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.
In Part 6, I discussed some of the things that forgiveness is not. If you did not read Part 6 of this blog series, you can read it here.
Now lets talk about what forgiveness really is.
What Forgiveness Is…
So what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is to stop feeling anger towards someone (someone who has done something wrong to you): to stop blaming (someone).
Forgiveness is a costly sacrifice. A person who forgives takes on the cost of sacrifice by not retaliating, not seeking revenge, and not harboring resentment towards that person. When someone does something to us that we see as wrong and unjust, we have a natural tendency to want to retaliate and do something wrong to that person. If we truly forgive that person, we make the choice not to retaliate. When someone does something wrong to us, our own sense of justice is thrown into unbalance and we want to balance the scales by seeking revenge towards that person. The problem is that two wrongs do not add up to a right. The act of revenge is never as satisfying as we initially think it is going to be. We might get some level of satisfaction out of revenge, but that satisfaction is very short-lived. Doing the right thing and forgiving the person, without seeking revenge gives a sense of satisfaction that lasts much longer. Sometimes, we never retaliate or seek revenge by actually doing something to the person who does us wrong, but we harbor resentment towards that person. We never actually tell that person we resent them, but it does affect our relationship with them. Holding resentment towards someone is like a cancer that can destroy the life of a relationship. It can be very hard to forgive and not hold resentment towards someone, but by doing so, you can save the relationship.
We see the best picture of true forgiveness on the cross. Jesus is the only man who has ever lived on this earth, ever, who has not committed a sin. He never did anything bad to anyone. He never treated anyone bad. He did get angry at times, but it was never unjustified. He is the one person who deserved his fate the least of anyone who has ever roamed this earth. Despite all this, He loved us so much that He chose to take on all the sins of everybody who had ever lived, was living at that time, and would ever live in the future. All people had to do is choose to believe in Him. He chose to forgive all our sins and give us all a clean slate so that we could be declared righteous despite all our sins and we could have a relationship with God and be given eternal life in heaven. Jesus never chose revenge or to retaliate. Jesus never held a grudge against those who mistreated Him. He chose to forgive. He even forgave those who were torturing Him, while they were torturing Him. I can’t imagine being able to do that, but Jesus gives us a clear picture of what forgiveness really is by what He did on the cross. His life serves as a blueprint for us to follow in our own lives as something to try to emulate.
For me personally, it’s hard for me to truly forgive, but I have made the decision in my life to truly forgive people because I wanted to stop living my life being angry at people because doing that is exhausting. It is not exhausting for the person you are angry at because they let it go and move on with their life and you are the one stuck holding on to the anger. I just got to a point in my life that I got tired of being angry all the time. No matter how many times someone wrongs me; I can choose not to let that affect me anymore. It is like developing an immunity to holding on to anger you have against someone. I am not saying I do not get angry at people, because I do. The difference is that now I no longer allow myself to hang on to that anger. I forgive the person for doing something stupid or wrong and then I simply let it go.
I have adopted the 24 hour rule. It is something I learned while playing college football. Whether you win or lose a game, you get 24 hours to either celebrate that win or 24 hours to lament that loss. After the 24 hours is up, it is time to move on to prepping for your next opponent. If you hang on to a win or loss longer than that, it can affect your preparation for the next opponent and cause you to not be as prepared as you should be. This is how one loss can lead to two losses. I use this same 24 hour rule in my life today in dealing with forgiveness. If someone has wronged me, I give myself 24 hours to let it stick with me and at the end of the 24 hours, it is time to forgive that person and move on. If it is me who has wronged someone else, I get 24 hours to think about it and run different justifications through my mind, but at the end of the 24 hours, it is time for me to ask for forgiveness from that person. It is then their choice as to whether they want to forgive me or not. It is totally off my shoulders. If they do forgive me, great we move on with life. If they do not forgive me, it is not ideal, but I still move on with life. Stewing over it in my mind past those 24 hours serves me absolutely no good. I just hold myself to this 24 hour rule and it just makes this whole process go so much better for me. I am able to live a much happier life than what I used to.