Have you ever struggled with forgiveness?  If you are a human then you have struggled with it.  The main reason most of us struggle with it is because we are thinking of it in the wrong context.  My goal is to try to give you a different way of looking at forgiveness.  One of the worst outcomes of being unforgiving  is the effect it has on the person who is unwilling to forgive.    Forgiveness is an act of the will and if you understand it, you will be able to free yourself from the negative emotions of being unforgiving.  If you are of the Christian faith then it is as simple as Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  Well, since forgiving like the Lord is impossible let’s at least try our best.

Unforgiveness is like carrying a burlap bag on your back, and every time you don’t forgive someone you add a rock to your bag.  You can imagine over time how difficult it would be to move and how tiring life would become if you continued to carry all of those rocks.  When you forgive it is like taking one of the rocks out of the bag.   You can then move through life lighter, quicker, easier.  It is very refreshing to be around someone who isn’t weighed down by feelings or the guilt of being unforgiving.  As a human you cannot be totally in charge of forgiveness.  If you haven’t experienced the ultimate in forgiveness, then as a sinful human it is difficult to continuously forgive other sinful people, because we are seeing the world through a messed up lens.  Once you understand what Jesus has done for us then you at least have an absolute standard to compare to.

What forgiveness is not

1. Forgiveness is not a natural response but rather super natural.  If you don’t have the example of what God has done for us, then you won’t have the strength to forgive everyone who does something wrong to you.  It is very hard to say “I can’t forgive them” when we violate God’s laws everyday.  Not only does He forgive us but He sent His only Son to die for us.

2.  Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation.  Forgiveness is a one way street and reconciliation is a two-way street.  Forgiveness is a choice by you and reconciliation is something you work on with the other person.  Reconciliation is a change in the offenders behavior.

3.  Forgiveness is not a feeling.  Forgiving is a choice.  We can forgive even if we don’t feel like it because ultimately they are a sinful person and SO ARE WE.  Do you expect humans to be perfect or know better?  If we do, then why don’t you do it.

4.  Forgiveness is not excusing the wrong or letting the guilty get away with it. If someone wrongs you it’s not that they are getting  away with it because you forgave them.  Every day parents forgive their children, but they also let them know that what happened is not okay.

5.  Forgiveness is not letting the guilty off the hook.  WE are selfish so we naturally only look at what the offense has done to us.  We don’t see how it affected them or other people involved.  The other angle is we are moving the guilt from our hook to Gods hook.

6.  Forgiveness is not being a doormat or a weak martyr.  Actually, being able to forgive is strength not weakness.  There is a saying that you can tell the size of the person by the size of the things that make them upset.  I don’t think of God as being weak or feeble, which is what He would be if forgiveness were weakness.

7. Forgiveness has nothing to do with fairness.  My kids say it everyday,” That’s not fair!” and I respond everyday,”That’s right and life never will be.”  I am not sure where this concept came from but most of us know that life will never be fair.  It’s not fair that God had to send His Son to earth to die for us.

I hope you see how without God as the absolute example, that the subject of forgiveness would be hard.  What would be the standard?  What your neighbor thinks?  What your cousin thinks?   No, everyone would have a different standard and then any of the excuses  listed would be valid.  Most of the time someone didn’t even mean to offend us, yet we carry the offense around with us.  “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” – Joyce Meyer.  Drop the stones in your bag and experience the freedom of forgiveness.

Bill Lewis


27 thoughts on “Forgiveness”

  1. Amen Bill. I think a key to forgiveness is also learning to forgive yourself. We can forgive others but if we don’t forgive ourselves them we are still carrying around the rock.

