Dr. Maria D. Reyes
Forgiveness is one of the hardest things you must do for your personal growth. Yet it is essential if you want to be free from the past and live a wholehearted life. This article will address what forgiveness is all about, how to forgive, and why you should do it.
Definition of Forgiveness
It may surprise you to learn that forgiveness does not equal forgetting the offense, nor does it equal reconciling with your offender. Forgiveness is acknowledging the hurt committed against you and then surrendering it to God.Forgiveness is essentially an act of trust. You are trusting God to perfectly handle the offense. No matter how slight or serious the offense may be, God can handle it better than you. He is transcendent, meaning he can see the entire situation from all sides. He is all-knowing, understanding the motives and feelings of both parties. God is all-wise, working all things together for your good, even the offenses you experience.
When you choose to forgive, you transfer your natural desire to get even into God’s capable hands. In the Bible, God promises to administer justice. We learn about this in Romans 12:19 NIV: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Forgiveness is an act of trust that sets you free from your offender. You are no longer connected to them through the offense when you release it to God. The offense may linger in your memory, but it does not have to hold power over you. You can trust God to set you free since he is wise and strong enough to handle all your problems. He will also show you whether reconciliation is possible after you offer forgiveness.
We can forgive others because God forgave us. Since we can never repay the debts we have incurred by sinning against God, he expects us to forgive the much smaller debts others owe us. The parable Jesus tells in Matthew 18:21-35 clearly demonstrates this fact.
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus teaches us that we must forgive. We are to pray: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12 NIV) He tells us that unless we forgive one another, our Father in heaven will not forgive us (Matt. 6:15). That’s how important forgiveness is to our God.
Jesus modeled forgiveness to us the day he was crucified. As the Roman soldiers mocked and abused him, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) If Jesus can do this for the men who nailed him to the cross, we can forgive the worst offenses others have committed against us as well.
As we depend on God to give us the strength to forgive and follow Jesus’ example, we will be set free from our offenders and live the abundant life God promises for us. A qualified Christian counselor can help you understand God’s forgiveness and how you can apply it in your own forgiveness process.
Why Forgiving Others is So Difficult
All of us have struggled to forgive someone for deeply hurting us. Whether it was intentional or unintentional, your offender’s words or actions struck you to the core. You may have literal or figurative scars from the wounds they left on your body, mind, heart, and spirit.
Forgiving others is a painful process. By holding onto unforgiveness, you may feel that you have a measure of power over the situation. However, unforgiveness has been compared to holding a bottle of poison and drinking it yourself. It does not actually set you free from the offense; it only keeps you bound to misery.
When you need to forgive a deep hurt, you may only be able to do so with God’s help. His supernatural power can free you from the burdens that may have held you down for decades. A caring Christian counselor can also walk you through the steps of forgiveness so you will no longer live in bondage to your offender.
How to Forgive
Jesus told us that we must forgive again and again (see Matt. 18:22). Forgiveness is a process that can take weeks, months or even years. But every time we choose forgiveness instead of bitterness, we choose the path that God wants us to walk for his glory and our spiritual growth.
You can choose to forgive by meditating on Scriptures about forgiveness. When you feel a grudge forming, immediately declare God’s Word over the grudge. Keep verses, like the ones mentioned in this post, handy on 3 x 5 cards or stored in your smartphone. By speaking them out loud in times of trial, you will speak God’s truth over your problem and begin experiencing true freedom.
Satan will tempt you to focus on your hurt again and again. Every time a reminder of your hurt comes into your mind, speak Jesus’ words of forgiveness over it. Surrender the hurt back to God and say, “Lord, I place this matter into your hands and trust you to handle it.” By going straight to God in prayer, you will defeat the power of the devil in your offenses.
It may be helpful to write a forgiveness list for each person who has offended you. You may need to write one for yourself as well. By writing out hurts, you are acknowledging them before God. You are releasing them from your heart and trusting God to handle them.
Some people write forgiveness lists, then shred or burn them to symbolize release. You can also use forgiveness lists to facilitate conversations with a Christian counselor, who can help you find the freedom you seek.
Christian Counseling for Learning How to Forgive
Forgiveness can be an overwhelming challenge and you may not feel strong enough to handle the process of learning how to forgive on your own. A Christian counselor is trained to help you unpack the hurts in your past and heal from them through forgiveness.
You will find compassion and practical help when you speak with a qualified counselor. Please give us a call if you are ready to begin the journey of forgiveness. We would be honored to walk beside you and coach you in your pursuit of freedom.
“Laying on of Hands”, Courtesy of Jon Tyson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reaching for the Light”, Courtesy of Dev Benjamin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Regrets”, Courtesy of Jonathan Rados, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fly With Me”, Courtesy of Mohamed Nohassi, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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