Forgiveness is difficult partly because we do not really understand it properly. Personally I think it is necessary to clear up some of the misconceptions about forgiveness.
In some ways, it is easier to say what forgiveness is NOT, rather than what it is. These misconceptions truly matter because sometimes when we say we can’t or won’t forgive, we are actually talking about something other than biblical forgiveness.
Let me list a few things forgiveness does NOT mean:
- It does not mean approving of what someone else did.
- It does not mean pretending that evil never took place.
- It does not mean making excuses for other people’s bad behavior.
- It does not mean overlooking abuse.
- It does not mean denying that others tried to hurt you repeatedly.
- It does not mean letting others walk all over you.
- It does not mean refusing to press charges when a crime has been committed.
- It does not mean forgetting the wrong that was done.
- It does not mean pretending that you were never hurt.
- It does not mean that you must restore the relationship to what it was before.
- It does not mean that you must become best friends again.
- It does not mean there must be a total reconciliation as if nothing ever happened.
- It does not mean that all negative consequences of sin are canceled.
- Forgiveness does not cancel all the negative consequences of our foolish choices.
Forgiveness is absolutely a matter of the heart. This is a hugely important point because most of us think forgiveness is about what we do or what we say. But it is quite possible to mouth kind words of forgiveness while harboring anger and bitterness within.
Forgiveness begins in the heart and eventually works its way outward. There is a life changing sense in which all forgiveness, even forgiving someone who hurt you deeply, is between you and God. Other people may or may not understand it, or recognize it, or own up to their need to receive it.
Forgiveness in its essence is a decision made on the inside to refuse to live in the past. It’s a conscious choice to release others from their sins against you so that you can be set free. It doesn’t deny the pain or change the past, but it does break the cycle of bitterness that binds you to the wounds of yesterday.
Forgiveness allows you to let go and move on, even when other people make no confession. You can forgive without a restoration of the relationship. You can forgive when the other person has done nothing to earn forgiveness because forgiveness is like salvation — it is a gift that is freely given, it cannot be earned.
You can forgive and the other person may never even know about it. You can forgive without saying, “I forgive you” because forgiveness is a matter of the heart.
The thought has come to me that we need two things: soft hearts and courage.
Some of us have been deeply hurt by the things others have done to us.
People have attacked us, maligned us, mistreated us, abused us, sexually assaulted us, ridiculed us, belittled us, publicly humiliated us, physically beaten us, and they have done it deliberately, repeatedly, viciously. In response we chose to become hard on the inside to protect ourselves from any further pain. But that hardness has made it difficult for us to hear the gentle call of the Holy Spirit. We need soft hearts to hear his voice. And then we need courage.
The weak hearted person will never forgive. Only the brave will forgive. Only the strong will have the courage to let go of the past.
May God soften our hearts to hear the truth, and may God give us courage do the hard thing and let go of our bitterness, give up our anger, turn away from our resentment, stop keeping score, and enter into the miracle of total forgiveness.
Please go now where mere words cannot go — deep into the hearts of those who read these words. Grant that they may discover the freedom that comes from being great forgivers. Break the chain of remembered hurts that bind us to the past.
Lord, we want to do it but we lack the courage. Show us what we must do and then give us the courage to do it. Amen.
“So do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known,” Matthew 10:26 (NKJV).
~ Mary Lindow ©
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|Mary Lindow has a passion for encouraging others in all generations and careers or vocations to live and express excellence through personal integrity, healthy accountability, and wise management of talents and skills. She is a sought after keynote inspirational and humorous speaker and teacher throughout the United States internationally in Ministers conferences, International Spiritual leaders Conferences, and in National and International training seminars for various organizations.|