When we fail to forgive, it is poison to our soul. It is almost like a flesh eating bacteria, only it eats up our insides. Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Sometimes we are uncertain what forgiveness “feels” like; sometimes we don’t really know “how” to forgive; and then, sometimes we really don’t “want” to forgive. It feels like someone is getting away with something – and that doesn’t seem quite fair.
The consequences of refusing to forgive someone for a past hurt is detrimental to your earthly life as well as your eternal life. Forgiveness is a decision to “not live in the past.” You will not be able to forget the betrayal or wrong doing; but, you can accept what has been done and realize the person who harmed you doesn’t owe you anything anymore.
1. Determine what you believe you are entitled to receive from the offending person.
When we harbor unforgiveness, we are essentially waiting for compensation of some sort. Maybe it is for an apology. Maybe it is to see the person changed and different. Maybe we feel we deserve something greater from them that can never be given. Did the person rob you of a dream? Did the person take away something very precious to you? Determining what precisely has been taken from you will help you understand how to forgive them. By identifying what you have lost, helps determine if there is even a realistic compensation. In most cases, there is not.
2. Acknowledge you are having difficulty releasing the offense.
“I’m over it!”
“I’ve put it behind me!”
Sometimes these statements give the appearance of forgiveness, but in reality, are nothing but statements. Acceptance of your own frailties is a great step in the right direction to forgiving and healing. The reason it is hard to release the offense is because someone took something of value from you. Don’t let them however take even more. Not releasing an offense causes anger and bitterness to penetrate deeply into the heart. It will impact future relationships and undermine your ability to trust other people who have not hurt you.
3. Make boundaries for the hurt you have experienced.
Hurt is explosive. Make sure you put it in the proper place. We cannot control the behavior of others. It is impossible. I remember when David was a little boy, Connie told him to sit down and not to move again! He had this look on his face like, “I may be sitting down, but in my mind, I’m standing up!” One act of betrayal feeds on the mind and the hurt builds and grows. Put it in a container so it cannot consume you. When we put it where it belongs, we are less apt to discuss it over and over or play it like a broken record in our minds.
4. Dismiss the offense
I have a friend who recently learned his high cholesterol is killing him. He called me to talk about it and asked for prayer. In the course of our conversation, he never mentioned “how” he got it. He didn’t blame his wife or his mom or his children or his work for it. What he said was, “I gotta get this fixed!” When we forgive, we need to consider “how” we fix the forgiveness so our hearts are good. We have to accept that the person owes us nothing. WE are responsible for forgiving and no one can do it for us. As one forgiven person in Jesus Christ to another, we must choose to cancel the debt.
The real answer to forgiveness comes in what we choose to do with what has been done to us.