Forgiveness is possible for anyone
Have you ever given an apology you didn’t want to give?
How did that go for you? You know what I mean, you mouth the words, but inwardly you carry on another conversation.
Maybe I’ll outwardly forgive them, but I’m holding onto this one.
Forgiveness is hard. In some cases, impossible, but I hope to show you how to forgive when you don’t want to forgive.
Someone bumps into you as you’re in a crowded place.
“Hey, I’m sorry,” they say in passing.
“That’s okay,” you mutter back. And in most cases, it is forgiven and forgotten.
After all, you reason, they didn’t mean it. Or maybe you get hurt and then find out it really wasn’t on purpose. Another easy one to forgive.
But what if the person who hurt you is someone closer to you? What if they do something they know is hurtful?
A little harder to just brush off, wouldn’t you say?
And yet, in time, we find ourselves forgiving the offender. Especially if they show remorse, or you realize it really wasn’t intentional.
As I said, it might take a little more time, but eventually, you will get to the place of saying,
Obstacles to forgiveness
So what are the determining factors to us forgiving another person?
Yes, whether it was intentional is one, but are there others?
Maybe you don’t think the person was sincere in their apology. They seem to be parroting words to just get back on your good side.
The little child that knows he won’t get what he wants till he tells his brother he didn’t mean it when he hit him with the toy, although you and I both know he did mean it with all his little heart.
I think there are other reasons we drag our feet when it comes to forgiving.
Lack of understanding
At times, we refuse to forgive because we don’t really understand what forgiveness is.
We think if we forgive the person will somehow think what he/she did is really okay, or no big deal.
We think forgiving the person should not be so cut and dry. After all, they did not just accidentally bump into us.
We’re not sure how quickly forgiveness should come. If we forgive too quickly, maybe they will be prone to repeat the offense, and that would never do.
I think there is still another reason we are reticent to forgive.
We don’t want to. After all, this isn’t the first time, this person has committed a crime against us.
In fact, we can pull out a list of all their offenses, complete with dates. The more we think about this, the more unwilling we are to forgive.
Resentments grow at a rapid pace when we hold onto grudges.
A grudge is something you hold against someone and sometimes, the person totally unaware.
The problem with resentments is, the longer we don’t deal with them, the harder they are to deal with.
Resentments have a tendency to morph into bitterness and then we’re talking about something that cannot simply be forgiven.
Bitterness has to be uprooted and those roots are so stubborn.
I loved my Aunt Jeanette. She used to take me and my siblings to Kiddieland on North Avenue in Chicago. She would be there waving as our rides went around and around.
She once took us to the Barnum and Bailey circus. Aunt Jeanette was fun.
She would even let us play with her daughter’s dolls and when she’d tell us she didn’t know where they were, she didn’t mind that we’d find them under the bed. I loved those dolls, especially the bride doll.
Aunt Jeanette told the best stories. And we listened intently to each one. But as I got older I noticed that there was a tone to a couple of her stories. Especially the one about her sister Tanya, who lived in Greece.
Somehow when Aunt Jeanette talked about Tanya, her facial features changed. She told the story of needing $1.00 for a pair of white shoes Aunt Jeanette wanted.
“But did she give me the dollar? No. She wouldn’t do it.”
As an adult, hearing the story about the dollar, I once asked, “Will you ever forgive her for that?”
“Forgive her?” She said loudly, “Never.” And there was that look again. That bitter look.
As far as I could tell, Aunt Jeanette took that story to her grave.
One dollar. It was just one dollar.
I made up my mind that day we had our last conversation about Tanya. I didn’t want to hold onto grudges like that.
I knew it would be tested, most of the time when we make up our minds, there are tests that follow.
But as much as I loved my Aunt Jeanette, I didn’t want to hold grudges.
But can I just tell you something? It’s hard.
An opportunity to forgive
Someone recently hurt me. And while I’ve had opportunities to forgive this person, I somehow keep holding onto that hurt.
I think I was caught off guard, yes, but that’s not why.
I hate to admit it, but I think in my mind, I want the person to pay for it.
And holding onto the grudge means this person does not get the whole me. There is a part I keep for myself.
The truth is, I am becoming a judge in this situation. It’s not something I’m proud of, just something I’m admitting to you.
I am deciding that the offense is bigger than my ability to forgive. Or in other words, I don’t want to forgive.
The problem comes in when I think about forgiveness and what it really is.
– a choice to not hold an offense against the one who hurt you.
– something I have been granted even though I did not deserve it.
– hard to do
So now what?
I have to really think about when I was forgiven. And that took place on a hill far away.
When Jesus gave his life and shed his perfect blood it was for the whole world. And he did this even though some would not accept his gift of forgiveness.
Jesus knowingly died for those who would never accept it. And he still did it.
How we’re to forgive
God tells us to forgive one another. We are to forgive as we’ve been forgiven.
So when I say, “but this person wasn’t sorry,” that doesn’t matter.
When I try to argue, “this person doesn’t deserve it,” that too, isn’t the issue, because we didn’t deserve forgiveness either.
In fact, none of my arguments stand up against what Jesus did. They never will.
Because of God’s love, he allowed his Son to die on a cross, a shameful death. And he tells me that I’m to forgive the ones who hurt me, just like Jesus did.
The thing is, God won’t force me to forgive. It’s my choice.
But I know if I choose to not forgive, that is not pleasing God.
I also know if I choose to do what is right, even if I don’t feel it at the time, God will change my heart.
God’s the one who made us, and he promises he’ll transform us.
I can choose to forgive and God will step in for the rest.
And so, this moment, I forgive this person. And God, I’m counting on you to change my heart.
Call to Action:
What about you?
Do you have someone on your “do not forgive,” list?
What will it take for you to forgive them?
I’d love to hear from you.
Visit Anne at AnnePeterson.com.