To not forgive is to place an ever-increasing weight on your back that you must carry with you everywhere you go.
I always admire people who can forgive in the most tragic and heartbreaking of situations.
I couldn’t sleep tonight. While writing another blog post, I had some court TV show on in the background. There was a story of a double murder being talked about. A young mother and her teenage daughter were killed by a guy in his 20’s who was already a career criminal. The murdered mothers teenage son witnessed the murder. I believe they said he was 13 or 14 at the time. The killer was found guilty. At the sentencing, the son of the murdered mother, whose sister was also murdered, just in his teens, looked the murderer in his eyes and told him that he forgave him and that he wished the best for him. He then asked the Judge to have mercy on the killer.
Wow. What a beautiful and powerful moment. What a strong and loving kid! Under those circumstances, with all he witnessed, the most tragic of tragedies, faced with the very person responsible for it, and without the man asking for forgiveness or even hinting that he wants forgiveness, the boy completely forgives him.
That is powerful!
The Power of Forgiving
Forgiveness is an act of Godliness. It is an action of love. Forgiveness is a gift that we can give to others, and a gift we can give to ourselves. Forgiving sets the one who wronged us free, and equally If not more importantly, forgiving sets ourselves free.
The bible talks about forgiveness 95 times. Some of the most often quoted verses are:
…forgive and you will be forgivenLike 6:37
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.Matthew 6:14
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Collisions 3:13
Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.Proverbs 17:9
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.Ephesians 4:32
If you read through each passage in which forgiveness is talked about, you will notice that it is often talked about along side love. In fact, it is infered several times that to not forgive is to not love. In fact in an article I wrote titled, “What is Love,” I share from 1st Corinthians 13:4-8, in which verse 5 ends with, “it keeps no record of wrongs.” That is to say, love, itself, is forgiving. Therefore, to not forgive, is to not love.
We are commanded to forgive. Forgiveness is a key ingredient for love. It is a key ingredient for any friendship or relationship. We are not given an exception of things in which we are allowed to not forgive. If you do not forgive, if you hold a grudge, you are with sin.
This is not to say that you immediately forgive everyone, always, and carry on as things were just before you were wronged. The Bible does talk about a process. The Bible is clear that of those you love, yes, you are absolutely commanded to forgive and move forward with that person just as you loved them before, for if not, you either did not love them, or know not love. But for those you do not love, for the acquaintances and strangers that wrong you, there will be occasion to forgive but to move on in life without them a part of yours. We do have a few examples in the Bible of this. Though mostly, the Bible has example after example of spouses wronged each other, family wronged each other, and friends wronging each other, in ways far greater than anyone in our own lives likely wrongs us, and they are commanded to forgive, and to not carry any record of that wrong.
Forgive and Forget?
There is a phrase we’ve all heard, “I may forgive but I will never forget!” Let’s be real here, that is only ever said by people who have not actually forgiven. But, part of the sentiment behind it has some point.
You should learn from each time you are wronged. This is not to say that it was your fault and you may prevent it, though sometimes that may be somewhat true, but that there is always something to be learned. However, that is not a grudge to be held against the person who wronged you. Proclaiming you will never forget the wrong is a statement only made out of weakness or insecurity. It is a self battle cry people say to remind themselves to keep their guard up. You do not need such a guard if you are protected by the armor of God.
But, you may struggle to forget, or for that matter to forgive.
Knowing we are commanded to forgive, wanting so badly to forgive, does not mean that forgiving will always come easy. It can take time. It certainly should not take a lifetime, or months or years of your life, but they’ll be times that forgiveness takes a while. That is okay. While forgiveness is a big part of the healing process, often you need to get to a certain level of healing before you have the strength to forgive. Do not beat yourself up for struggling to forgive. Pray that God opens your heart to forgive.
They’ll also be times that you think you’ve fully forgiven, but you struggle to forget. You may have felt like you fully forgave someone, but find yourself dwelling on it weeks, months or years later. Sometimes, we need to go through the forgiveness process more than once. Sometimes, despite all our best efforts, we still struggle to forget. Don’t be afraid to seek help in processing forgiveness. Pray to God and ask him to lift it off your heart.
Forgiveness is a Gift to Yourself
Forgiving someone frees yourself. It is an act of love towards that person, an act of obedience to God, and also an act of self love.
When we don’t forgive someone, we add that as a weight to our lives. We carry it with us everywhere we go. Add in the weight of a few other things we’ve not forgiven, maybe the weight of a few disappointments from the past, and a bit of weight of resentennt we might carry along, and you’re entirely weighed down. You fly. You can’t run. You can barely even walk. The weight is too great. Free yourself from that.
Grudges, resentment, anger towards someone you love, it hurts yourself. It limits your future. It limits the degree or joy and peace that you can experience. When you forgive and let go of that weight, you’re free.
To Thrive and Prosper, you must Forgive
Not forgiving limits you from experiencing all of God’s blessing.
I’ve been through my fair share of trauma in life. I’ve had a few horrible things happen to me. One thing in particular is something I’ve never fully talked about with anyone, but just mentioned a bit about to a few people. To this day, I do not know if I have fully processed it. I’ll think I have, and that I have no lingering issues relating from it, but, once in a while, I see the hand of past trauma reaching out.
I am also someone who can push through the most challenging of times, who can fight through most anything. In difficult times, you want me by your side. But, when things are good, and especially when they are great, I’ve often found myself out of place. I struggle to accept the blessings God places into my life. I rarely ever enjoy the fruits of hard labor, I just got back to more labor.
Struggling to accept the blessing in my life has also led to me struggling to accept love. I have family who will say they love me, and a few friends. I’ve had a girlfriend or two say it to me before too. I don’t always feel it though. I struggle to accept that love. There is a barrier, or several, that keep me from fully accepting that love. Barriers that keep me from accepting all of Gods blessings. Barriers that make celebrating good times so hard for me. Heck, I’ve not even celebrated my own birthday in nearly 10 years.
What keeps me from accepting a prosperous love filled life?
I am a forgiver of others. If I love you, I truly keep no record of wrongs. I may be slow to love, but, I’ve learned to love others completely. In that, I’ve learned to forgive others completely. But what about forgiving myself? I struggle with that.
We’ve established that forgiving others is vital to being a loving person, part of having healthy relationships, and that doing so is not just a gift to the person we forgive but also to ourselves as it frees us. As challenging as that can be at times, that is just the first component of forgiveness.
You must forgive yourself.
This is the part I often struggle with. It is something that I know keeps me from accepting all of Gods blessings, and from accepting love. I know it. Yet, it is still a struggle. But I know, with absolute certainty, that we must forgive ourselves to fully realize all the blessing of joy and peace that God has for us.
This is a struggle for me in things in which there is not actually anything for me to forgive myself for. Things in which it is beyond obvious that I was the one who was wronged. Yet, still, it is a struggle. I am sure everyone reading this has experienced that too at times.
Perhaps, in fact, for sure, it is hypocritical to explain in detail why you are commanded to forgive, and then share that I struggle to forgive myself. Though, that goes to show the power of the weight that we throw on ourselves. It can be a struggle to free ourselves. I am working on it. I pray for you that you’re able to free yourself also. Let us all let go of that weight.
Let us all forgive those that have wronged us. Let us forgive our loved ones and express our love for them. And, let us forgive ourselves, so that we may not just survive life, but thrive in life.