What Does True Forgiveness Actually Look Like?

Forgiveness Principles:

  • Forgiveness is an accounting term
  • Forgiveness is focused on the debt, not the debtor
  • ‘Forgive and forget’ — don’t really see this in scripture
  • Forgiveness is not optional in God’s Kingdom
  • We cannot give away what we do not receive, and we cannot receive what we do not give away.

I suppose that as you read that title you probably thought that I would have an answer for you. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t.

I only say that because it’s the truth. I want to have an answer to that question so badly, but at the same time, I know the kind of struggle I have with forgiveness that I’m not sure that I am the best person to answer that question. Actually, I know I’m probably not the best person to answer that question.

First, I need to make something clear. Something that a lot of people have a hard time understanding. And something that makes forgiving someone else a little bit easier. Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation. Ever.

Because you forgive someone does not mean that you forget what has happened. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you have to pretend like it never happened.

I think this idea has never really been explained to me, thus explaining why I’ve had such a hard time with forgiving people. However, it is not the only reason I struggle with forgiving others.

Forgiving someone means I don’t get to control that particular situation anymore. And since we all know what kind of control freak I am, that can be really hard. I don’t always want to give up that control.

If you mess with me I want you to pay for it. That’s the sinner in me talking. But it’s true. If you hurt me, I want to hurt you, or at least I want you to hurt. I want you to learn your lesson. That way you never hurt me again, but does that really ever work? Absolutely not. People are often repeat offenders whether or not I’ve taught them a lesson.

I am often a repeat offender.

But what if they don’t say they’re sorry?!

This idea that I have to forgive someone who doesn’t necessarily want me to forgive them, are you kidding me?! But if I forgive them and they don’t even want it then how will they learn? The answer, they won’t, probably. But then it’s not your job to teach them. It’s your job, especially as a Christian, to lead by example.

My husband does a lot of things that drive me crazy. A lot. Seriously, like so much. And most of the time he doesn’t apologize. He won’t ask for my forgiveness. Not to worry because I wouldn’t give him my forgiveness. At all.

I can not tell you how many times I have prayed and asked God ‘Why’. Why do I have to deal with this from my husband? Why can’t he just learn? Why does he always make me so mad? Is this how it’s going to be for the rest of my life? What is the point?

Literally, I’ve been asking those questions for years. Because it’s hard for me to understand and wrap my mind around why this has to be so difficult. It doesn’t. All my husband has to do is exactly what I want, when I want, how I want, right? Not hard at all. :)

And I’m not going to lie to you, for years I’ve expected God to make things change. “Dear God, please fix my husband because I want to be happy and have a happy marriage and if he would just fix his stuff then we would be fine. Amen.”

I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing. But seriously. This is what I wanted. I wanted God to fix him.

Let’s take a look at that last sentence. I wanted God to fix him. Implying that God made him broken. That’s impossible. But how could he be the man for me when he makes me so mad and then he doesn’t even care.

Well, it only took, what, eight years or so for me to finally have the answer, the thing is my husband is perfect for me just the way he is. I have such a hard time with forgiving people and so God placed my husband in my life so I would be able to work on it. And I have.

Want to know something funny? I thought that ‘true forgiveness’ would be hard. I thought it would be painstakingly hard, but it wasn’t.

It is not my job to ‘fix’ anyone. And people mess up. I mess up. Not forgiving someone means that I don’t deserve to be forgiven and that’s just not true. I mean, I don’t deserve it, but I want it. So how silly of me to withhold it from others. So, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you are fixing anyone, it means that you have compassion for their brokenness because you, too, are broken.

It is also important to remember that only God can ‘fix’ someone. Give them to God and allow Him to ‘fix’ their problems.

If God can forgive me on a daily, hourly, sometimes even on a minute basis, then I can forgive others. It’s as simple as that.

So what does true forgiveness look like? Well, it looks a lot like unconditional love. One of the greatest commandments, ‘love one another as I have loved you’, right?

In my house, I have forgiven my husband. I have even, in a sense, forgiven him for future offenses. I’m going to stick to my job as wife and mother and I’m going to let God do what He does best, restore.

I encourage you to take a listen to my Deacon’s sermon from this past Sunday on Forgiveness and the Kingdom of God. It was amazing and it was one of those Sunday’s where God made sure that I was there to hear it because He knew that I needed it.

I would also like to end today with a prayer that may help you forgive those in your life that need to be forgiven. If you’re like me, you have a long list of people.

Father God, in the name of Jesus Christ, I release ____________ to you in forgiveness for committing the sin of ____________ against me. (Visualize the cross and focus on giving that offense and the one who offended you to Jesus.) I cancel this sin against me and ask that you release me from any authority the enemy has had in my life as a result of holding on to unforgiveness. I ask that you would bless __________ and restore my heart, soul, mind, and spirit regarding him/her.

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