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.