Forgiving someone who has wronged us is not always an easy thing to do; especially when the offense is grave. For many people, forgiving another person may take weeks, months and even years. But what is it exactly that makes forgiving others so hard?
For one, we have expectations. We put others in high regard and subconsciously keep a standard of how they should act around us. Husbands should provide for the family. Wives should serve the household. Children should be obedient. Employees must work hard. Boyfriends should be loyal. Girlfriends should be honest. It becomes harder to understand why people commit mistakes especially when they know the difference between right and wrong.
Secondly, we are hurt. Because we had certain expectations, it becomes almost impossible to ignore the pain others have caused us. You were cheated on. You were lied to. You were ignored. You were abandoned. You were deceived. You were assaulted. You were harassed. You were lambasted. The human brain finds it easier to wrap around the idea that others are the enemies, and that we are the victims.
Third, we protect our egos. Believing that we are the victims, our bruised egos tend to make us believe that we have a certain power over those who have wronged us. Suddenly, we feel justified in giving the “silent treatment”. Suddenly, we want to put the other person in a position where they are sorry. Suddenly, we want the other person to suffer for hurting us.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Only those who are truly strong at heart can forgive others simply because, as explained earlier, it can be a very difficult thing to do. When we forgive others, we stop blaming them and making them feel the need to suffer for their sins.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4: 31-32, NIV
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” – Luke 6:37, ESV
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” – Colossians 3: 13, ESV
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” – Matthew 18: 21-22, NIV
Jesus tells us to forgive not seven times, but seventy-seven times, which in the Bible is symbolic for the meaning of “forever”.
So then, how do we forgive?
1. Know that you, too, are imperfect. Just like the person who has wronged you. Come from a point of understanding to know why the person acted the way he/she did. Understanding someone does not justify or make the act right. It merely helps in realizing that given the circumstances, the other person possibly did not meant to hurt you. And if he or she did, maybe it was because of a deeper, unresolved problem of hurt and pain as well. What has this person been through? Why did this person act the way he/she did? What are his/her struggles in life?
2. Ask for God’s help. God knows that forgiving is not easy, and that is why He is there to help you through the process. He helped us by offering up his son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, so that we may be forgiven. (John 3:16) This gift of forgiveness is something we are meant to share with one another. Let God make his way into your heart and help move you to find inner peace.
3. Know that the longer you stay angry, you give that other person the power to control you. There is a saying that goes, “Holding unto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; yet you are the one who gets burned.” From plotting revenge or maintaining the strained relationship, anger will not help the situation. In fact, it will only make things worse. Do not be so overwhelmed with your rage and quiet anger towards the other person, because it will drain you. It will consume your thoughts and it will not lead to anything positively productive. Let go of all the negative thoughts.
4. Swallow your pride and leave the rest to God. Sometimes, people think that when they forgive someone, it will make the other person feel as if what they did was “okay”. No, this is not the case. When you forgive someone, it does not mean you tolerate what they did. It simply means that you lift the other person up to God and let God take over the rest.
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” – Romans 12:19, NIV
5. Trust that God will bless you for showing mercy. Just as He showed mercy to us through Jesus Christ. God wants you to forgive others not only for the sake of others but for your sake as well.
“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and He will bless you for it.” – 1 Peter 3:9, NIV