It seems that people think, when we forgive others, we are letting them off the hook and they are getting away scot-free. Our minds scream: justice should be done, the person should be taught a lesson and punished for their indiscretion.
The Bible teaches us to forgive others
The windy road to forgiveness
Forgiveness is a process.
- It starts with believing it is the right thing to do according to the word of God.
- Make the choice to forgive the person in question.
- Hand it over to God.
- Pray blessings over that person.
- Don’t go out of your way to avoid the person.
- Live free.
- Each time the offense comes to mind, we are to forgive. Even though we have forgiven a person, doubts can still surface.
Consequences of unforgiveness
Harboring negative emotions creates a constant state of anxiety. Anxiety leads to physical changes in the body and unforgiveness is one of the biggest negative emotions experienced.
When we don’t forgive, God steps back and leaves us to our own devices. Unforgiveness shows indifference to the biggest act of God. If we can’t forgive others, God can’t forgive us. The Bible is very clear on this point. Grieving God is not a place you want to be in.
In medical books, unforgiveness is classified as a disease. Refusing to forgive makes people physically sick. A continued state of anger and bitterness may eventually result in depression.
When we are angry, anxious and frustrated, we tend to take our frustrations out on others, even if it is not their fault. We experience feelings of worthlessness, blame and low self-esteem.
Resentment builds the longer we leave it.
Benefits when we forgive others
Pleasing to God
Healing, both physical and psychological
Some myths about forgiveness
A divorce case
When counseling divorcees, we teach a session on forgiveness. It is always my favorite lesson because I can see how it sets people free. I always tell the story of a lady who came to DC 22 years after her divorce. She had been harboring anger and resentment towards her ex all that time. When she realized this, she was able to take the step to let go. The change in her face and her demeanor were visibly noticeable. She eventually walked away from the course, a free woman.
Unforgiveness is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to living in peace and freedom. If you are in that place now, don’t wait 22 years to let go. Life is precious, make the most of it.
If we do our part, God does His
Many years ago, I had somebody stand over me and tell me I was worthless and would never make it on my own. Following that tirade, I went all out to prove them wrong and I almost self-destructed in the process. For 13 years I believed and lived the self-fulfilling prophecy. I would regularly have arguments in my head with that person and I imagined the day I could walk up to them and say they were wrong.
Until the day I did a Divorcecare course and came across the section on Forgiveness. I realized that for all that time I had felt anger and bitterness for that person, it was in fact unforgiveness. I had to forgive, but it was hard. This was a new thing for me and I had such strong negative emotions towards this individual.
I made the choice to forgive because it was the right thing to do but I had to pray to God and ask for help. There was no way I could do it alone and in my own strength. Despite immediately feeling lighter and knowing I had done the right thing, I was relieved that I would not have to see this person. I hadn’t seen them for 13 years and they lived in a town 6 hours away.
3 days later I was placed in a situation where I could not avoid coming into contact with this person face-to-face. Really Lord? Now? Do I have to?
There was no way out of it.
How do we know if we have forgiven
As I walked into the room that day, I experienced total peace and calm. I felt no anger, no resentment, no bitterness, no need to say the things I had practiced saying for so long…nothing but peace. And as I left I felt complete freedom like I hadn’t in years.
Not once did I ever have another imaginary argument with them after that.
Had I not had to face that person I probably would not have experienced what it meant to forgive somebody. What amazed me most was that I had done nothing other than choose to forgive and pray about it. God did the rest.
Is there somebody you need to forgive? Is there a niggling sense that there may be somebody? If so pray about it and ask God to reveal who it might be. Follow the guidelines for the process of forgiveness.
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