"I knew I should just forgive them, but they didn't deserve my forgiveness."
"They aren't even worth forgiving."
"Forget them, I'm never speaking to them again."
"Well I told them I forgave them, but I bring it up often so they know I'm still hurt."
How many of us have said one or all of these things before?
A good friend of mine, Nichole, gave me a book to read because she said she really enjoyed the read. If you know Nichole, she is not much of a reader, so I know that if it kept her interest, I would probably enjoy it myself. (I love reading). It's called Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow. I highly suggest reading it, as it really offers good advice on how to live your life in contentment with good relationship with spouses, friends, family, God and yourself.
One of the chapters deals with forgiveness and it really tugged at my heart as I believe MANY people struggle with this, myself included. This is not a message I am trying to send to anyone in particular, it is just something that really interested me and I thought by writing about it, it will be a friendly reminder, if not to anyone but me, if I'm faced with this situation.
On many occasions I am with people, and to make conversation they are talking about a relationship that they are not content with. One or the other refuses to forgive, they are sorry for something but they don't know how to bring it up, the other person hurt them in some way and they are angry about it....the list goes on and on. In scripture, we must love, serve and encourage one another. This brings joy and happiness to life. Nothing is as wonderful as the love of a husband, friends and family. When you think about all of your relationships with those around you, are you happy with where every relationship stands right now? If not, what are you going to do about it?
In Matthew 18:21, Peter asked the Lord "how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered "I'll tell you not seven times, but seventy times seven." I do believe he was not suggesting 490 times but to keep forgiving as many times as it takes (which could be more than 490 times!). This is definitely easier said than done. After everything that Jesus went through, his last words on the cross were "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." I know that Jesus went through a lot more than I ever will and if he expects that of me, I can do my best to be Christ like and forgive.
There are probably many emotions holding you back from forgiving: hurt, betrayal, bitterness, anger, social status, pride, disappointment, insecurity, etc. How many of you feel bitterness or you can feel when there is a conflict with someone in your heart and it really bothers you? I know I get upset when something like this is bothering me. If affects my mood, my sleep, my attitude, and other relationships around me. Read Matthew 18:23-35 and it will explain why you feel like this. When you refuse to forgive, it's like being in a torture chamber - meaning intense inner torment (bitterness/heavy heart). So, by not forgiving, who are these emotions affecting? YOU! Who do they have hold of? YOU! Bitterness holds many of us captive and FORGIVENESS is the only escape. We must be willing to overlook imperfection as Jesus did. If I insist on perfection or nothing, I'll end up with nothing. Forgiveness is not an option. It might feel like an unnatural act, but it is the only option.
Your next question might be "How?" What I have learned and what I strive to do is make a conscience choice yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, whatever you need, to forgive. Even if you don't feel forgiving, forgive. If you do, you will get a sense of peace that you have done the right thing. Where do you think that peace comes from? God. Choose to please God! It's difficult to forgive, but continue to forgive even if the hurt keeps coming. You might be faced with reminders of the hurt down the road, and a great response that I read in Calm My Anxious Heart was " I remember distinctly forgetting it." This is saying that I remember choosing to forgive and I still choose to forgive. How powerful is that!
I have noticed (myself included) that we tend to talk about the people whom we aren't forgiving. We spend so much time and negative energy on not forgiving. The person we "aren't forgiving" probably isn't even fazed, they have probably already forgotten, so why do we spend so much time talking and dwelling on the negative. Maybe you aren't talking about it, but you think about it often, wouldn't it be wonderful to let go of that bitterness? Forgiveness will set you free!
Now your probably thinking "Okay, I'll forgive because God told me I had to, but I'm staying away from her/him from now on!" Is that really forgiving? Aren't you now spending more time avoiding that person than just living your life happily?
Just because you are a Christian or maybe you're not, you are just trying to be a good Samaritan doesn't mean you will never have pain or feel betrayal, it's all about how you respond. You can't control others, only yourself. I want to encourage anyone who is reading this to pursue peace in all relationships. Do not let anything stand in the way of forgiveness to others.
So I will leave you with Romans 12: 9-10, 14, 18
Here is the book this was based on...