(This is an expanded version of a previous post on this same issue. Click on the “Related Links” below this post for more on this issue of forgiveness.)
As believers, we are called to offer forgiveness, because we first have been forgiven. Whenever I talk about forgiveness, however, grudges, hurts and past pains seem to surface in people’s lives. I will get emails, Facebook and Twitter direct messages confessing to scars and wounds being opened. In fact, the reaction to the topic of forgiveness is so tender for many, that it draws me to address the issue frequently. When a person refuses to forgive and hangs on to a grudge or injury, it prolongs the recovery process and keeps the injured person from ever experiencing the joy God intends for us.
With that in mind, here are my 8 principles for granting true forgiveness. If you want to truly forgive the one who injured you, here are 8 reminders:
Reflect on your own forgiveness - The fact that God forgives us through His Son Jesus should fuel our willingness to offer forgiveness to others.
Consider the imperfection of others – Don’t hold people to standards they cannot live up to. Often when someone has injured us, we expect them to be near perfect from that point forward. Depending on the wrong the person did, he or she will need accountability and it will take time to rebuild trust, but he or she will still be an imperfect person.
Resist the opportunity for revenge – There is something about the desire to get even that keeps us from offering true forgiveness. Realize that forgiveness is not a fair system…it’s a grace system…and drop the revenge efforts.
Look at your own plank - You aren’t perfect either and probably don’t meet all the expectations others have of you.
Build positive learning experiences – When a person needs to offer forgiveness it means he or she has been injured, but valuable life lessons can be learned from negative experiences. Use the injury as a personal growth opportunity.
Release the burden of guilt caused by refusing to forgive – Guilt absorbs a person’s energy, so it stands to reason that releasing guilt provides freedom. When a believer holds on to a grudge and refuses to forgive, he or she actually injures him or herself more. Give yourself some energy and forgive!
Don’t avoid future conflict – Sometimes when we are injured we attempt to avoid all future conflict, especially with the person who injured us, but conflict is a part of life among imperfect people and is actually part of building healthy relationships. Part of making life manageable is learning to deal effectively with conflict.
Set a new path – In freedom and forgiveness, learn from experiences and live a life closer to the model Christ set for us; loving others as we love ourselves; forgiving as we have been forgiven. Try not to allow this situation to determine your future.
Keep in mind this post only addresses the issue of granting forgiveness. I realize there are other issues in most situations, such as personal physical protection, accountability for the other person, rebuilding positive emotions, etc. All of these are part of the process, but they do not remove the responsibility a believer has to grant true forgiveness. To forgive does not mean we give up all control of our life and allow others to injure us more. It does mean we set our hearts free to forgive.
Whom do you need to forgive? Is it a parent, friend, family member, ex-spouse, co-worker, boss, or maybe even you? Do yourself a favor…with God’s help and grace, extend forgiveness today!