Forgiving someone who has hurt you is probably one of the hardest things to do. Especially if the wrong doing comes from someone who is close to you such as a family member, friend, or fellow Christian. As humans, our natural reaction to being hurt is usually anger, revenge, or bitterness. We sometimes hide behind these emotions and use them as ways to bring temporal relief from the gut wrenching pain we’ve experienced, but true relief comes from forgiving.
I know what you’re thinking, “But you don’t know what they did or how bad they hurt or betrayed me.” I have had the same exact thoughts concerning some offenses against me. I’ve also been to the point of physical illness because of the bitterness I allowed to build up in my heart. A good friend of mine once shared this quote with me, “Holding on to an offense is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die.” That’s no way to live; allowing anger and resentment to dominate your heart.
So why don’t we forgive? I think we as humans choose not to forgive or are reluctant because of the misconception of what we think forgiveness is. To be honest, for the longest time I was under the impression that forgiveness meant that forgiving someone was like saying that what they did to me was “okay.” I thought by forgiving I was admitting that I was over the offense, that it didn’t bother me anymore, and that the fractured relationship should go back to the way it was. The truth of the matter is, forgiveness is not saying what the person did was okay, and pretending that you weren’t affected by the damage done. Scars on the heart are pretty difficult to forget, but we don’t have to stay in that place of hurt allowing it to consume us. Also, just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that trust is automatically regained. Trust is something to be earned back over time if the offender is willing to work on the relationship.
Through some trial and error, I have discovered what true forgiveness means, and I want to share a process of getting through these difficult circumstances. Let’s take a look.
How do we truly forgive?
1.Follow our example.
If anyone had a right to withhold forgiveness or be angry and bitter it would be Jesus. Judas, one of His disciples, betrayed Christ in the worst way by offering Him up to officials to be crucified in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. I can only imagine what went through Jesus’ mind as He washed Judas’ feet and shared his last meal with him knowing what was about to transpire. Jesus gave of Himself in every capacity not only to Judas, but the people he encountered on a daily basis. Even with all he gave the crowds still cried “CRUCIFY HIM!” Despite this, while on the cross, He offered forgiveness, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34a).
When I am tempted to hold a grudge God quickly reminds me of what His son did for me on the cross. Jesus paid the ultimate price so that I could be forgiven. If I, in all my short comings, can be forgiven then I must do the same for others. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). The more grace and mercy you experience through your relationship with the Father, the more gracious you’ll be in return to those who have hurt you. Let’s face it, we’re human and no one is perfect. One day we’re going to need the same mercy and grace we extended for our short comings.
2.Let God settle it.
Let’s be real, when we are devastatingly hurt we want to get even. We want to rectify the situation. We put together a laundry list of what the person would need to do for us to even think about forgiving them. We can be angry and upset, but it’s what we do with that anger that counts (Ephesians 4:26). The Bible says in Romans 12:19 says, “Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it” (LB). This thing called life is not fair and we will experience some ugly painful things. When we encounter hurt we should give it to God, and trust that He will handle our situation with care and justice.
3.Hit’em with kindness.
Showing kindness is the last thing to cross your mind when someone has stabbed you in the back or done the incomprehensible. Yet, the Bible says in Luke 6:27-28, “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (NIV). We can’t say we’ve truly forgiven someone while simultaneously wishing them harm. When we want to get even or say something that’s not nice, stop instead, and say a prayer of blessing over that person.
4.Repeat the process.
There will be times when you think you’ve forgiven an offense then you see that particular person again or you randomly think of that situation and you’ll be flooded with all those yucky emotions again. It’s in those times that we should lay the hurt and pain at the feet of Jesus. You may not feel better after the first, second, or third time of doing this, but like everything there is a process. To get a stain out of your clothes sometimes you have to rinse, wash, and repeat. Over time the load you bear will become light, and healing will come.
5.Let it Go!
If you’re waiting until you feel like forgiving someone most likely that will not happen. Forgiving someone is not a feeling, but rather an act of obedience. Simply put, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). We will experience forgiveness in direct proportion to our willingness to forgive others.
Forgiveness is a decision to let go of that person or situation that hurt you, and release them from what you feel they owe you. By letting go in exchange, you will release healing into your life. Christ didn’t die on the cross for us to be bound by anger, revenge, or bitterness. He desires for us to live in freedom, and we can’t do that carrying around those emotions. From the famous lyrics of my girl’s favorite Disney movie and a certain ice queen, “LET IT GO, LET IT GO!”