Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you”. – Lewis B. Smedes
Forgiveness is not a feeling; it’s not forgetting; it’s not pretending you weren’t hurt; it’s not trusting the person again; it’s not even reconciliation. Forgiveness is a DECISION you make to obey God. No one, not even God can make you forgive someone. You must decide to give up your right to hurt the person back. I forgive those who hurt me because God has forgiven me for the hurts I have caused him. Forgiveness protects the forgiver from himself. Forgiveness cancels a debt like Christ cancelled our debt. God says, “I do the punishing; all I want you to do is the forgiving.” Forgiveness is a process, it takes time, but it is an act of grace that reflects God’s treatment to us. When I forgive, I release God to work directly on the other person.
That recently happened in my own life.
I can count on one hand the number of times individuals have approached me, requesting that forgiveness for some past wrong, hurt, action, etc. God has actually been messing with me majorly in this department…for the last four years (especially since I moved to Minneapolis). All through my childhood and continuing on through college, I both made choices and had the choices of others that affected me negatively. I wrestled with each and every single situation for years.
I refused to let it go; to forgive. I created a barrier between God and me; there were many dark days when I couldn’t even pray. When we don’t forgive we say that what that person did to us is more important than going on with God.
One day during my junior year, I started letting things go. God was opening my eyes to the fact that I won’t have to answer for the actions of others…just my own. Living my life bogged down by unnecessary baggage is no way to live. I was beginning to feel free.
Just before graduation, an old roommate approached me and asked if she could ask me something. I never thought I would hear the words; “Forgive me?” cross her lips. I paused before I answered; only to realize I already had.
Fast forward to today…my girlfriends and I have been trekking through So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore. We’ve each been on an emotional rollercoaster ride since we cracked the binding on the book in October. God has brought to the surface my own insecurities (some of which I wasn’t even aware) and He’s led me down the pathway of forgiveness.
In doing so, I’ve started to see restoration in the relationship I have with my dad; even in those of some old friends…people I haven’t talked to in a long time. I’ve found myself feeling more complete (in Him); freer.
This past weekend, I was able to get together with a woman who is near and dear to my heart. We discussed a plethora of items, including a series of incidents from my teenage years.
When you truly forgive, the love of God flows freely in everything you do. When your decisions are not controlled by the other person’s behavior, you have forgiven. When you’re free from the pain, anger and hatred towards that person and find yourself experiencing God’s peace, you have truly forgiven.
Forgiveness has the power to redeem; to renew; and to restore a person/relationship.
In looking back on it now, it’s not about the quantity of occurrences; it’s the quality of the relationship that was restored through the very act of forgiving.
I’ve often heard the old adage “Forgive and forget,” and have found the latter to be quite impossible. While we can never truly forget (until the day the Kingdom returns) what has been done, we can choose to forgive, move past the bitterness and look for the growth experienced after having gone through it. And, if you happen to be blessed enough to receive forgiveness from someone you’ve hurt, bask in the freedom of it and praise God for your sense of newness, and (if not the relationship) that you can now be restored!