One of the most powerful and helpful things we can do to be healthy emotionally, physically and spiritually, is to practice forgiveness. Forgiveness enables a person to release buried anger, resentment, bitterness, shame, grief, regret, hate and other damaging emotions that live inside of us. Forgiveness releases layers and years of hurt and begins the healing process. Forgiveness leads to an ability to love well.
It is important to know what forgiveness is and what it is not.
- Forgiveness is not forgetting – Forgetting is a long-term by-product of forgiveness. Once you choose to forgive someone, then healing and forgetting the hurt can start to happen.
- Forgiveness is a choice – Everyone can choose to forgive, but typically we don’t feel like forgiving, because we like to hold onto our anger or resentment in order to protect ourselves. When we don’t forgive we stay chained to our past. Nobody can fix your past, but you can be free from it, it is your choice.
- Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin – We all have had someone hurt us and we can either live in the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness. No one gets off God’s hook, we all have to give an account for our actions and there are always consequences for our actions.
- Forgive from the heart – Just saying the words I forgive you is not enough. It’s important to bring back up the painful emotions and memories of the person that hurt you so that those emotions can be healed and not buried.
- Forgiveness is choosing not to hold someone’s sin against him or her anymore – This does not mean that you put up with abuse, we all need healthy boundaries and there are consequences for sin. This means that we won’t bring up old offenses after forgiving someone. Remember that God freely forgives us and does not hold our sins against us.
- Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving – Most people will never get there. Make the hard choice to forgive, even if you don’t feel like it. Once you choose to forgive, the hold on you is broken and God can start healing your damaged emotions.
We should never base our decision to forgive on a person’s good behavior compensating for previous hurtful behavior. Forgiveness is something that happens inside of you, it comes from your desire to forgive for the sake of forgiving. Waiting until a person is worthy of forgiveness will feed your damaged emotions and cause further hurt.
Always remember that it takes only one person to forgive, but it takes two people to reconcile. You can forgive a person even if they don’t forgive you, but reconciliation always requires the wills of both parties involved.
There is so much more to forgiveness than what is covered here. Some of the principles I covered come from Neil Anderson and his booklet called Steps to Freedom in Christ. If your having a hard time making the choice to forgive, ask God to help you. He can give you the strength to do it.