Forgiveness is an elusive concept, its path circuitous and rocky. Staring boldly at forgiveness, it appears to require more than anyone should be asked to give. Although I’ve chosen the path of forgiveness often, I sometimes select it reluctantly, like a child grabbing the doorjamb and screaming “no” when being put down for a nap.
Forgiving those who hurt us, those who turn out to be less than we expect them to be, is a monumental task. Forgiveness requires grace we are incapable of manufacturing in our own strength, especially when forgiveness involves someone who has intentionally and consistently wounded.
Each of us has in our lives those who seem beyond the scope of forgiveness. But if you fail to forgive, you are believing lies that suspend forward motion and bind you in the limbo of unforgiveness.
Following are lies we believe about forgiveness:
Lie—Forgiveness can wait.
The time for forgiveness is always right now. Delayed forgiveness compresses anger, and anger breeds bitterness, which changes the way a person thinks, talks, and acts. Unforgiveness negatively transforms and causes separation. To maintain healthy relationships, and avoid the fallout from holding on to hurt, forgiveness is necessary.
Lie—Forgiveness equals weakness.
When we’re offended, we usually hide how much words or actions hurt us. Some people view forgiving as a sign of weakness and believe refusing to forgive proves you weren’t affected by what happened and hurts the offender.
The world may view forgiving as weakness, but forgiveness demonstrates strength. In forgiving, you put pride aside, and take the first step toward freeing yourself from the yoke of unforgiveness.
Lie—Forgiveness means no consequences.
When someone hurts us, we want that person to suffer, too. We’re unwilling to let them go unpunished. There are always consequences for sin. Although we may never see those results firsthand, punishment is not up to us.
The personal consequence of unforgiveness is shackling oneself to negative emotions and unpleasant reruns. Like dragging a ball and chain, unforgiveness weighs us down and prevents forward motion.
Like dragging a ball and chain, unforgiveness weighs us down and prevents forward motion.
Lie—Forgiveness risks more hurt.
While cocooning ourselves with a stiff emotional shell of unforgiveness may make us feel we can’t be hurt again, it also means we can’t heal from the pain. A wound heals faster if it is washed, medicated, and bandaged. Sometimes, treating the wound makes it hurt a little more, but soon that pain fades.
Forgiveness is similar to treating a flesh wound. Forgiveness washes away the anger, soothes the emotional pain, and covers the wound. You may feel discomfort at first, but then you experience relief.
Lie—Forgiveness requires admission of fault.
Many times, those who hurt us never admit they’d done anything wrong and never apologize. However, forgiveness isn’t contingent on the offender. Forgiveness is a decision of your will.
Lie—Forgiveness involves feeling like forgiving.
Feelings often determine our actions, but we are called to a higher standard, actions that are the product of spiritual maturity rather than feelings. The act of forgiveness often comes before you feel like forgiving.
Remember, you are not the only one hurt by a broken relationship. Choose to forgive whether you feel like it or not. Eventually your feelings will follow your choice to forgive.
Lie—Forgiveness lowers your self-esteem.
Often, we don’t forgive because pride gets in the way. And sometimes, we’re the ones who need to ask for forgiveness, but pride stops us from admitting we were at fault.
It’s harder to see fault in ourselves than to notice it in others. Learning to forgive and asking for forgiveness from God and others helps produce spiritual growth and preserves relationships. When we forgive, we give ourselves a gift. In forgiving, we free ourselves from anger and bitterness and allow healing to begin. And our obedience pleases God because he commanded us to forgive.
Practical Steps to Forgiveness
- Write about what happened, how it hurt you, and what you are feeling. Include as many details as you choose. This is just between you and God, not for a social media rant or with the intention of showing your words to anyone else.
- Pray. Ask for God’s help with forgiveness.
- Tear up the paper you wrote on and dispose of the remnants to symbolize you’re releasing the offender from the offense. You do not have to tell the person you have forgiven. This is a transaction between you and God.
- Decide to engage forward motion and distance yourself from hurt. When you start thinking about the offense again, hit stop on replaying the events, the words said, and the words you’d like to say. Mentally mark the event “canceled.”
- Believe that, in time, your emotional pain will dissipate.
“Make allowances for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:13 NLT).
If you fail to forgive, you are believing lies that suspend forward motion and bind you in the limbo of unforgiveness.
Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving through, and beyond, difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books), When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).
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