“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” Matthew 6:14
Forgiveness is not always easy. What does it really mean?
I decided to name the title as part 1 because thinking about forgiveness, I realize that it is actually a complex topic. As I grow and learn more, the more I want to reflect on what forgiveness is and to see how my heart has changed. I don’t think I can only write once about this topic. The act of forgiving is a beautiful thing because it means showing grace and love unto someone who has wronged you, and you yourself being separated from the bondage of resentment and hurt. But that being said, forgiveness is not always easy as it often comes after a time of deep hurt and deep trial.
The Back Story
Last night I had our annual Monday night Bible Study session with some of my friends at 7:30. We have been doing this since the New Year started, I think. We have a No-Cancellation-Policy which means that some nights we would have Bible Study really late if needed. Anyway, we go through this book of Bible Verses every week and each week there is a different topic to discuss. Last night’s topic was Forgiveness.
Everybody sat around my couch eating popcorn and sipping on their coffee. Once we stopped getting distracted by laughter, the doorbell ringing, and my Grandma coming in ranting and making funny jokes in Ukrainian, we dove in to discussion.
As we went through, we realized that forgiveness is much more complicated than we ever initially thought. What is forgiveness? Did any of us still have unforgiveness in our hearts, even though we were Christian? How did we deal with forgiving others before? If we don’t forgive others, will we not be forgiven by God? Is forgiveness a one time act or is it a constant decision? And lastly, how can we really forgive someone who doesn’t care or doesn’t ask for forgiveness?
These questions boggled my mind all night. It still does. I don’t have all the answers. I’m still learning and praying for wisdom.
As the night went on, people began to share personal stories of battling forgiveness. Some lives have been forever changed by one person’s actions towards them, and that makes forgiving hard. And knowing someone just doesn’t care to even ask for your forgiveness, makes it even harder. We struggle with forgiving others and then feeling guilty because we know that God has forgiven us of all our trespasses and that he calls us to forgive others as well.
As the night went on I was a bit silent at first. Soaking in the confusing topic and trying to understand the meaning of forgiveness. Sitting in that room, I unfortunately knew that even though I wanted to be completely forgiving of everyone, that deep down I still carry some resentment and unforgiveness deep down in my heart.
So this is what I asked the rest of the group, “Do you guys think that forgiveness is a one time thing where you forgive someone and get over it? Or do you think it is something that sometimes you have to choose to do daily. Even if you’ve already forgiven someone, sometimes the pain still haunts you almost daily and you have to choose to forgive that person instead of thinking negatively about them. I have times where I think I have completely forgiven someone but sometimes the hurt creeps back in and I feel guilty and think, what is going on?!
In which case they responded, “Angela, I think you just answered your own question.”
Forgiving and Loving go almost hand in hand
I say almost because love is an even more complex topic and forgiving is only one aspect or side of loving someone, there are more sides to loving. But yes, forgiving someone is an act of love. God sent his son in the ultimate act of love to die for our sins so we may be forgiven. (1 John 3:16)
I personally believe that love is not just a feeling but also an action. We must choose to love every day. Being human, loving doesn’t always come easy. It’s easy to love your family and close friends, most of the time it comes naturally and unconditionally. It’s harder to show love to someone who is a stranger or to someone who is against you. Similar to forgiving. I used to believe forgiving someone is a one time act. That once you forgive them once for something, that you will no longer care about it and it has gone away. Sometimes that is the case. Especially for minor things. But, sometimes it’s not the case. Sometimes it’s an every day decision, (this is what I concluded at the end of last night’s Bible Study). Especially when the hurt they caused is now something you must live with for the rest of your life.
So what do you do when forgiveness doesn’t come easy? Here are some suggestions.
- Realize that you have hurt others before and you need grace just as much as them. That we are all human and fall short.
- Pray for them. Even when it hurts, pray for them.
- If you can, please please please try and talk to them! Let them know what is wrong and try to come to a mutual understanding if possible. This is not always possible in certain circumstances, but when it is you should try. Sometimes you may need time to get to this point.
- Vent to a trusted friend who can comfort and pray for you.
- Distance yourself if needed. You can’t change anyone or make them understand what you are going through. But you can change yourself (with God’s help and other means of help). You can keep yourself from negativity.
- If you must see them a lot, try to kill them with kindness and show love. Eventually it will become easier. Almost like fake it till you make it.
- Avoid gossiping about the person who you have something against. Fueling gossip only fuels your own anger and hate!
Obviously every situation is different and complex, these are only my suggestions. And I write them for myself as a reminder because I have been struggling with forgiveness. I’m honestly a very emotional person. And it makes me feel even guilty to say that because I am a Christian and I know God calls us to forgive and he forgives me even when I seriously mess up over and over again. But that’s why we can all learn and encourage each other.
Good points made by my friends:
- Often times people don’t really understand the extent of how much they have hurt you. If they did, the would feel just as heartbroken.
- Just because the other person is over it, doesn’t mean you have to be. It takes people different amounts of time to feel ok and to process what happened. Take as much time as you need.
- Don’t wish someone bad or curse them. Wish them well and actively try to change your mindset. If a negative thought pops up about them try to diffuse it.
- If you forgive someone, doesn’t mean they have to be back in your life.
- Forgiving doesn’t mean you forget what happened. It means you let go and used the situation to better yourself.
MY BIG BELIEF: JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE HAS BEEN A CRAPPY PERSON TO YOU OR IN GENERAL DOES NOT MEAN THAT IS THEIR SET CHARACTER OR BEHAVIOR FOR LIFE. ANYONE WHO IS WILLING CAN CHANGE. TREAT THEM WITH THEIR POTENTIAL AND MAYBE THEY WILL BELIEVE THEY CAN ACHEIVE IT. GOD LOVES US BECAUSE HE SEE’S ALL THAT WE ARE. HE DOESN’T SETTLE ON OUR MISTAKES OR SINS. FORGIVING AT THE TOUGHEST TIMES IS THE WAY THAT YOU CAN SHOW THE LOVE OF GOD TO SOMEONE WHO NEEDS IT!! YESS!!!
I will be thinking about this and also trying to live this out in my life. I will write hopefully a part 2 when I receive more insight and experience on the topic. One friend from Bible Study had an epiphany and is now going to ask someone for forgiveness. We must also realize that if we feel guilty for something we did, it is never too late to apologize to someone that we hurt. Even if it’s years later! We all need to be intentional with loving, living, and forgiving every day of our lives!
Whoever you are, reading this..if you want to shoot me a little prayer, that would be great. 🙂 If you need prayer. Let me know!
“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him” Daniel 9:9
Have a great week my friends,