Do you remember your mom demanding that you say, “I’m sorry” to people when you were a kid? You usually said it even if you didn’t mean it, right? “I’m SORRY”, you would say with your arms folded and your bottom lip stuck out.
Is it easy to forgive people who have offended you? Is it easy for you to ask for forgiveness from others? The subject of forgiveness is difficult and has many layers.
We have all been hurt and let down throughout our lives. Why is it so hard to forgive some people and easier to forgive others? Maybe it depends on the level of pain they caused us. Hurts like betrayal, abandonment, or abuse of any kind can be harder to forgive than a lie, miscommunication, embarrassment, etc. Maybe it depends how close we are to them, so the offense hits deeper. Maybe we weren’t shown forgiveness, so we don’t have a forgiving heart either.
Sometimes the hurt is too great and we continue to live in the darkness of bitterness and unforgiveness. Living with unforgiveness can be a cancer on our heart and affect layers upon layers in our life. Bitterness is kind of like another cover emotion which hides issues such as hurt, fear, embarrassment, betrayal, abandonment, etc. If we “hang our hat” on bitterness and unforgiveness, then we may never really look at and deal with the issues under it, which keeps us from being free. More chains.
No matter what the offense was, it is important to take steps toward forgiveness. Throughout the scriptures, the Lord commands us to forgive, so this is also an act of obedience and submission to Him. Forgiving someone doesn’t take THEM off the hook as much as it takes YOU off the hook. It doesn’t mean you necessarily forget the offense either. Some things are just too painful to forget, right? It means you say, “I RELEASE YOU FROM THE PAIN YOU CAUSED ME; IT WILL HAVE NO POWER OVER ME ANYMORE!”
You see, when you remain in unforgiveness and anger, you are still giving the person who offended you power over you on some pretty deep levels. You are allowing them to take your joy, freedom, and peace of mind. You are allowing them to make you feel less than your best. You are allowing them to make you keep score as well as the desire to “settle the score”, which God says is His to settle.
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.” Leviticus 19:18
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
Forgiveness, many times, is about what you have lost; perhaps wrong decisions by people you love, for your own mistakes or for the way things eventually turned out.
Often we are good at pinning all the anger and unforgiveness on the other person and forget that we are only responsible for our own actions, words and feelings, WE let them keep us in the chains of unforgiveness. WE let them steal our joy, WE let them cover peace in our lives.
Forgiveness is directly referenced 125 times in the Bible, so obviously, it is important to God for His children. Forgiveness is a statement of undeserved, unearned love that says, “no matter what you’ve done, there is no desire for paybacks or punishment.” That’s what the cross was all about. The beauty of accepting Jesus and His sacrifice for you is that once you experience God’s unconditional forgiveness, you can move forward and forgive those who have hurt you. You can be free of those chains of unforgiveness. God continues to forgive us for our wrongs, so as we have been forgiven, we can extend forgiveness to others who have hurt us.
In beginning this process of forgiveness and freedom, pray and ask the Lord for strength. It might be difficult at first, but the enemy doesn’t have to chain you up again unless you let him. Stand firm in forgiveness, as the Lord commands us to, refrain from dwelling on the past and keep moving forward.
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you,” Colossians 3:13