I want to make it clear that forgiveness does not mean you have to face the other person and that a resolution is reached between you. We are instructed to confront someone when we feel there has been a misunderstanding–when there is a shred of doubt as to intent. We confront to make sure we are seeing things clearly. For example, if someone murders your friend or you are date raped, you don’t need to confront them to forgive them. There may have been extenuating circumstances, but the deed is done and you are wounded–deeply wounded. Forgiveness is not going to absolve guilt. It isn’t going to right the wrong. It isn’t going to make it all go away. It happened. It was horrific. It is done. You have a RIGHT to your hurt and anger. You simply do not have the strength to carry it forward. Forgiveness is truly something you do within yourself and for yourself. It has nothing to do with the other person. Your forgiveness is not dependent on their remorse. It is dependent upon your determination to leave it behind and begin to live again.
Wikipedia: 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 the question is HOW do I change my feelings and attitudes?
* Recognize the need to forgive–you need to do this for you, not them. There’s no need to tell them you forgive them. This is between you and God.
* Face the fact that all the grieving or hard feelings you can pile up are not going to fix it. If it would, you wouldn’t be reading this blog post. That pile of emotional trash has taken up valuable space in your heart and life long enough. Time for a trip to the dump.
* Tell God all about it. Know that He cares. He was there and He saw. One of God’s names is The Ancient of Days. This name is significantly important to being able to trust Him with the offenses you have suffered. He is going to sit on the throne one day as the righteous judge. He isn’t going to need to call witnesses. He was there and has been there since before creation and the first morning and evening became the first day. He is our witness. No new judge (who does not know all about it) is going to swoop in to try your case. So give it to Him and let Him carry the load.
* You need to be free. God wants your heart and mind set on Him, not your offenses. Hurt feelings are a trick of Satan to rob you of joy and effectiveness. Deny him dominion over your thoughts and life.
* God commanded us to forgive because it is the only way to freedom and peace. Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” Your motivation for forgiveness is obedience to God and a willingness to follow His commands even when it is tough.
* You have been forgiven. Oh, yes. That same righteous judge that will judge others is going to judge you. When you recite the 23rd Psalm you are asking God to forgive you as you forgive those that have trespassed against you. When I stand before Him condemned by my failures and sins, and He looks at the stack of the offenses that I have forgiven, I want Him to have reason to forgive me lavishly. That means I must not be stingy in my forgiveness of others. My spirit of forgiveness must be complete and lavish. Forgiveness is not a random or solitary act, it is about attitude; it is a state of mind. And it takes practice and intention to keep our minds set on forgiveness. Think of forgiveness as your cruise control.
* Begin to pray for your offender. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). So this is where you get to put on the mind of Christ. His will, your will, should be that they come to repentance and a place of forgiveness. Your desire should be that when you enter heaven’s gates, you will find them there. All offenses were left on earth, and a right relationship abounds between you for eternity because of the blood of Christ necessary to cover you and them. I find it impossible to truly pray for someone and hold a grudge.
* How often? How many times? Christ says “70×7.” That’s a lot–indeed this number was given so we would understand that there should be no limit to our forgiveness. After all, God had to give His own Son so that you might be forgiven. How can you not then freely offer forgiveness to others?
* Does forgiveness mean restoration of relationship? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Throughout our lives offenses and misunderstandings are going to come–face it, even sleek, fast cars on the best of highways seem to run into and dent one another occasionally. If the circumstances suggest that you have piled up a lot of little things to create an attitude wall between you and someone, then most likely you need to confront why those attitudes exist and tear the wall down. Hopefully with a right view, right attitudes, improved relationship skills, etc. the relationship can be restored. Counselors are especially helpful at helping you see where your view and understanding may need tweaking–(remember all the differences we discussed in Part One). A trained, neutral third party can help shed light to the situation you had closed the curtains on. This is especially true of parents and children, coworkers, spouses–people who are traveling close and at high speed alongside each other in the highway of life. Take every opportunity to find forgiveness–rest stops on the highway of life that you may journey together in love and respect.
If, however, someone has intentionally harmed you, there is no requirement that you bring them close again. For example, you might forgive the man who killed your sister, but most likely not set a place for him at your Thanksgiving table. If someone steals from you, there is no expectation that you give them the key to your home. If someone stabs you in the back in a business deal, you might not want to partner with them in the future. Just remember that God is looking at the circumstances and knows whether prudence and good discretion would dictate a separation or whether your imposed separation in the relationship is due to the fact that you are harboring unforgiveness–maybe unwilling to face wrongs that you may have done to the other one. He is the one that will judge motives and before whom the intents of our hearts will be displayed. Nothing will be hidden. Get before Him and let Him try your heart and make it new (Psalm 51:10).
* Take your heartache and pain to the foot of the cross. Leave it there. He will bear it. Get up from your knees and pick up His cross–spreading His love and the story of forgiveness and the good news of the kingdom. He’s got your heavy burdens–He can carry them. His good news is light–it’s a good exchange. Take the deal.
Matthew 11:28-30: Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
I don’t normally post articles this long or even this many articles in a week. So it’s been a heavy week for me and no doubt for your in-box–lots to learn about forgiveness. I have worked hard to get as much before you as possible so you will have the resources you need to take the journey to forgiveness. You may skim over these things today, but no doubt the time will soon come that you need these principles. Bookmark them as you might put a pain reliever in the medicine closet–so you’ll know right where it is when you find you are hurting.