Have you ever been hurt by someone before and struggled to let go and forgive the person? The person could be a complete stranger, a friend or even a member of your family, and yet the sting of that hurt is still fresh in your heart. I do not know about you but I have been down that road. Sometimes what shocks me is that I would think that I have forgiven the person totally, but something happens and it brings back that event to my mind and I discover that I have not totally forgiven the person; what I said with my mouth and the feelings in my heart do not correspond.
Forgiveness is defined online by Greater Good Magazine as “a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance towards a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness”. This definition is so loaded and I would like to expatiate on some points contained therein.
Forgiveness must be a conscious and deliberate decision, no one can push you to do it, and you cannot do it reluctantly or by proxy. It must be done by you and you must be aware of what you are doing and choose to do it regardless of the pain and hurt. Releasing those feelings of hurt and resentment is not so easy to do. It will be a herculean task but God’s grace is available for you to do so. The final part where I think most of us myself included trip up over forgiveness is, choosing to forgive irrespective of whether or not the person or group deserves my forgiveness.
We would at least prefer the person or group that has wronged us to take ownership of their hurtful actions and apologize to us, asking for our forgiveness, but that is not the way forgiveness according to God works. We have to forgive whether we receive an apology or not, whether we see remorse on the path of the offender or not, whether there is restitution or not. Now that is tough. That can only be true Christianity.
Two examples we can draw from the Bible on forgiveness are Jesus Christ and Stephen who at the point of their death, were still able to ask God to forgive their murderers. Now that is iconic! Nevertheless we too with God’s help can learn to forgive those that wrong us and go a step further like Jesus instructed to love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5 v 44). To clear the air, when Jesus said we should pray for our enemies, it was not to pray for their death or misfortune, rather to pray God’s blessing upon them. Now that is tough, but doable.
To end let me bring another salient point on forgiveness. Some of us doubt God’s power to forgive us because we think what we have done is unforgivable, or we need the wronged person to okay God’s forgiveness before it becomes effective. Not so at all. God forgives us totally when we confess our sins and to show that we have truly repented, we make efforts to right wrongs and seek reconciliation and/or restitution. Yet sometimes the person you are asking for forgiveness blurts out at you, “I will never forgive you”. Is God’s forgiveness then obtained in such a situation? Permit me to quote C.S. Lewis in his book ‘Mere Christianity’, “Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin”. Read that quote again and think about it. When God forgives you, you are forgiven.
Is there anyone you hold a grudge against? Is there anyone you have not forgiven? Why don’t you go ahead and forgive the person or group with God’s help, and thereby set yourself free. If you are still struggling with forgiveness permit me to recommend the book by John Bevere, “The Bait of Satan”.
picture credits: the internet