Today's habit is one that will take practice. Are you ready for Habit #12? Let's learn how to forgive people even if they don't “deserve” it.
The word forgive is defined as a verb meaning “to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake or to cancel a debt.”
Wow. That’s mind blowing if you really let it sink in.
Does anyone technically deserve forgiveness? Consider the fact that God forgives us of so much more than we will ever forgive of others.
Why it’s hard sometimes to forgive
People can be really hurtful. Someone mistreated us. We want justice.
Have you ever watched people who could have owned up to their own bad decision stay deluded and avoid responsibility or even worse shift blame to others? Or maybe the person who wronged you may have even tried to control you and manage you or keep you from interacting with the people they have lied to so that the truth never came out.
Life is filled with injustice. It can cause us to become captive in our own prison. Our feelings get tossed about, we start to become bitter, then we start holding a grudge. Finding forgiveness keeps us from being a prisoner in our pain.
Forgiveness is not a feeling, it’s a decision. It is a decision to release our regrets and our own desire for justice. Don’t misunderstand, forgiveness does not absolve the other party of guilt or justify the wrong things they have done. It is not condoning or excusing and it doesn’t necessarily mean a reconciliation. Forgiveness doesn’t even have to involve the other party!
To free ourselves we must make the choice to forgive others. Forgiving someone who you think does not deserve forgiveness allows YOU to move forward. When you make the choice to forgive others you allow God to do His healing work on you.
Forgiving others actually makes you a healthier person physically as well as mentally. Forgiveness is laying aside your bitterness. Acknowledge what has happened and accept or even express your emotions (to yourself or to God) and then make a decision not to let others’ actions influence your own behavior.
Have you ever heard the saying about how not forgiving others is like taking poison and expecting it to harm the other person? Well unforgiveness is harming you more than the other person. That is because the suffering is stressful and it causes your body to produce more and more cortisol. (higher cortisol means more belly fat, lowered immune function, sleep disruption and other unpleasantries)
When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free. ~ Catherine Ponder
We can’t just be motivated to forgive others for our own benefit. We should also be motivated to forgive because we know we have also been forgiven. According to Ephesians 4:32 which says, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” When we have a hard time forgiving someone this is a good reminder.
Not only because he has forgiven us, but our motivation to forgive should be because we love God and want to obey him 1 John 4:21 says “And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” By the way, your “brother” is anyone in need, your fellow man.
Lastly, the motivation to forgive must come out of love for those who hurt us as noted in Colossians 3:12-14 “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”
According to this verse, love is the bond of perfection. Love is the perfect glue! To be able to extend forgiveness I believe we must be truly thankful for the forgiveness that was given to us.
After you have forgiven someone, it is possible that those painful feelings will emerge if triggered by a memory. Don’t think you have not forgiven because you cannot forget. Forgiveness does not destroy your memories. However, forgiveness means you consciously choose how you respond when those memories do resurface.
Forgiveness does not mean you start pretending things are okay when they’re not. (more on that subject in a future habit so make sure you are signed up to receive this entire series!)
Forgiveness is not a pass for the other person to continue hurting you. You can forgive someone and at the same time remove yourself from further offense! If you believe the other person has the potential to harm you in any way, it might be best to cut the ties with that person. In such cases as abuse, it is important to think of your own safety. If you are suffering abuse from another person, you should seek help.
Walking in offense
Sometimes when we find ourselves having a hard time forgiving others we might need to ask ourselves, “am I walking in offense?” Walking in offense means perpetually hurt feelings, being overly touchy, someone you have to walk on eggshells around all the time. Being easily offended is often tied to pride and control.
False expectations can lead to becoming overly sensitive or having easily hurt feelings. For example, when someone unintentionally leaves you hanging; maybe they didn’t return your text or call, or they cancel without an explanation and your mind goes straight into offense mode! “How could she?”
Instead of walking in offense, we need to choose to have a thoughtful heart, a selfless reaction of understanding. If you hold on to bitterness it often leads to the feeling that everyone is out to get you. The only cure is to immerse yourself in God’s word, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psa. 119:165 KJV) Doing so will free you from the bondage of offenses.
The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. And the first to forget is the happiest ~ unknown
I learned so much writing this post! I hope that I have encouraged you to be a healthier person by practicing forgiveness. One last thing I will share is that if you cannot forgive yourself, you will have a much harder time forgiving others. I think the person I have the hardest time forgiving is usually myself!