Forgiveness is one of the most difficult practices of the human heart.
It is contrary to reason. We justify our unforgiveness with the hope that it will help direct us away from bad situations or help us to learn and grow stronger. But harboring hatred toward those who have brought us harm only ends in more harm. When we withhold forgiveness, we hold on to offenses and refuse to let them go, the very things we desire to leave behind.
Reasons I don't forgive:
1. I'm angry and plan on staying angry. It's too soon to forgive.
2. I don't want to let my offender/s off the hook. They need to admit guilt and take responsibility before I'll forgive them.
3. I don't see the point. My forgiveness doesn't feel necessary for me or for them.
4. I haven't confronted them with their offense yet.
5. I want to harness my rage to hopefully enact greater change.
Watch this video for a great illustration of our need to forgive and to be forgiven. I also find it interesting how this video interprets our experience (or lack thereof) of forgiveness in a post-religious culture.
Three ways we view forgiveness:
When we are offended, neglected, taken advantage of, etc. it is as if our peace has unraveled like a spool of yarn. Offense leaves us feeling let out, disoriented, vulnerable, and exposed.
What is your natural response to offense? How do you deal with it?
1) Forgetting is forgiving
"It's whatever." "Time heals all wounds." "Just keep swimming" This response has taken many forms over the years, but the thread between them all remains the same. Move on. Get over it. But forgetting is not forgiving. There are things you will walk away from thinking you're detached from them, only to later realize you've been dragging them behind you the whole time. If someone/something has left you unraveled, moving on is not always the best response. Forgetting is not forgiving.
2) Cut the cord.
Many times we're told that forgiveness is like cutting a cord. To forgive is to break the bond between you and the memory, the moment, or the person. This response leads us to believe what has been taken from us will never be restored, so we'll give it up in exchange for the feeling of being whole.
3) True forgiveness.
Many times in practicing forgiveness you can't always receive back what has been taken from you. But God uses forgiveness to restore and give you back what was taken.
The offenses we face in life leave us strung out, taken from, and depleted. When we regain our composure, we each have our own ways of reacting to offense. Some of us tend to be silent, even dismissive of the pain we’re experiencing to convince ourselves we’re going to be ok. Some of us tend to seek retribution immediately and forcefully. Wherever you land on this spectrum, it’s helpful to ask: are my responses to offense leading me back into the peace God desires for my life on the other side of this pain? Or are they stealing even more from me?