The Value of Forgiveness
In life, one of the most monumental challenges we’ll endure is learning to forgive people who’ve hurt us. For minor offenses, it’s easy. But for the deep, emotional wounds, not so much. If I can be transparent, a part of my struggle was rooted in pride. I was the person who was wronged, therefore they needed to ask for my forgiveness before I even considered offering it. In my eyes, that person was guilty of the offense and thus, they did not deserve to be forgiven.
It wasn’t until I heard a message at my church one Sunday service that I realized I was walking in unforgiveness. I wasn’t operating according to God’s will. After the sermon, I desperately wanted to get right with God and be free from the emotional burdens I was carrying. To do so, I had to understand why forgiveness is so important.
Why Should I Forgive?
If you are anything like me, you can probably find a ton of reasons why you shouldn’t forgive someone. If I am being really honest, most of those reasons are probably justified. However, forgiveness is something we need to actively pursue and here is why:
- God Forgives Us. The Bible says in Ephesians 4: 31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” The fact is, we are all imperfect, and our God is gracious enough to forgive us. How then can we deny others the same graciousness that God grants us?
- God Commanded Us. There are probably a dozen valid reasons why the person who hurt you does not deserve forgiveness, but that does not change the fact that God has called us to forgive. The Bible says in Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” It’s not a suggestion. It’s not a recommendation. It is a command. So whether you like it or not, harboring unforgiveness in your heart equates to willful disobedience of God.
- Forgiveness Frees Us. A quote that I love by Marianne Williamson says, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.” It’s interesting just how much we feel like holding onto unforgiveness hurts the person we are choosing not to forgive. The reality is that the only person who ends up hurting is us. In most cases, the other person isn’t even aware that we are hurting and/or choosing not to forgive them. So they continue living a free and full life while we wallow in anger and bitterness. As long as you choose to hold onto the offense, your heart will never be open to receive the peace or joy God desires for you to have. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. When we choose to forgive, we are granting ourselves mental and emotional freedom by releasing the offense and the person who committed the offense. Forgiving does not mean that what was done is alright. Forgiving does not mean you have to forget or forge a relationship with the other person. Forgiving simply means you are choosing not to be controlled by the event or person anymore.
How Do I Forgive?
I’m not going to pretend that forgiving others is easy, because in most cases it’s quite hard. I also do not believe there is a one size fits all method of walking in forgiveness. However, when I decided I was ready to walk in forgiveness, I found the following to be very helpful:
- Understand that Forgiveness is a Process. Most of us expect forgiveness to be instant. We expect that once we choose to forgive someone, the pain associated with the offense will immediately cease and we’ll be free of that thing forever. In reality, forgiveness is a process. There will be things that arise to remind you of the situation or person occasionally. There may be times when you find yourself dealing with negative emotions related to the particular offense. Do not get discouraged when this happens. Simply remember the choice you made to forgive and choose to commit to that choice continuously. Know that there will be a day when you won’t be bothered by the offense and trust God until that day comes.
- Give it to God. Before I ever committed to forgiving anyone, I had to turn the issue and the person over to God. You are not alone on this journey. You have a God who can and will help you through this process. It is by His strength and His strength alone that you can forgive, but you must first give Him permission to come alongside you and help you release the issue.
You deserve to have peace and joy in your life. You deserve to have complete mental and emotional freedom. Choose today to no longer be burdened by the bondage of unforgiveness. The same God who forgives you wants to help you forgive others. Allow Him to begin to do a new work in you so you can walk in obedience and embrace the freedom that is rightfully yours.