I wonder how many people have zero unforgiveness in their hearts? Is it possible?
Or will we journey through life, forgiving someone but soon enough there’ll be someone else we’d place in our “unforgiveness’ queue?
For some people, boy, you know they harbour unforgiveness in them—it shows.
The more dangerous ones though are those who shove their unforgiveness away; there, stuffed in between the crevices of their heart—while they go on with their lives—cheerful face on.
Not knowing that somewhere in their hearts, the unforgiveness is like a termites infestation. Those destructive little critters eating away from the inside, unseen at first, yet will eventually bring destruction to the outside if left undetected and unresolved.
Have I frightened you yet? Because I have sure frightened myself.
Why is it so difficult to forgive?
Because some of us don’t really understand what forgiveness is. And how to forgive.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.
Let me begin with one of my pet peeves—when people say, forgive and forget. I don’t buy it. Unless one is unfortunately struck with amnesia or something similar, we’ll remember what others did to us. Forgiving others doesn’t mean we forget what happened. Oh, but how I wish that’d be the case. Then I won’t have to wince in pain when those memories trigger. Or feel like punching them in the face.
So I gotta choose—to allow those thoughts to torment me, or learn to say, “God, thank You for reminding me to forgive as You had forgiven me.”
Forgiveness doesn’t mean letting the offender mistreat you again and again.
What about repeated offences? It’s one thing to forgive someone for a one-off incident, it’s quite another to have to deal with repeated hurts. Let’s face it—some people are just mean-spirited. These people exist. They could even be in your family. Another type of person could be those who are plain unreliable or immature in his or her ways.
I know people say, walk away from friends or people who continuously hurt you. But what if the person is family?
In my case, I have no option of cutting those strings off. To cope while struggling to forgive, I had to keep a distance (sometimes physically). Just so I don’t be a martyr and place myself in front of those people and say, “go ahead and slaughter me with your words and actions; my God is big, and He’s with me.” Are you kidding me? Of course, my God is all-powerful, and He’ll heal my wounds—but He didn’t give me a brain to not think and not have the wisdom to keep being subjected to lack of respect and nasty treatments.
So, forgiveness doesn’t mean letting the offender mistreat you again and again. And it doesn’t say that you need to play the victim role and let the person walk all over you.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean there won’t be justice.
Another reason why it’s so difficult to forgive is we want to control. We might think that if we forgive, it means that we are ok with the offence. So we wanna control our “rights” to their “wrongs”. Gripping the offence tightly in our hearts gives us a false sense of justice.
Knowing that God is the final judge helps me to tame that resentment monster. I’m not saying I’m rubbing my palms with evil glee, waiting for God to punish the person. I’m practising letting go of taking things into my hands and releasing them to God instead. The former, bad for the heart; the latter, excellent for sanity.
Forgiveness doesn’t depend on them saying sorry.
Forgiveness is not about tit-for-tat either. Often I don’t wanna forgive because I want that person to know how wrong they are. But waiting for the person to change is giving the other person control over us and our sanity. So, forgiveness is not based on others’ actions but our choice.
Forgiveness is not a feeling.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’ll no longer feel the pain, ever. Also, you don’t need to feel happy before you can forgive. (Or have to feel you have to like the person.)
Forgiveness is a process, not a one-time event.
My repeated prayer to God was, “Father, I know I need to forgive, but I can’t. Though I can’t, I still choose to forgive. But Father, please heal my broken heart. Help me.” That last line became the bridge on my journey to forgiveness. “Father, please, heal my broken heart.”
However, we wanna be careful and be real with our emotional struggles especially when the pain is fresh. When my heart was shattered into pieces and engulfed in the fire of pain; although I know the Bible has many scriptures on forgiveness, and Christ has demonstrated the greatest love and forgiveness to me—I still can’t forgive! I was an emotional wreck.
So, be kind to yourself as God knows your condition. Be careful not to merely cover your wounds and hinder the healing process. Forgiveness is a process, not a one-time event.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation.
Not every relationship will have reconciliation after forgiveness, though some do. Even if there’s no reconciliation, we still can choose to forgive someone. If you ask, “what’s the point of forgiveness if we can’t reconcile?” Just remember the termites in your heart, chew chew chew, bite bite bite.
Do I do all that I’ve shared?
Even though I’m convicted to the core of what I’ve written, sometimes there’s a stubborn side of me who prefers not to do any of the above. Preferring the safety of darkness; locking myself in as a willing prisoner.
That’s when I whipped up the greatest weapon ever—prayer.
Whether I feel like it or not, I’d choose (ok, sometimes I had to force myself) to pray for the people who’ve wronged me.
Sometimes I pray in my own words. Sometimes I use a guided prayer.
Often what started out as a reading of those printed words on the guided prayer turns into my prayer. It became real from within me. It became a cry to God. To change my heart. To heal where it’s needed. To feel compassion and love for the other person. To ask for forgiveness for myself and claim responsibility if I’ve played a part in the strained or broken relationship.
I find my heart slowly changing towards the person. For some, I even see changes in the person! Now…one might wonder; is it my heart who’s changed or is it them?
Whatever it is, this is the truth:
Prayer to forgive others.
If you have someone to forgive, and you wanna take a step forward in the forgiveness process, I’d invite you to think of them now. And pray along with this prayer:
Lord, I bring to mind (name)
I bring him/her before You
I feel hurt by them
Right now I confess any negative feelings I have about them
I forgive the wrongs they have done towards me
For any deliberate or unintentional things they have done
That have caused me pain
In the best way that I know how, I fully forgive them
I release them to You
Now that I have forgiven (name)
I choose not to hold any grudges towards him/her
Thank you that as I am praying now
You are freeing my inner world to live again
Free from resentment, pain and bitterness
Filled with joy, freedom and love
(the above prayer for forgiving others is from www.lords-prayer-words.com)
I sometimes use this prayer for forgiveness too.
Dear heavenly Father,
I thank You for Your love and kindness toward me. It is Your kindness that has led me to repentance, turning from all my sinful ways and turning to You. I admit that I have not been kind, patient and loving to others when they have offended me. I have allowed bitterness and resentment to grow in me, separating me from others and You, Father.
At times, I have forgotten this unforgiveness in my heart. This unforgiveness festers deep within me, at times beyond my conscious reach. This affects every aspect of my life and gives the enemy a right to torment me as stated in Matthew 18. I confess that this unforgiveness and bitterness is affecting my life and relationships today. Because of these past hurts, I acknowledge the inability to love or trust others to any depth.
I understand that forgiveness is not an emotion but an act of my will. I now choose to exercise my will to forgive others as You, Father, have forgiven me. Father, I know that You are a searcher of the heart. I ask You to search my heart. Reveal to me any hidden and secret unforgiveness or bitterness toward others that have hurt or offended me.
I choose not to be ruled by a spirit of bitterness. I choose to forgive and have a spirit of peace and love in my heart. I repent, forgive and release these people right now. I ask You, Heavenly Father, to forgive me and restore me as I forgive those who have offended me. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would bring everything to our remembrance.
Dear Holy Spirit,
I am asking You to bring to my remembrance anyone I have to forgive and I will forgive them in Jesus’ name. Amen.
(I’ve lost the link to the original author/article. My apologies as I’m unable to give credit to the original author/article.)
“Forgiveness is the final form of love.”– Reinhold Neibuhr