I Forgive You

I Forgive You May 15, 2011

How hard can it be to forgive?
Much harder than we think.
I’m not talking about forgiveness as in, “Hey, I forgive you for forgetting all about our lunch date the other day.” I’m talking about forgiveness when you’ve been wronged, and you can’t seem to let it go. I’m talking about forgiveness when you really don’t want to forgive. You’d rather let the grievance sit there, sucking away your emotional energy, festering and making you bitter.

Some people might think that it’s hardest to forgive your enemies. I suppose that might be true if you are like Corrie Ten Boom. But most of us will never suffer what she suffered. I wonder whether in real, everyday life, it is harder to forgive your enemies. Could it be that it’s actually harder to forgive our friends? And could it be that the closer they are, the harder it is? Maybe it’s true that only a friend can come close enough to ever cause so much pain. The hardest thing is being misjudged and mistreated by someone you love. That’s why it’s so hard to forgive when a parent walks out, or a spouse walks out. Perhaps forgiving a family member is the very hardest thing of all.
But what if they don’t want our forgiveness? What if they never ask for it? What if they don’t even realize they need it?
Sometimes when a person never asks, it is better not to give it to him immediately. This is what I mean: Sometimes we like to say “I forgive you” when we really haven’t forgiven the person. But we say it to get back at him in a way, to rub in the fact that we are magnanimously giving him something he hasn’t asked for. Our hearts are not true forgiveness. Instead, we need to wait until we really have forgiven the person in our hearts. And only then do we say, “I forgive you.”
On the other hand, it can be tempting to say, “Well, since I can’t honestly say that I forgive this person yet, maybe I should stop trying.” You can’t do this either, because if you do, you will not be at peace with God, or your friend, or yourself. But I believe that if you humbly come before God and say, “God, I can’t forgive my friend by myself. Help me to forgive,” then he will work what needs to be worked in your heart.
It can also be helpful to get a sense of perspective. Some people carry deep wounds with them, but others have such a limited outlook on life that the height of unfairness for them is having comments needlessly deleted on a blog. We can be genuinely hurt, but sometimes  in a way that is not worth brooding over. And the moment we focus on what Jesus did at the cross, suddenly it becomes harder to hold onto our own small grudges. If Jesus could forgive his friend Judas for betraying him unto death, surely we can forgive our friends when they are simply stubborn and hurtful.

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  • Gaithermusicaddict

    I love this! It reminds me of the Lord’s prayer. We often pray ” forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” and yet we do not realise the implication of praying this prayer without actually forgiving our debtors. The point is if you don’t forgive, you don’t get forgiveness. Forgiving another is really doing yourself a big favour. Not forgiving is actually punishing yourself.

  • True!

  • David Mac

    Nice post, YGG. well written too..
    True heart forgiveness – Christlike in character – is soo hard to achieve, and is often replaced by superficial words, “I forgive you”.
    Sometime a hurt is so damaging and the replay of it is so corrosive that rebuilding self worth and emotional stability is almost all consuming. Having the spiritual or emotional energy to forgive hardly enters the equation at first.
    Only after can we focus – spiritually – on the need to forgive. not for the benefit of the other party; but for the benefit of yourself.
    It is the ultimate act of rebuilding – to say, from the heart, “I truly forgive, in Jesus name”.
    Glad you don’t hold grudges! 🙂

  • I try not to, at any rate! I think sometimes we can sincerely try to let go of a grudge, only to have Satan try to drag it back into our minds. I think that’s where the “forgetting” part comes in. We live out our forgiveness on a day to day basis by not cooperating with Satan in meditating on the grievance and letting it consume our time/energy. It can sometimes be as simple as getting deeply involved in an activity you particularly enjoy.
    Of course, this is all taken to a much, much deeper level when you are trying to let go of a truly shattering, life-altering hurt. Fortunately, I can’t really speak from experience there.

