What Ever Happened to: Forgiveness?

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By Myrna Conrad

There seems to be so much anger and hatred in our world right now and so little forgiveness and love. It’s not as if this struggle to forgive is a new issue for any of us. When someone hurts us or someone we love, our first and most natural response is to take offense. However, today it seems that anger and offense have been taken to a whole new level. In fact, some of the people jumping on the offended bandwagon weren’t even a part of the offense. We see it acted out in the destruction going on in some of our major cities today.

It is hard to forgive, because we might feel that the person does not deserve our forgiveness, especially if they haven’t even asked for forgiveness. However, forgiveness is vitally important for our mental and physical health. The one that gets hurt the most is the person who lets unforgiveness fester in his or her heart. Perhaps forgiveness seems impossible, because we don’t understand what it really means to forgive. Let’s look at what forgiveness is and what it is not.

What Forgiveness Is:
– Forgiveness is a choice not a feeling. We don’t have to feel forgiveness to choose to forgive.
– Forgiveness is more for the person who is harboring anger and bitterness than it is for the person they are forgiving.
– Forgiveness is life giving, while unforgiveness keeps your heart bound in bitterness and anger and can even affect your physical health.
– Forgiveness opens your heart toward others.
– Forgiveness gives you back the power and peace that was taken by event that hurt you.

What Forgiveness Is Not:
– Forgiveness does not mean ignoring that you have been hurt and mistreated. It means acknowledging it and then being willing to let it go.
– Forgiveness does not mean you have to have a relationship with the one you are forgiving. However, it will open your heart for relationship with others.
– Forgiveness is not a “one and done” thing. The thoughts of what someone has done will pop up in your mind again and you have to choose to not let it linger and take root in your mind and heart. You have to continue to choose forgiveness.

There are so many destructive consequences of holding on to offense, yet so many benefits in choosing to forgive. While there seems to be so much power in anger, bitterness and revenge, these are really only chains that keep us imprisoned. The real power and freedom comes in choosing to forgive.

I held on to unforgiveness for a long time because of something that happened to me as a child. I know firsthand how destructive it can be. It was when I truly realized how offensive my sins are to God and what He was willing to do so that I could be forgiven and have a relationship with Him that I had to choose forgiveness. I didn’t feel forgiveness, especially at first, but I chose to forgive. It changed my life and my relationships. Life is too short and too beautiful to let anger, bitterness and unforgiveness take root in your heart.

Do you want to develop a heart of forgiveness instead of hurt and anger? Here are a few strategies:

Be Aware:
– Be aware of when something offends you. Think about why it offended you and what you need to do to restore relationship or let it go.
– Be aware of how your unforgiveness is affecting you and those around you.
– Be aware of your own imperfections.
– Be aware of how much you are cared for by God and by others.
– Think about how you feel when someone refuses to forgive you.
– Be aware of what you are teaching others when you are unwilling to forgive.

Be Intentional:
– Choose to let go of offenses quickly.
– Choose to forgive others as well as yourself.
– Demonstrate forgiveness to your loved ones. People are always watching how you react and respond.
– Look for things that you can learn from whatever happened to offend you.
– Make sure you have not offended someone else and if you have always be willing to ask for forgiveness.
– Thank God every day for forgiving you.

Forgiveness will not only change your heart, it will change your life.