Colossians 3:13: Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (NIV).
I believe the command at the end of this verse is one of the most difficult mandates in all of Scripture: Forgive as the Lord forgave you. There’s no getting around it. God requires us to forgive others as He did. Forgiveness starts with a decision to obey. Nobody can make it for you or force you into it. It’s a matter of your will, and yours alone. It doesn’t happen by chance. Forgiveness is a choice you make on purpose, and it’s one of the most difficult decisions you’ll ever have to make.
Who do you need to forgive today? Perhaps there are multiple people that you need to let off the hook. I believe understanding why it’s so hard to forgive will help you overcome your refusal to do so.
There are three major reasons why people withhold forgiveness. I want to submit them to you as three things you might hear an unforgiving person say. Please keep in mind that you’re not likely to actually hear these words come out of an offended person’s mouth, but they resonate loudly from the person’s heart. Allow the Holy Spirit to examine your heart as you continue reading.
1. “I was deeply wounded once and have rehearsed the offense over and over in my mind.”
It’s unfortunate how many people have allowed one unfair moment in time to completely ruin their lives. Many lives have been derailed because of one malicious act or misunderstanding. Rather than forgive, they constantly think about and go over and over the offense in their minds.
Please know that I am not trying to legitimize the wrong that’s been done to you or downplay the hurt you’ve been caused. The point I want to make is that rehearsing an offense doesn’t fix anything. It just compounds matters and decreases the likelihood that you will forgive.
Also, rehearsing perceived offense over and over will cause you to fabricate something out of nothing. It’s sad how many relationships have been severed because of a misunderstanding. Quit thinking so much about what you think has been done to you. Let it go, and move past it.
2. “I was wounded multiple times by the same person or different people.”
Jesus said in Luke 17:4, “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (NKJV). If a person is able to offend you up to seven times in one day, that person is probably really close to you. Unfortunately, the people who hurt us the most are often the ones closest to us.
When someone we love offends us, we naturally want to forgive the person because the relationship is valuable to us. But when a loved one wrongs us repeatedly, it can cause us to lose trust in people altogether. Many who have been hurt by those closest to them avoid intimacy. They reason that allowing someone to get close to them sets them up to get hurt again. Intimacy requires vulnerability, and it’s understandable why those who have been hurt consistently are reluctant to allow anyone to come too close.
Proverbs 13:12 says that unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick (MSG). There are far too many heartsick people who have been lied about, cheated on and abused in relationships. Perhaps you’re one of them. I encourage you not to allow the chronic disappointment you may have experienced to prevent you from forgiving.
3. “I’m right, and they’re wrong.”
Many people justify unforgiveness because they did nothing to deserve the offense. Making the decision to forgive will often require you to relinquish your right to be right. If you refuse to forgive someone because you’re right, then you are more concerned about being right than doing right. If you want to be right, do the right thing; and the right thing is to forgive. Unforgiveness is never justified. It is always wrong, and the person who withholds forgiveness is never right.
Oftentimes, people believe that if they refuse someone forgiveness, they are getting their offender back somehow. Not hardly. Your refusal to forgive is not hurting the person who hurt you. You’re only hurting yourself. Maybe it’s time for you to relinquish your right to be right.
Forgiveness is a choice to show mercy and live today free from the failures of yesterday. Making the decision to forgive does not make the wrongs you’ve suffered right, nor does it wipe away the hurt, but it is the first step toward recovery. No more excuses. Choose forgiveness today, and let the healing begin!