It is generally accepted that the ability to forgive others that may have wronged you is healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Since forgiveness is a positive experience for the forgiver, why is it difficult to forgive? Could it be that forgiveness is not understood? What is forgiveness?
The typical dictionary definition of forgiveness:
- To give up resentment against or the desire to punish; stop being angry with; pardon.
- To give up all claim to punish or exact penalty of (an offense); overlook.
- To cancel or remit …
(Webster’s New World College Dictionary Fifth Edition)
The dictionary definition is broad and fails to clearly identify that for forgiveness to be complete, an individual must deal with anger, hatred, revenge, and punishment. Notice that the term is, “dealing with,” not giving up or pardoning as the dictionary definition states.
We have all been hurt by others. How we handle hurt determines our quality of life and our relationship with our Creator. Do you harbor grudges? Do you hold resentments? Do you dwell on hurts of times past? If you answered yes to any of these questions you are a prisoner of your own desires. Don’t allow a hurt to place a pause on your life. Free yourself. Forgiving is for you, not the offender.
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is refusing to allow any hurtful event to derail your life. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the person who hurt you is not punished. Adam and Eve, the first sinners, were forgiven and punished (Genesis 3:1-19). Punishment of the offender will not release you from the pain of an unforgiving attitude. Forgiveness is a choice; it is not an obligation.
Forgiving is the choice to surrender resentment to a distant recollection. Forgiving is the choice to replace thoughts that stir anger with pleasant thoughts. Thoughts that refresh you. Remember, it is important to remember, forgiveness is a vital part of restoration, forgiveness is about restoring you. Don’t surrender to resentment and anger. Overcome them!
Forgiving does not mean that you excuse the actions of the person that hurt you. Forgiving does not mean the person that hurt you may continue doing what hurt you. Forgiving does not mean forgetting what was done to you. Forgiving does not mean that your relationship with the person who hurt you will remain the same or even continue.
Forgiving others for the hurt they have caused you is about restoring yourself. Resentment breeds depression and envy. Anger leads to bad decisions and physical ailments. Forgiving the person who hurt you has very little to do with that person and a great deal to do with you. The benefits of forgiving the person who harmed you releases the grip he/she has on your life. Don’t become their hostage! Don’t become their prisoner! Forgive them, setting yourself free to enjoy life.
The Bible directs us to continually forgive, to never stop. (Matthew 18:21-22) Forgiving may be difficult for you. Begin with a simple prayer asking the Lord to bless the person who hurt you. Continue by asking the Lord to help you sincerely forgive him.
In Matthew 6:14-15, Mark 11:25-26, Matthew 18:35, Jesus instructs us to forgive others so that we may be forgiven. These verses are direct. They contain a brief and direct statement from our Lord Jesus Christ: God will not forgive you if you do not forgive others. Forgiving others produces growth in our relationship with God.
In summary, forgiving those who hurt us is about helping ourselves. Forgiving helps avoid the emotional consequences that harbored resentment brings. Forgiving helps avoid physical ailments that stored anger brings. Finally, but most importantly, forgiving keeps us on a right relationship with God.
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