If you’ve met Humility, you know that Forgiveness is the rich first cousin no one really likes until they need him. You know the type: quirky, goofy-looking, annoyingly good at life. The relative everyone’s jealous of but no one will admit it. ‘Cause “he’s such a good guy.” But he really is such a good guy, and he really deserves all he has and all he wins. Lucky, smart, goody-goody bastard.
Accepting forgiveness may be difficult when you’re holding onto guilt, but it’s generally a welcomed gift when you’re ready to repent and want to mend a relationship. Offering forgiveness, on the other hand, means you’ve got to choose to move past the hurt in order to let a relationship be healed. And it’s not easy for those of us who are less acquainted with Humility. Enter Myself.
I’ve been known to hold a grudge or two. Once upon a time, I was extremely sensitive and got my feelings hurt easily. And since I didn’t know how to handle emotional pain, it usually manifested itself as anger. It used to take days, sometimes weeks, to get over even little spats with those closest to me. It’s not that I wanted to stay mad. I badly wanted to move on and be friends again. But I also didn’t know how to let go of my anger. I thought the feeling would just go away on its own, and it usually did. But it took FOREVER, which meant I carried around negative emotions, heavy burdens, until my circumstances changed and made me happy again. I was a slave to my emotions.
A few years ago, my husband and I attended a weekly marriage class at church, and one of the major concepts that enlightened me (and I hated) was that forgiveness means choosing not to be angry anymore. Forgiveness means choosing not to hold the wrongdoing and the pain over the wrongdoer anymore. Anger may be a feeling, but forgiveness is a choice, and the sooner you make the choice to forgive, the sooner you can rid yourself of that anger and begin to mend the broken relationship. It sucks, but it’s true.
I recently experienced a deep hurt in a meaningful relationship. I remember wondering how I could forgive and then trust this person again. I was so angry, so hurt, but also convicted. I knew what I needed to do, but it meant I had to make the next move, the one that mattered most. How unfair! They hurt me! The ball should be in their court, not mine. But these Bible verses kept bugging me:
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.“—just had to throw that in our faces, didn’t He? (emphasis added by me)
“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
“…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”
It’s Matthew 6 that I had been praying all morning after being hurt and letting my anger affect my mood. Those stupid words kept infecting me, and I knew I would have to accept humility in order to offer forgiveness and let go of my anger—and to receive forgiveness for any of my wrongdoings, too. Notice, though, that it doesn’t mean the pain ran away with the
spoon anger. And it also doesn’t mean that trust was immediately restored. That would have to be rebuilt over time. But it did mean I wasn’t a slave to my emotions anymore. It was hard; it’s always hard for me to put the pain aside. I’m still sensitive, after all. But I didn’t have to carry the burden of anger and bitterness for days. I could still be hurt and not know how to trust again, which is scary.
Maybe you’re like me, and you want to be quick to forgive, but you just don’t know how to let go of your anger. Maybe these tips will help you make the choice to forgive before your anger ruins the next special occasion or even the next hour of your life:
- Say the words.
Consider these words from one of my favorite books, The Shack: “You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely.” Simply declare your forgiveness, to begin with. The more you say it and think it, the more honest it will become. And remember, God knows your heart. He knows you’re trying.
- Read scripture about forgiveness.
We’re commanded to forgive each other. It’s not a request. In fact, we can’t expect forgiveness unless we’re willing to offer it ourselves. Let the Word convict you. Not a Bible person? That’s okay. The internet and other authors have plenty to say about the benefits of forgiving—benefits to you, not just the receiver.
- Think about the importance of your relationship.
If this is a particularly meaningful relationship that you don’t want to end, you’ll HAVE to forgive at some point. A healthy relationship cannot stand on perpetual anger. Your offender will get tired of you dangling their wrongdoing over them, and honestly, you will tire of it too.
- Remember that we are all broken and in need of forgiveness.
When you struggle to forgive, try to remember a time when you did wrong and were offered forgiveness. Maybe you don’t think your wrongdoing was as bad as that of the person who hurt you, but pain is pain, and wrong is wrong, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23).
Supposedly, Mark Twain said or wrote,
“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
Go ahead—read it again. I think most of us would rather leave that heel smelling like something else, but that’s called revenge, not forgiveness. It’s the good in you that produces the pleasant aroma or the bad that produces the odor. How do you want to be remembered? I want the people in my life to know that a relationship with me is a safe space, that I won’t draw out every offense for days, or send them on a bunch of guilt trips until they feel as bad as I did, or that they have to earn every ounce of forgiveness, which usually means they are in debt for a long time. Forgiveness is an invaluable gift, not an expensive loan with a discouraging interest rate.
Still not sure about this whole forgiveness thing? Let’s break it down via a list of what it is and isn’t:
Forgiveness is not—
- excusing one’s actions; I read somewhere that you are to “forgive the person, not the action;”
- suddenly restoring trust, but it is the first step in the right direction;
- a bribe;
- allowing someone to continue hurting you;
- a feeling;
- an end-all-cure-all; there is still work to be done and a wound to be healed;
- a sign of weakness; au contraire!
- an opportunity for growth—expect discomfort;
- a choice to let go of anger;
- an act of love;
- the single greatest step toward beginning the healing process;
- a mark of maturity and wisdom;
- rarely deserved, but also rarely regretted;
- commanded by God.
How has forgiveness impacted you? Were you the giver or the receiver? Leave a comment, and share with someone who may be struggling with forgiveness!