We have discovered (as if you didn’t already know) that as long as you are alive, you will be hurt by someone. It’s just part of life. We have also seen that forgiveness is not just saying, “It’s OK.” Nor is it the same as forgetting. True forgiveness that allows us to win the battle for our bitterness is a simple decision.
Notice I said “simple” and not “easy.”
Remember that God has offered us complete forgiveness, which came at an incredible cost. It was not easy.
Now that you (hopefully) understand forgiveness, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to respond to that person who purposefully hurt you?
At the risk of sounding too simplistic, let me encourage you to do one thing: make the decision to forgive.
Forgiveness is just that – a decision.
Take a look at this rebuke that Paul gave to the Christians in Corinth:
Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? (I Corinthians 6:7 NKJV).
Good question. Why do you not allow yourself to be cheated?
What is your answer?
I think I have an answer. It is pride. Pride is the barrier to forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not hinge on the other person asking for it. It does not depend on us getting the “final word” or receiving vindication. It does not matter that we are afraid people may think something wrong about us because we didn’t get to proclaim the truth from the mountaintops.
Will you feel like offering forgiveness? Probably not. That’s why it is a decision rather than a feeling.
That poses another problem. How in the world do you offer forgiveness when you don’t feel like it?
Let me offer a few ideas to see if I can help.
#1. Understand the danger of unforgiveness
Harboring unforgiveness is very dangerous. If you don’t believe me, try Jesus’ words:
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11:25-26)
In other words, if you are keeping animosity or hatred in your heart toward someone, God is holding back His forgiveness.
What?! Does that mean a person can’t be saved when he has not yet forgiven someone? No, I believe that Jesus was referring to a relational forgiveness. When my kids disobey me, they do not cease to be my children. However, they cease to have a good relationship with me until things are made right.
#2. Recognize your debt to God
No one can owe me a debt like the one I owe to God.
That sentence may be worth another read.
Do you understand how much God forgave you? That should prompt you to forgive others, even if they don’t ask for it or deserve it.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Did you catch that? Christ died for us “while we were yet sinners.” Not after we got cleaned up, but while we were filthy, vile, and downright nasty. His actions should serve as our model.
. . . even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. (Colossians 3:13)
#3. Remove pride
If pride is the #1 obstacle to forgiveness, let’s get rid of it! Sure, it is difficult to swallow pride. We want to tell everyone how right we are. We want to “give ‘em what they deserve.” Humility, on the other hand, just lets it go. Why don’t we just accept wrong and go on?
#4. Surrender the right to revenge
This is a toughie. Revenge is something that we naturally want to do.
Remember Joseph from our last section? He was elevated to second in command over all of Egypt. Talk about a perfect position to exact revenge on his hateful brothers! However, he surrendered that right.
By the way, I don’t think Joseph’s brothers were completely off the hook. I think that God continually brought to their minds the dreams that Joseph had when he was young—dreams of his family bowing down to him. Back in those days, his brothers scoffed at him. Now it was reality. Maybe a little shame was in order?
Confucius is reported to have said that when you go on a path of revenge, dig two graves.
Instead of retaliating against someone who hurt you, try to view that person differently. Instead of seeing them merely as someone who hurt you, try to see them as someone who is hurting and God has put them in your life so you can minister to them.[i] Your change of viewpoint just might alter your attitude!
#5. Accept the cost of forgiveness
Yes, it is costly to forgive. When someone hurts you, they owe you a debt. When you forgive someone for a debt, you have to pay it yourself.
For example, let’s say that I lend you a dollar. It is a loan. You are indebted to me. But then I say that you don’t have to pay me back. Now, you’re free, right?
Do I remember that you owed me a dollar? Of course.
Did you owe me a dollar? Yes.
Do you still owe me a dollar? No.
So, does that mean that no one is out a dollar? Absolutely not. I am a dollar poorer because I forgave your loan.
When you forgive someone, you will come up short. That’s what it means to be cheated (I Corinthians 6:7). Are you willing to accept this loss? If so, you are on your way to winning the battle over bitterness.
This is the seventeenth post in the “Battle for Your Mind” series. Click here to view the previous post.
Click here to view the next post, “The Battle for Your Relationships.”
[i] Thrasher, Bill. How to be a Soul Physician: Learning How Christ Meets the Deepest Longings of a Soul Through the Grace of Prayer. (Charo, Mexico: Berea Publishing Co., 2010), 192.