  • The Lord has been dealing with me recently about something very similar to this. He’s been doing it through Romans 6 (I think I got the chapter right). The minding of the flesh is death … the minding of the Spirit is life.
    We encounter situations where we really, really want to (a) defend ourselves (b) not forgive (c) teach them not to mess with me this way (d) all of the above (e) any combination of the above. You know what? That’s death. Spiritual death. They might be little things that annoy us; they might be big things that really hurt us. It happens to me regularly. And God has been coming down and talking to my heart and saying, “That snide remark you’re saving up to put in at the right time? You can’t use it.” And I realize I really, really want to. And He says, “You can’t do it. You have to react with love.” And I don’t want to. And He says, “Your carnal reaction – that’s death.”
    I have to get to the point where I take myself in hand – by the grace of God, as you said – and let it go. Maybe I feel like I’m setting myself up to get hurt again. It doesn’t matter. Spiritual life, or spiritual death? We’re making the choice that Joshua set in front of the children of Israel – Life or death? Blessing or cursing? It’s up to us. And so I let the sarcasm go, and I say something friendly instead when the opportunity comes around. I’m choosing to mind God. I’m praying, “Lord, destroy the carnal reaction and let me respond with love.”
    If you’ll step out and take that choice to mind God, usually the feeling will follow. But it means taking sides against yourself, to a degree that’s truly unnatural. And I’ve also found that many times, not only does “a soft answer” “turn away wrath,” but God will deal with the other person and straighten things up in a way that would never have happened if I’d made the fleshly choice and just provoked a fight.
    Don’t know if this helps any, but it’s coming out of personal experience and true friendly wishes for you. 🙂

  • I agree. And there’s another temptation which is even subtler. Have you ever read C. S. Lewis’s _Screwtape Letters_? There’s a brilliant passage where the experienced devil tells the younger devil to get his “client” (the young man they’re trying to damn) in a very pious state of mind, then remind him how humble he’s being. Make him think, “By Jove, I’m being humble!” And the worst possible scenario would be if the young man then simply “laughed and went to bed.”
    I’ve tried to take that to heart a lot of times, because I struggle with the temptation of giving that soft answer, or that kind response, and then thinking, “Bwahahahaha. Heaping coals of fire, baby!” Which of course destroys the ENTIRE point of it all.

  • I vaguely remember that passage.
    Yes. We can “forgive” for completely the wrong motive.
    It’s all about the power of the Spirit in our lives, because we’re helpless without Him. Also, some good messages I’ve heard preached lately have been to remind us of the danger of self-deception, and the necessity in this late hour of “truth in the inward parts.” We’re going to have to beg and plead with God to help us be really honest, strip past the layers of “what we want to see in ourselves,” and get down to the truth. Then we have to “deny ourselves” in the deepest, maybe even most painful, sense, take up the cross (that means going out to die, not walking around bent over with an angelic smile), and follow Jesus.
    This is what I’m working on, anyway!

  • You should re-read that entire book. It’s full of great stuff!

  • I remember Screwtape Letters scaring the devil out of me as a teenager! Unfortunately the old snake didn’t stay gone long. Lol
    I’ve read it repeatedly as an adult and although it disturbs my mind each time I read it, it gives insight that is very valuable.
    As for your post on forgiveness, it is very good. Forgiveness is such an essential part of the gospel, namely our desperate need of it and God’s unbelievable gift to make it possible. If we remember those two things we will be forgiving people. Yes, forgiveness sometimes hurts, it is risky and often unappreciated by those we grant it to but WE HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN! Praise God for forgiveness. How can I withhold that from others? I pray often that God will give me the willingness to forgive.

  • It is scary in places but very valuable indeed!
    Thanks for your kind words. I agree, how can we withhold from others what we have been so freely granted? I remember a story about a Christian singer named Mandisa that left an impression on me when I first heard it. She’s not really my cup of tea musically, but she did something really classy when she was on American Idol. Simon Cowell made a really rude comment about her weight behind her back, and this was naturally hurtful to her, especially since he had just complimented her singing the moment before. But she later publicly forgave him. She said, “I figure that if Jesus could die so that all of my wrongs could be forgiven, I can certainly extend that same grace to you.” Cowell of course knew it would look good to say he was “humbled,” smile, and give her a hug, but I think he probably felt a real twinge inside.

  • That’s the way it is done..and I gather she offered this public forgiveness without him asking for it. I’m not familiar with her singing but that is classy.