When you feel wronged, you think the other person owes you something.
They owe you an apology, an explanation, a childhood, a relationship or a marriage. Whatever it is, you are holding the other person prisoner, but you are the one with the pain.
Andy Stanley says, “Forgiveness means we release that person and say, ‘You don’t owe me.’”
You don’t owe me.
How do you go from a place where you feel someone is emotionally indebted to you to a place you can release and forgive?
Often people find it difficult to forgive because they are not clear on what forgiveness really is.
Let’s take a new look at what forgiveness is…and what it isn’t.
Forgiveness is not forgetting about what happened or acting like everything is okay. It does not mean that you condone what happened, agree with it or like it.
You are not overlooking the offense or excusing it, and you are definitely not letting the offender off the hook for their words or actions. Instead, you’re putting them on God’s hook, and trusting God to deal with it fairly because He said He would.
As you release the person who’s wronged you to God, He ensures justice is served; not you. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
Indeed, the God of unconditional love is also our advocate for justice.
Forgiveness is not judging another. Matthew 7:1-3 reads,
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
The simple fact is none of us knows that true motives in another’s heart. We don’t excuse or condone bad behavior, but it’s not for us to judge. That’s God’s job.
Forgiveness is not dependent upon the other person. In an ideal world, the person who has wronged you would come forward and say he was sorry. He’d acknowledge his wrong-doing and ask for forgiveness. In an ideal world a lot of things would be different. In your situation, the other person may or may not show signs of repentance, remorse or being sorry. Forgive anyway.
Forgiveness is not a one time thing. When Peter came to Jesus and asked how many times he should forgive his brother sins when he’s sinned against him, Peter thought he was being generous when he offered to forgive up to seven times. Jesus’ reply must have startled Peter when Jesus said seventy times seven. We forgive again and again, but we are also wise as to how we let the other person treat us.
Forgiveness comes in time, not always right away. Sometimes we have to grieve it first, and pray that we can feel it. Worship leader Ross Parsley once said, “Forgiveness is a decision, but healing is a process.”
Forgiving others is possible, and you can come into a gradually brighter light of understanding how to do so as you:
Forgiveness releases you. When you do not forgive you are the one that hurts, not the other person. Don’t let an unforgiving heart eat you up on the inside and destroy you. Whether it was ten years ago or ten days ago, when you forgive you are unbound and free to move into the next season of your life.
Forgiveness is the balm that heals the heart. When the pain has been dealt with you can leave the past in the past.
Forgiveness is possible only by the grace of God. Robert Jeffress has a simple, yet effective definition of grace. He says, “Grace is a deliberate decision to give something good to someone who doesn’t deserve it.” God gives us the strength to release others to His justice, not ours.
Forgiveness does not always lead to reconciliation. It can, but it may not always be wise or safe. Forgiveness does not mean we have to have a relationship with the other person or allow them to treat us badly. In addition, the other person may no longer be alive, or may not be able to receive what you have to say. Use discernment to guard your heart and stay away from a person who’s harmed you.