In Part 1 of this blog series we looked at Exodus 8 and how Pharaoh waited a day to have Moses ask God to get rid of the frogs. Carrying unforgiveness around in your heart is like carrying a bunch of frogs around with you. Forgiveness allows us to get rid of these frogs. If you did not read Part 1 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 2, I shared a bit about my personal story and my journey to learn what real forgiveness was. If you did not read Part 2 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 3, I discussed the ideas of admitting we need help, taking responsibility for our own happiness, stop putting it off, and turning your mess into your message. If you did not read Part 3 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 4, I discussed the two major turning points in my life and how one of those turning points involved true forgiveness. If you did not read Part 4 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 5, I discussed some reasons why we fake forgiveness. If you did not read Part 5 of this blog series, you can read it here.
We, as people, tend to have skewed view of what forgiveness actually is. Let’s start by talking about what forgiveness is not.
What Forgiveness is Not…
Something we feel. Too often we let our feelings dictate our actions. Usually when someone hurts us, there are certain feelings associated with it. We can feel anger, sadness, resentment, even apathy towards a person. When we focus on these feelings, it can be very hard to forgive someone. I’m not saying that it is wrong to having these feelings, but we need to keep these emotions separated from the act of forgiveness. If we waited around until we felt like forgiving someone before we forgave them, we might never forgive them. Keeping emotions out of the act of forgiveness will allow you to forgive more easily.
This amazing gift we give others. Many people have the idea that they are doing someone this huge favor by forgiving them. We think that people should give us this grand thank-you for forgiving them and throw us a big party for being so gracious. There is an amazing gift in the act of forgiving someone, but the person you are forgiving is not the recipient of it…you are. That’s right. The gift is to ourselves. We are receiving the gift of not having to carry the weight of unforgiveness around with us. It is our free ticket to not have to carry another frog with us. Choose to let go of that pain by forgiving them. Make the decision to take that weight off your back. Don’t carry that pain and hurt around with you any longer. You will be giving yourself an amazing gift.
Forgetting. Just because we forgive someone, it does not mean that we forget. You can forgive without forgetting what it is that someone did that hurt you. God doesn’t forget our sins. He forgives us for our sins and separates us from our sins, but He does not forget the sins that we made. Forgiving does not mean that the relationship will be the same as it was before. Maybe someone has hurt you so bad that the relationship will never be like it was before. Maybe it will even be the end of that relationship, but you can still forgive that person. You can say, “I forgive you, but I can’t be around you any more.” By not forgiving someone and then ending the relationship, you will just continue to carry the pain and hurt with you even though you don’t see or talk to that person anymore. Forgiveness is letting go of the pain and hurt so that you can move on and be free of it. Wise forgiveness knows that sometimes changes need to be made. Sometimes you have to decide that a person is not healthy for you and you have to be able to make the decision to let them go. Just don’t make the mistake of not forgiving them before you do though.
Denying or pretending. Forgiveness is not denying that the sin or hurt ever happened. It is also not pretending that it never happened. It did happen and if you don’t face it for what it is, the pain will just stay there under the surface and cause you pain and regret at some point down the road. The reasons we like to deny or pretend it didn’t happen is either because it seems too hard to face the reality that it did happen, you don’t want to admit that this person would do that or you are afraid of how that person will react if you do acknowledge that it did happen. Each of these scenarios is unhealthy. It may not be easy to face the reality of what happened and deal with it, but if you don’t the effects down the road will be much worse than if you just faced it right now.
Waiting for an apology. This is where stubbornness can creep in. We want the person we are forgiving to earn our forgiveness so we wait for the person to develop remorse for hurting us and come to us with an apology before we are willing to forgive them. The reality is that people get over hurts they have caused you and they move on whether you forgive them or not. They may or may not be remorseful for hurting you. You most-likely are not causing that person continued pain by not forgiving them. The only pain being experienced is by you. It is great if someone does approach you with an apology for hurting you and by all means accept their apology if they do, but do not make your forgiveness dependent on them giving you an apology. The apology may never come and if it doesn’t, you don’t want to be the only one with the hurt and regret.
Waiting for the pain to go away. This one can be a little tricky. While it is true that pain does fade over the course of time, some pain never does completely go away. If you are waiting for the pain of a hurt that someone has done to you to go away before you make the decision to forgive them, you may be waiting forever. In the meantime, each day you delay this forgiveness, you will be carrying that frog around with you. This frog can alter how you live your life and make you do things and say things you would never normally do. Is it really worth having that happen just so you can delay forgiveness to a day when it won’t be as messy as it is today? If you think it is worth it, then you better get some new hiking shoes because you are going to be carrying that extra weight for a while. Make the decision to face the pain head on and kill it by forgiving the person. Once you do this, that frog will be gone and will no longer be able to affect you or your life. You will be living in a frog-free environment.
One-time event. Forgiveness is not always a one-time event. You may have to forgive someone multiple times. People are people and since we are born with sin, people mess up. To expect someone to never do anything again to you that will require your forgiveness is just not realistic. The same goes for you. You are bound to mess up as well and you will need the forgiveness of others more than once. Jesus spoke directly to this in the book of Matthew.
Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Jesus calls us to forgive those who sin against us as many times as they need to be forgiven. There is no specific number of times, but if you have it in your mind that it will only require forgiving a person just once, you will be seriously disappointed.
The same as trust. Forgiveness and trust do not necessarily go hand in hand. You can forgive someone and still trust them. There will also be times that you forgive someone, but you do not trust them anymore. The trust you once had in that person may be destroyed and you may or may not be able to ever regain that trust.