Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
One thing in life is for sure—you will have to face up to the thorny issue of forgiving somebody. It’s inevitable.
Because we live with other people, usually in a family setting or some other kind of relationship, conflict will raise its ugly head—and you’ll be hurt or disappointed. How do you deal with it? Can you actually take the step of forgiving others? It’s a huge topic worth exploring.
Today you may be experiencing conflict with a specific person—and you wonder how it got to that point. Was it my fault or theirs? A small insignificant issue can grow out of all proportions. And before you know it, it’s become ‘World War III’. And it can turn nasty. In order to forgive someone, you need to be able to deal with the hurt and anger you associate with them. Holding on to anger and hurt feelings can weigh you down and have a negative impact on your physical health, your overall happiness, and the quality of your relationships.
Forgiveness Is Not Easy But It Is Good For Your Health
Never underestimate how damaging it can become. It’s OK if you aren’t ready to forgive someone; just take some time to think about it. If you decide you are ready, but you’re having trouble working through the steps, you can also try these suggestions:
- Talk about the situation with people you trust. An outsider’s perspective can help shed new light on things.
- Write down your thoughts and emotions. They can become clearer once they’re on paper.
- Speak to a professional. If your experience is particularly hard or complicated, it can be really useful to talk to an expert, such as a counsellor.
Forgiveness isn’t always an easy process, and it’s understandable if you struggle with it. But it’s worth trying out some of the suggestions above, to see if you can reshape the way you think and feel about the past and let go of any hurt feelings around it.
Be as ready to forgive others as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32 – J.B. Phillips)
There is another perspective on forgiveness which I believe is the best way to go. Consider what God says to us through the Bible. Ephesians says:
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Banish bitterness, rage and anger, shouting and slander, and any and all malicious thoughts—these are poison. Instead be kind and compassionate. Graciously forgive one another just as God has forgiven you… (Ephesians 4:31-32 – The Voice).
It seems to me that forgiveness is our response and our responsibility. No-one else’s. It can become part of the blame game and that is never very helpful.
Four Steps to Forgiving Others
- Recognise no one is perfect. When we hate somebody, we tend to lose our perspective about that person. When we’re filled with resentment and bitterness and hurt, we tend to dehumanise the offender. We treat that person like an animal. But we’re all in the same boat. The Bible says, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT). We’re all imperfect.
- Relinquish your right to get even. This is the heart of forgiveness. The Bible says, “Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it” (Romans 12:19 TLB). You deserve to retaliate, but you must commit not to do so. It’s not fair, but it’s healthy. This isn’t a one-time decision but a daily one that may even require moment-by-moment decisions.
- Respond to evil with good. This is how you know you’ve fully released someone from the wrong that has been committed against you. Humanly speaking, it’s nearly impossible to respond to evil with good. You’ll need God’s help. You’ll need the love of Jesus to fill you up. Why? God’s love doesn’t keep track of wrongs (see 1 Corinthians 13).
- Refocus on God’s plan for your life. You stop focusing on the hurt and the person who hurt you. Instead, you refocus on God’s purpose for your life, which is greater than any problem or pain you might be currently facing. Do you know His purpose for your life? As long as you continue to focus on the person who has hurt you, that person controls you. In fact, you can take it a step further. If you don’t release your offender, you will begin to resemble your offender.
Christians Must Practise Forgiveness
Jesus said that forgiving others is so important that if you are worshiping God when you remember that your brother has something against you, you should first go be reconciled to your brother and then come back to worship God (Matthew 5:23-24). So it is vital for you as a Christian to grapple with understanding and practising forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the decision to drop the offense, to let it go. Are you prepared to do that today? Sure, it’s not easy but with God’s help and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you can do it. God forgives us so that we may be reconciled to him and enjoy a close relationship with him. When we forgive others, we should also seek to restore the broken relationship. This does not always mean becoming best of friends, but it should at least mean that we are cordial and friendly towards the person. To say, I forgive you, but I never want to see your ugly face again, is not to forgive as God forgives!
Of course, if the offender does not truly repent of his sin, we cannot be truly reconciled or in a close relationship. But even then, we are still commanded to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:27-28).