mistake”. My pastor explained recently that to forgive is to choose to pay a debt owed to you by the offender/debtor. I believe selfless love is the foundation of true forgiveness. As God extended his tremendous love and forgiveness to us through the shedding of the blood of Jesus, we also need to extend love to others by forgiving freely.
Choosing not to forgive is demonstrated in a parable Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 18:21-35 when Peter asked Jesus how often we should forgive. Jesus responded with the story of a man who owed a King what would now equate to millions of dollars but couldn’t pay, so he begged and the king freely cancelled his debt. The forgiven debtor, then went to a fellow servant who owed him, what would equate to thousands of dollars, but he failed to extend the same forgiveness he had received; rather he had the servant arrested and put in prison until he was able to pay. This story really highlights the hypocrisy we display when we choose not to forgive others. For all the sins we commit, if Jesus is faithful to forgive us, then why can’t we do the same?
I read an article that explained forgiveness as an act of faith. The Bible says: “19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord…21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”(Romans 12:19 &21). When we choose to forgive, we believe that God will work things out for our good and take care of whatever justice we desire. It is powerful to relinquish control of a situation and just give it to God.
Forgiveness is so hard because the human instinct is to seek justice or punish others in order to prevent a repeat offence, but it is not up to us to right the wrong of others. Furthermore, we are not to repay evil with evil (an eye for an eye) but rather repay evil with good as Jesus tells us to extend love even to our enemies (Matt 5:44). I believe a person’s true character is tested not by how he treats his friends, but by how he treats his offenders.
It is almost silly to hold onto a grudge when you consider the benefits of forgiveness. It has been proven that forgiveness provides health and emotional benefits; but aside from that, many can testify to the peace and freedom that comes from letting go. In letting go of your offender’s debt, you are honouring God and showing appreciation for Jesus’s great sacrifice on the cross.
True forgiveness is not condoning the offence or suppressing your feelings. Rather, it is making the conscious decision to release resentment and thoughts of revenge. You know you have forgiven someone when you are able to relate with them without experiencing any feelings of anger, and without rehashing their past offence because true love keeps no account of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).
. Here are 5 steps I take to get to that point:
1. Acknowledge the offence
They say the first step to recovery is acceptance. That applies here too. I find it helpful to think about exactly what happened and what about the person’s actions hurt me. It also helps to say it out loud or talk about it to a trusted friend/ counsellor.
2. Realize your faults
In humility, we should realize that we are not perfect and we have likely made mistakes or hurt people before as well. “If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?”(Psalm 130:3).
3. Be empathetic.
Sometimes people make genuine mistakes. Hurt can come from good, although misguided intentions. If you put yourself in the offender’s shoes, you may be able to understand why they did what they did or even what part you may have played in fostering the conflict.
4. Make the decision
You have to expressly decide whether you will forgive or not. There is no middle ground of being “cordial” or “indifferent” while still thinking of the offence everytime you interact with the person. Choosing not to deal with the anger is choosing to remain under the bondage of resentment and unforgiveness. Choosing to forgive is choosing to be free.
5. Get help
Apart from God, we can do nothing (John 15:5). As always, it is important to pray and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit. Depending on the offence, forgiveness can come more easily sometimes than others. God can help in easing the pain and giving you strength to forgive.
As Christians, it is very important where our focus lies. God wants our focus to be on building a relationship with him. When contemplating forgiving someone, we can get preoccupied with the hurt the person has caused. Shifting your focus to the love of God is always the best antidote for negative feelings.
INSPO OF THE DAY: “13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
What do you think about forgiveness? Please share your tips on how you learn to forgive.