Matthew West a contemporary Christian singer puts my thoughts today in perfect perspective.
It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word… Forgiveness
For a very long time I didn’t know what forgiveness looked like. I knew what it was to hear someone say they were sorry, but to acknowledge that their sorry meant something was a foreign entity to me. I had a hard time saying I was sorry when I had wronged someone, but to forgive another person when I had a good head of righteous anger going on? You have got to be kidding. Then I was hit with an even bigger task, forgive someone even when they haven’t apologized, apologized poorly, don’t care they have wronged you or have even left this world before the issue can be addressed. Why would I ever want to do that?
I don’t think there is a one size fits all for what forgiveness looks like. Each person has to decide how far to take it and what it will look like to be able to set them free. Yes, I said set them free because lets face it rarely does forgiveness effect the other person as deeply as it can us. Not forgiving someone can rot away at our very soul and give us a root of bitterness in our gut. We relive the situation or season over and over again in our heads with different scenarios, sometimes hoping that the other person would understand how deep the hurt goes.
It tells us in the book of Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” I know, I know it’s hard for me too and I want to become that 4-year-old again that sticks out their lower lip, stamps their foot and says, “NO!” But then I imagine Jesus giving me the look and I have to do it even if I don’t want to. I want to make God understand that the other person broke my heart or made me angry, but guess what He is God and already knows that.
Forgiveness is not forgetting, we don’t automatically get a case of amnesia about the situation that got us to this place. Forgiveness is also not an elimination of all consequences, Proverbs 6:27-28; “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? 28 Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” Forgiveness isn’t really even a feeling it’s a commitment to forgive our debtors. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that the situation is over with and everything will go back to the way it was or better, but it does place you firmly on a road to inner peace and contentment.
I really think Matthew West’s song got it right;
It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge Say you’ve got a right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying set it free.