Martin Luther King understood forgiveness. So do the victims, pushed into the media spotlight by unfathomable, agonising crime, who publicly – and genuinely – forgive the perpetrators.
And us? You and me? If we’re honest, we admit that we struggle with forgiveness. Where’s the justice? What about my feelings, my agony, my heartbreak, my broken life? Don’t they count? Why should I let that rotten so-and-so off the hook?
4 reasons why forgiveness is important
- Forgiveness is a gift to yourself as well as the forgiven – it lets you move forward
- Forgiveness liberates you – from being stuck, from negative emotions, from stress
- Forgiveness is essential for healing
- And, most important of all, Jesus told us to forgive.
“And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” [Matt 6:12 NLT].
The Aramaic word for forgiveness means to untie.
Whether you’re angry, distressed, plotting revenge, cursing or just flinching at the memory, you are tightly bound to the event, albeit by invisible cords. This ‘stuckness’ can prevent you moving forward with your life or influence the way you think. “I’ll never trust another man/girl/boss” is just one example of this.
And the instigator of your misery probably isn’t giving you a second thought and is enjoying life. To put it another way, you’ve given away your power to enjoy life and prosper.
Furthermore, you’re being avidly stalked by the Terrible Trio of resentment, bitterness and anger. These guys are destructive and can eventually crush your emotional and physical health as they release toxic chemicals into your body.
There are common misconceptions about forgiveness which muddy the water and make it seem more difficult. Understanding these helped me enormously. Let’s take a look at what forgiveness isn’t as well as what it is.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation
You have choices:
- Has the relationship run its course and is now over?
- Do you want to keep the person in your life but add boundaries or make changes for the future?
- Are you happy for the relationship to continue as before?
Forgiveness doesn’t mean minimising
You can be real:
- You don’t have to pretend that the incident never happened
- You don’t have to justify how upset you are
- You don’t have to forget before you forgive
- You don’t have to condone what happened
Forgiveness is purposeful
It’s not called an ‘act of forgiveness’ for nothing. It’s an action not a feeling. It’s something you do, not something you feel. You choose to forgive, and then you work on it. How long it takes depends depends on the circumstances and the original offence. There have been people in my life that took me a long time to forgive fully, others not so long.
“We think that forgiveness is weakness, but it’s absolutely not; it takes a very strong person to forgive.” T.D. Jakes
Help with forgiving
Believe that it is possible. God never asks us to do anything that’s impossible. Pray for help. Admit that you’re finding it hard and ask God. This prayer offers some ideas what to say if you’re stuck [scroll down the page]
Pray for the person who wronged you. Pray that you both can understand each other’s position and viewpoints.
Write out your thoughts and feelings in your journal as you go through the process.
Consider whether it is in both your interests to have a conversation with the other party and/or to let them know you have forgiven them.
Forgiveness is challenging but it is possible and it benefits you immeasurably.
If you have any ideas to add to this post, please let me know in the box below and please feel free to share this post.
You may also find these helpful as well. Forgiveness:When you forgive but they won’t let you forget by Minister Desiray Lewis and Overcoming Hurtful Words.
Let’s finish with a message from St Paul.
Put up with each other, and forgive each other if anyone has a complaint. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. [Colossians 3:13 GW]