You know how there are some posts that leave you feeling all warm and gooshy inside?
This is not one of those posts.
This is one of those posts that will kick you in the pants, shake up your faith and stick with you for a while. This is one of those posts that, for some of you, has the potential to start a dramatic and much-needed change in your life.
Are you struggling with unforgiveness? Read on. There are four things you probably don’t want to hear–but that you probably need to.
Let’s dive right in.
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1. Forgiveness is Not Optional
Have you ever thought or said the phrase “I know I should forgive, but I just can’t…”
To be perfectly blunt here: Yes, you can. And if you’re a Christian, you must. The Bible is very clear on this: If you are a Christian, you must forgive others, just as Christ forgave you. This is not optional.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. –Colossians 3:13
Read Matthew 18:21-35 – the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant – and you’ll get a very clear picture of how God feels about people who have been forgiven big debts (every single one of us, as Christians), who then turn around and refuse to forgive smaller debts.
And not only that, but did you realize that your own forgiveness is on the line when you refuse to forgive others?
Just check out these scary verses:
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:15
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. – Mark 11:25
Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Forgiveness may not be fun or easy, but yes, you absolutely CAN do it, and you must.
2. Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean You “Forgive and Forget”
Of course, if you’re going to forgive, it’s important that you understand what “forgive” actually means and does not mean.
- Forgiving someone does not mean that what they did was okay.
- It does not mean that you never feel pain, anger or sadness about what happened.
- It does not mean that you go on like nothing ever happened.
- It does not mean that you allow the offender to continually mistreat you or your loved ones.
- It does not mean that the person doesn’t have any consequences for what they have done.
Instead, forgiveness simply means choosing to relinquish your right for revenge. Instead of “an eye for an eye,” you simply say “it is what it is,” release the anger and frustration, and then move on with your life.
Sure, you could get revenge or hold someone’s faults against them… but why not let God deal with it instead? He’s WAY better at vengeance anyways (remember the flood?), and it will leave you with more time for pursuing the fruits of the spirit instead.
For example, say your husband was looking at porn. Unforgiveness means refusing to sleep with him, giving him the silent treatment and/or belittling him (all forms of “punishment”). Forgiveness means moving the computer to a public place in your home, installing Internet Accountability Software and moving on with your life.
**By the way, “Finding Joy Through Forgiveness” — an interview with Jane Jenkins Herlong, author of Rhinestones on My Flip Flops — is a great resource to watch if you’re finding yourself in a situation where you are suffering from long-standing hurt or anger toward someone.
3. Forgiveness is About You and God – Not Them
All too often, when people think about forgiving other people, they think about how it will affect the other person or their relationship with the other person.
And while it’s very sweet to think about others, the fact is, whether or not you forgive someone has very little to do with what they did to you (or your loved ones), and everything to do with what God has done for you.
The truth is, ALL of us have committed terrible offenses, both against God and against others. There isn’t a single person in the world who can stand up and say “Hey, not me. I did everything right. I’ve never made a mistake or hurt someone else.”
And yet, despite all of our failures and shortcomings, God forgives us anyways. And He calls us to do the same for others.
When we forgive other people, we aren’t saying “Oh, what you did wasn’t that bad.” or “Oh, it’s okay, it doesn’t matter.” or “It’s fine.”
We are saying, “If God can find it in His heart to forgive a sinner like me, I can find it in my heart to forgive a sinner like you. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, but God is. I want to be more Christlike. And if this is the way God says to do it, then I’m going to trust Him, and I’m just going to do it–as difficult as it may be.”
We don’t forgive because of what they did. We forgive because of what He did. Because we want to have a right relationship with Him and walk in the abundant and victorious life He has for us. And we can’t have that when we refuse to let go of our own unforgiveness.
Plus, when you forgive others, you prevent Satan from establishing a stronghold in your life.
Second Corinthians 2:10-11 says, “Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
It isn’t just the big sins that Satan uses to tempt us and lead us astray. Even something as small as a little delayed or incomplete forgiveness is all the room Satan needs to inch his way into our lives and start wreaking havoc. Why give him the opportunity?
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-4
4. It is Worth It!
When I was in high school, there was someone in my life who I had a tough time forgiving. I was very angry with this person and wanted little to nothing to do with them.
Somehow, though, I did find a way to forgive–not because anything changed or because I wanted to, but because it was the right thing to do.
And let me tell you–it made SUCH a difference in my life. So much so that ever since then, I’ve been super quick to forgive anything and everything (probably even quicker than I really should). I do my very best not to hold ANY grudges anymore, because I know what that’s like and it’s awful. I don’t want that in my life anymore.
Sure, there are probably things that I have every right to get mad about, but why? How much of it really matters anyways? And even if it were something big that truly mattered, would getting mad and sulking about it help anything?
The truth is, there is not a single thing you can change about your past. Until the day you create a time machine and go back in the past, everything that has already happened is what it is.
BUT you can change your present and your future. You can choose to make the most of here on out.
Yes, it is hard. It’s a process you’ll have to repeat every day for a while. It’s a choice you make even when you don’t feel like it and even when you don’t want to.
But it’s been said that holding a grudge is like holding a hot coal in your hand and waiting for it to burn the other person–and this is so true.
If you can’t forgive the other person because they deserve it, forgive them because YOU deserve it.
Because let me tell you, a life of peace and contentedness is worth SO much more than a life stuck in the chains of unforgiveness. I promise.
Is there anyone in your life you need to forgive? What’s holding you back?