Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
Forgiveness, I would have to say is probably and equally one of the most hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve had to do…ever. I am by nature, a HUGE grudge holder. I’m guessing because I am very sensitive and my feelings can be hurt easily it takes me what seems to be a lifetime to get over it. Well it used to at least.
It wasn’t until I decided to walk with the Lord again that I was presented with this lesson and learned how to “love the un-lovable”, as my pastor puts it.
for·give·ness/fərˈgivnis/ – Noun: The action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.
When someone you care about hurts you, there are choices of reaction to be made you can hold on to anger, resentment and plot to get even OR you can embrace forgiveness and move on with your life. I firmly believe that when someone wrongs you it is a direct debit from their mercy account and how you react is a debit from yours…in other words how you handle forgiveness or not is only going to affect you. Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Maybe you have been criticized by a loved one, betrayed or even victimized. These wounds become scars that impress lasting feelings of anger, bitterness or even revenge — but if you don’t practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays most dearly. By giving forgiveness a big warm and fuzzy xoxo, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy.
You might want to wrap your head around the idea of how liberating and empowering the path of forgiveness can be for you. When you decide to forgive you let go of resentment and possible thought of revenge. Whatever is was that hurt or offended you may very well remain a part of your life but, when you forgive the yoke it has over your life is lessened, you take back the power it has over you and you are free to focus on the wonderful things in your life and allow you to move on, and potentially allow you to have empathy, compassion and even feelings of understanding for whoever it was that hurt you…win win …it’s a work in progress.
Now that I have covered that, let me make this point ALL the way clear…forgiveness DOES NOT mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you or that they are justified or by any means off the hook…there is no minimizing the wrong but you are over letting it make you bitter. You evict it from renting space on your brain, that’s the difference. At the point of forgiveness you can move forward, empathize and heal…sometimes to the point of rebuilding a relationship that was otherwise a lost cause…the trust may take a bit longer to be regained but nothing is impossible. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.
Forgiveness is good for you!
Forgiveness can lead to:
- Healthier relationships
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse
Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?
When you’re hurt by someone you love and trust, you might become angry, sad or confused. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.
If you’re unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life might become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present. You might become depressed or anxious. You might feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs. You might lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others.
How do I reach a state of forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change.
To begin, you might:
- Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time
- Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and well-being
- When you’re ready, actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
- Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life
- As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.
The Bible instructs us to forgive as the Lord forgave us:
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (NIV) – Colossians 3:13
How do we forgive when we don’t feel like it?
I believe God honors our commitment to obey Him and our desire to please him when we choose to forgive. He completes the work in his time. We must continue to forgive (our job), by faith, until the work of forgiveness (the Lord’s job), is done in our hearts.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (NLT) – Philippians 1:6
Most times, however, forgiveness is a slow process.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (NIV) – Matthew 18:21-22
Forgiveness may require a lifetime of forgiving, but it is important to the Lord. We must continue forgiving until the matter is settled in our heart.
Is it okay to feel anger and want justice for the person we need to forgive?
This question presents another reason to pray for the person we need to forgive. We can pray for God to deal with the injustices, for God to judge the person’s life, and then we can leave that prayer at the altar. We no longer have to carry the anger. Although it is normal for us to feel anger toward sin and injustice, it is not our job to judge the other person in their sin.
In summary and in closing, it is a choice, a decision we make. However, as we do this “forgiving,” we discover the command is in place for our own good, and we receive the reward of our forgiveness—freedom.