The hardest thing you will ever have to do is complete forgiveness of people who have harmed us greatly, over a long period of time. If we only knew in advance the freeing power of forgiveness, we would trust God to supply the grace we need.
But, by nature, humans hold onto grudges, sowing negative seeds everywhere we go. We want justice, not forgiveness. We want the perpetrator to suffer for what he has done unto us. We want retaliation. The reason is we don’t truly understand forgiveness.
We have a skewed idea that forgiveness gives the offender a ‘Hail Mary’ pass for her harmful actions. Wrong!
God wants you to get the values attached to forgiveness, not so the person who did the awful deeds against you. Let’s review portions of Luke 6:37-38
37 “…Forgive and you will be forgiven.” 38 “…A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap…”
These scriptures affirm that when we forgive, our benefits will be far more grandiose than we could ever imagine. Forgiveness of others will free us from negative emotions and open our wounded hearts to release residual unforgiveness and bitterness.
Once you truly forgive the person(s) who caused you the greatest harm, forgiveness of smaller things be easier. It will never be like instant coffee, but forgiveness will get easier with practice.
Let’s look at typical stages of forgiveness through God.
Make a Decision to Forgive
Forgiveness is more than just saying – OK, so-and-so, I forgive you. It is a serious undertaking of serious work. Far from being easy, it will be difficult. It may involve hours of knee-time, tears and re-living old traumas. But, the end will come, when you can honestly say – It was worth it.
You Can’t Do It By Yourself
God is in your corner. He’s got your back. When you know you need to forgive another person, but just don’t want to, lean on God for courage, strength and grace.
In Ephesians 4:32 we read, “…Give me the grace to forgive them.”
So, you make the decision to forgive and God grants you the tools to do it. Send up prayers, until you get that warm, peaceful feeling and you realize that your prayers for forgiveness finally “took”.
In Psalm 30:2, we read, “O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.”
Not a Good Idea
When you become a whole, peaceful, person, it’s tempting to tell the perpetrator that you have forgiven him. This idea came from ego and, like most ego-based ideas, is not a good one. Be mindful, God promises to mete justice to people who do not obey “the gospel of our Lord Jesus”.
Re-read Thessalonians 1:6-8, “God is just. He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled…”
There may come a time when the offender asks for forgiveness. (Likely they “got” religion or joined a 12-step study group.) Again, don’t listen to ego, who will encourage you to get the revenge you deserve. Just smile and say, “I forgave you long ago. Bless you for caring.”
Seventy Times Seven
Still struggling to forgive the person who hurt you deeply? Then keep practicing. Remember what Jesus told Peter in Matthew 18:21, “…I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but until seventy times seven.”
To forgive is like climbing a slippery slope, three steps forward and two steps back. Perhaps, you believe you’ve forgiven all, only to later realize another hurt you forgot to address.
In times like these, just cling to what Jesus taught – forgive – if it is necessary – forgive seventy times seven.
If there is a “secret” to forgiveness, it’s to keep practicing.