Freedom to Forgive

Forgiveness. The subject of forgiveness seems a natural way to follow up on the blogs regarding anger. 

The dictionary defines forgiveness as: the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven: to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong): to stop blaming (someone): to stop feeling anger about (something): to forgive someone for (something wrong): to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed).

The Bible has much to say about forgiveness like this verse in Proverbs 19:11, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger; and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” (NKJV)

There are two sides to this coin called forgiveness. When (not if) I have offended, I need to seek forgiveness. To refuse to seek forgiveness is to walk around with a heavy weight. To refuse to seek forgiveness is to my own detriment…I need forgiveness. Consider a couple of things when you seek forgiveness.

Don’t try to trivialize the hurt that I feel when you ask me for forgiveness. Some of my Bolivian friends always began their request for my forgiveness with, “Me va a perdonar, pero…” Translation – “You are going to forgive me, but…” and what followed was a justification of why they did what they did and that they should have done exactly what they did that offended me and that I should not feel offended, and…you get the picture. My forgiving them in that issue was made more difficult by the way that they asked for forgiveness.

Don’t try to explain my hurt away. I know we are friends. I know how long we have been friends. I know that it is better that we be friends again. I don’t need for you to begin your apology with that.

Forgiveness is easier for me to give when the conversation starts off with: 1) Acknowledging that my hurt is real and owning their fault in my hurt, 2) It is made easier if I see a genuine remorse for the offense, and 3) Includes an offer to make reparations (How can I make this right?).

While it might be hard to ask for forgiveness, it can be harder to give forgiveness. The verse that sums it up well is Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (NKJV)

Peter asked Jesus, “How many times must I forgive my brother? Seven times?” For Peter, seven times probably indicated completeness…the end of it all. For Jesus, seven times was not even a beginning; “More like 70 times 7, Peter!” Then, Jesus goes on to tell (in Matthew 18) Peter and the disciples a parable about a king who extended forgiveness to a man that owed him big time. The man then refused to extend forgiveness in a small matter to someone who owed him. The conclusion that Jesus draws is simply forgive others “so that you can be forgiven and because you have been forgiven.” Hmmm…what goes around comes back around.

“But Grandpa always said, ‘Don’t get mad, get even!’” “But my Grandpa said, ‘Don’t get even, get ahead.’” Jesus said, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 NKJV) Regardless of what another might have said or done, forgiveness is up to you, and you choose whether to get bitter or to forgive and move on.

An old saying is, “Let’s just forgive and forget.” I am convinced that it is a mistake to equate forgive to forget. I have included several dictionary definitions of forgiveness. Now, let me give you mine:

Forgiveness is when I give up my right to get even for a wrong.

It is my right, at least I think it is a right…I think I should be allowed to settle my own accounts. I think the “score” should be a tie, if not in my favor, therefore I think I have the right to “get even.” I think people should not hurt me or do anything to wrong me. That is not good thinking, but it is common thinking.

In a perfect world, that might work. Welcome to the real world. People hurt people, and that is a fact of life. In the middle of the real world we find a need to forgive. And that is what I do. I give it (my right) up; no one has taken anything from me when I give it up. I give up my right to bring it up again.

The person that is set free when I forgive is me. I don’t forgive others to set them free. I forgive so that I am free.