  2. Bill… Awesome post! What a great reminder that not forgiving actually hurts you the most! Look to Christ’s example and strive through the Holy Spirit to follow in his foot-steps. BTW…Love the burlap bag analogy! Kb

  3. Thank You Bill,
    That is exactly what I needed today. As I seek forgiveness for myself, I also rely on God’s word to comfort me. I see myself as a forgiving person to others, but seldom forgive myself for my mistakes. I know if I correct my mistakes, ask God for forgiveness, forgive myself, and prove my character to the ones I have trespassed, I can let go of some stones as well. Your words today came at the right time sir.

  4. Bill, excellent, Excellent, EXCELLENT!!!! I have often heard people say “I cant forgive him/her. I just don’t feel it.” Trying to explain that forgiveness is not an emotion but a decision can be frustrating but is the truth. Also, making that decision is the only way to get past the feelings of resentment that breed the rest of the negatives you wrote about.
    Just a thought, this applies to forgiving ourselves as well. We often have resentment toward ourselves and call it regret. We need to accept God’s forgiveness and choose to forgive ourselves as well.

    1. Funny you said something about forgiving ourselves. When I did a talk on this I made that one of the key points. Thanks for the feedback and keep growing.

  5. Bill, my wife was unfaithful to me a year ago this October. We joined life a few weeks after that. I wasn’t aware of if til June of this year. Without the information in life, our mentors and constant prayer I don’t think I could have made it. Forgiveness has been difficult but having god in my life, I’m on the road to forgiveness. Thanks bill.

    1. Bobby I am sorry you two had to go through that. Un-fortunently we are human and going to make mistakes but God doesn’t. You two working things out is very impressive and more an likely you will be able to help someone else in the future.

  6. Bill. Thank you for covering this. There is turmoil in my family that I have been trying to resolve with Life Leadership, but I have been unsuccessful. I hope this article reaches the hearts of those in the conflict. Thank you.


  8. Bill thank you for the insight. I love the analogy about the rocks. I find myself letting go of the preconceived notions I have about success and that I need to forgive myself and letting the baggage go. By forgiving myself, I let go of one more rock. This is what I will carry into the new year and let go of the rocks holding me back and become the man God has intended me to be. A great nugget that is for sure!!!

  9. Thanks Bill I really enjoyed this talk on forgiveness ….and it really does help to motivated me to move on past my failures in the past!!!Looking forward to doing better in 2014

  10. -Bill
    I think the reason that it is so hard for us to think of forgiveness as an action, is because it is tied to so much emotion. As I study leadership I realize that if you can’t forgive people for what they do today then you will never be able to see who they can become tomorrow. Thanks for the great incite!

  11. Great Post Bill. You and Jackie set amazing examples in this area- well in all the areas of Life. Looking forward to see your dynasty grow this year and for decades to come. Your wisdom and the ripple effect of this organization is awe-inspiring.

  12. I couldn’t help but think of one more important figure to forgive and release from any resentment that we may feel towards them in our life and that is God. Let me explain- my wife, as well as many others have felt that God has control to change so many things in our lives, but he chooses not to, which can hurt or anger us. People feel offended or less loved, therefore they blame God for the trials they go through and their losses that he has the power to prevent. We must forgive him for not intervening in our every struggle to make our lives perfect. There is a reason for our losses. There is a reason why my wife and I haven’t been able to have children as of yet. There is a reason why bad things happen to us in life. “Gods ways our not our ways” his understanding is on a different level from our own. We must have faith in his plan for us or be confined to an abyss of anger, resentment and jealousy towards others.
    I enjoyed the post, thank you Bill. We love you and wish you peace and comfort in this difficult time. Jackie has left a mark in our hearts and will continue to be an influence forever.

  13. Bill, what an awesome reminder of God’s great gift of forgiveness. I was abused as a child. Only by God’s grace was I able to forgive my mother. God bless you!

  14. First and foremost, thank you for writing this article Bill. I wonder how many of us realize that we are carrying stones! So many time I believe that we will tell someone that was not a big deal, then hold onto that offense and never really forgive because we thought we did when all we were doing was to put the other person at ease. Thank you for reminding me to do some soul searching.

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