Forgiveness is not an easy thing. I’ve learned that forgiveness can be frustrating, confusing and challenging to understand and to do. However, it is a necessary thing.
Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14–15)
This verse leads us to deal with some difficult actions on our part – actions that I sometimes wrestle with. It teaches us that if we’re going to be recipients of God’s grace, then we must extend grace to others. It teaches us that the relationship we have with God will be damaged if we refuse to forgive those who have slighted us.
But what is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a loaded word. It is one that is often misused. It’s one of those words that we often throw around, without even thinking.
I searched awhile to find a solid definition of forgiveness, and of all places, Wikepedia states: “Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.”
So why is forgiveness difficult?
Forgiveness can be difficult, but it’s so worth it.
I feel that one reason people hold resentment towards those who wronged them is because it’s easier to experience anger, than to accept and face that another person’s actions caused you hurt, disappointment and/or heartache.
We forgive by releasing thoughts of revenge, resentment, anger, bitterness and sometimes even hatred. Letting go of these emotions that are woven in us can be difficult. However, in doing this, we set ourselves free from those negative feelings that weaken us. Yes, forgiveness hurts, but let me tell you, it’s an incredibly freeing feeling! It feels so much better than hate or anger. As Jean Paul Sartre explains, “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” When we let go of negative feelings and baggage, we are able to truly experience all that God has to offer in our lives. And whenever I think that someone doesn’t deserve forgiveness, I am reminded that forgiveness isn’t really my job at all. It’s His.
Some may say that in order to forgive, you must forget. The cliché we all know as “Forgive and Forget.” However, I feel that forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to forget. Just because you forgive someone, doesn’t mean the memory is erased from your mind. Memories are very real, especially if the memories are wrapped in a messy bow intertwined with hurt and disappointment. We can remember them well, but still continually choose to forgive. Think about Jesus when He was on the Cross, taking on our sins and dying one of the most excruciating deaths so that we could experience true forgiveness. I believe Jesus won’t ever forget that day, seeing the fact He has holes in His hands and feet constantly reminding Him. However, He extended forgiveness to the very people who were in the process of murdering Him by saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Ultimately, God has designed forgiveness as a beautiful blessing for those who have been hurt. Truly forgiving someone can make you happier than if you’d never been hurt in the first place. We all make mistakes, so each and everyone one of us needs forgiveness at different points in our lives. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)