For many of us, the act of forgiveness does not come easily. And asking for forgiveness sometimes comes even harder. Why is forgiveness so difficult? Because of pride. We’re either too prideful to ask for forgiveness, as that would require admitting fault, or we’re unable to forgive because we’re too proud to offer grace to others.
Why Forgiveness is Essential in Any Relationship
Could you imagine if every relationship was just a collection of ALL THE THINGS people did that hurt each other? Well, that’s what a relationship is without forgiveness. When we don’t forgive someone for hurting us, we’re holding that hurt in the present moment and taking it with us into every interaction with them, and sometimes even our interactions with others. Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t trust men” because they’ve been hurt before by a man? Not all men are the same, and not all men did the hurting. The person holding onto that hurt is allowing it to affect any potential future relationships with men.
Do Forgive and Forget Go Together?
I want to be completely clear when I say this: forgiving someone does not mean you let them keep hurting you. You can forgive someone for the ways that they hurt you yet set boundaries to prevent them from hurting you again. Forgiveness does not equal being a doormat or a punching bag. And forgiveness doesn’t mean letting someone off the hook, either. While it is truly a beautiful thing to be able to forgive and forget the small stuff instead of letting it compound into an unresolved issue, not all trespasses should be forgotten.
I’ve known instances in my life where people have done despicable things to people I love. Truly horrendous actions. And although it is a struggle sometimes, I have chosen to forgive those people. While it’s hard to say their names without seething and I will never allow them anywhere near me or my loved ones again (boundaries), I recognize that forgiving them just means I’m handing their judgement and punishment over to God. I cannot carry that hatred, bitterness, and unforgiveness around inside me without it eating away at me. Forgiveness can be as simple as acknowledging, “God, I trust you to handle this.”
Do We Need the Forgiveness of Those We’ve Wronged?
We all need to ask for forgiveness at some point. That’s why Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary to reconcile us to God. But do we need the forgiveness of those we’ve wronged? Well, being forgiven is nice, as none of us like having a grudge held against us when we’re truly repentant, but it’s not necessary. Forgiveness can only be given by the person who we’ve wronged, and after we’ve apologized and genuinely repented, the rest is out of our hands.
When we’re the ones who have wronged someone else, we need to be genuinely repentant, and put in the effort to right the wrong we’ve committed. Just about everyone has heard about the five love languages, but did you know that the same authors identified the five languages of apology? They are:
- Expressing regret (I am sorry.).
- Accepting responsibility (I was wrong.).
- Making restitution (What can I do to make it right?).
- Genuinely repenting (I will try not to do that again.).
- Requesting forgiveness (Will you please forgive me?).
It might be worth some careful observations or frank discussions to determine what apology language your close friends and family “speak” in. That way, you better know how to apologize in a way that they are receptive to.
What if Someone Withholds Their Forgiveness?
If someone withholds forgiveness from you, recognize it for what it is. Maybe you haven’t apologized in a way the person really feels was sincere, or you weren’t speaking their apology language. It could be that they’re holding your “transgression” over you as a power play or method of control or manipulation. Or maybe the person just has an unforgiving heart.
Whatever the reason is, make sure you’ve done your part of sincere repentance, asking for forgiveness, committed to changing your behavior, and let God take care of the rest.
Don’t Drink the Poison of Unforgiveness
Have you ever heard the expression that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die? Yeah, it’s like that. Unforgiveness, as I mentioned above, can eat away at you, and even cause physical manifestations in the form of health issues, including cancer!
What the Bible Says About Forgiveness
Ephesians 4:32 (ESV) says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Matthew 6:15 (ESV) says, “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Luke 17:3-4 (ESV) says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Clearly, God puts a heavy emphasis on forgiving one another. When I’m having a hard time forgiving someone, I simply remember all the things I’ve done that require forgiveness and remember the grace I’ve been offered by not only other people, but God also. That sort of perspective makes it easy to swallow my pride and offer the grace of forgiveness. I hope it helps you, too.
About the Author
Melanie Lemus is the Communication Specialist and resident editor for author Dr. Jeannine Bennett. She lives in Virginia with her wonderful husband and witty daughter. Melanie loves her freedom – in Christ and America. She’s passionate about natural health, is a current student of homeopathy at the Academy of Homeopathy Education, and she’s always down to take a hike through the mountains.