Be kind and compassionate towards one another, forgiving each other just as God in Christ forgave you.
There are times in our lives when forgiving someone seems absolutely absurd. The pain others cause us can seem unforgivable. We say things like “I can’t forgive her; do you know what she did to me?”. We are essentially saying that a person’s behavior excludes them from the privilege of our forgiveness. In the world’s estimation, this thought pattern seems true and justified; but this is opposite of what Christ has demonstrated for us.
So why exactly is this our default behavior? Why do we hold on to unforgiveness like a badge of honor and the pain of offense as if our lives depended on it?
The answer is quite simple: We do not realize that we were forgiven first (Rom 5:8). Christ does not ask us to do anything that He was not willing to take the lead on. As we begin to understand all that Christ has forgiven us of, we begin to see that there is really no offense that cannot be forgiven.
There are some misconceptions about forgiveness that I hope to help you resolve:
Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation; they are two separate transactions. Forgiveness only takes one person, and that is you. Forgiving someone is a choice that we make because we want to be obedient to God. Notice that I said it is “a choice” not “a feeling”. A lot of times we do not want to forgive someone because we think that means we have to be in relationship with them again if we do, but that is not true. Though forgiveness and reconciliation are often paired together, they are completely independent; you can forgive someone and still decide to end the relationship. Reconciliation is a decision that two people are making to mend the relationship. How do we know if we should reconcile a relationship? We should watch for fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt 3:8) meaning, are they changing? Not just their words but their actions.
We think that if we forgive someone we are condoning their bad behavior. “If I forgive him, then he is going to think it okay to treat me this way” (refer to point one). In addition to forgiveness, it is important that we address hurtful behavior and set boundaries. If someone you love is consistently repeating the same hurtful behavior towards you and you have never said anything about it, its possible that they do not know they are hurting you. A good model for starting this conversation is: “When you do _________, I feel_________. I would rather you_______”.
We think that forgiving someone is for their benefit but really it is for ours. Unforgiveness poisons the container that holds it, don’t let that container be you!
Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the prison doors of bitterness. If you are holding on to unforgiveness, be encouraged that you do not have to right the wrongs in your life. It is okay to let go and let Jesus validate and vindicate you. You can live free by choosing to forgive.