To forgive or not to forgive. That is the question that confronts each of us on a regular basis. When someone hurts us we face this choice, and sometimes we can make the wrong one. When we choose to not forgive we do damage mostly to ourselves. Medical science has linked several diseases including cancer to unforgiveness and bitterness. Unforgiveness ties us to the situation and never lets us get past it. It hinders us from ever developing new relationships as we constantly bring up the past and relive it. It stops us from having peace in our lives and forces us to endure the pain of the situation and again. And yet we choose often to not forgive. Our hurt demands justice and we feel like if we let it go justice will never be brought to the person who hurt us, and they will never pay for what they did.
And yet we can never cause people to pay for the damage they caused. As we relive the situation the wound gets deeper and festers. The pain continues and the wound gets worse. A spiritual gangrene sets in and we lose part of our soul. We turn off and turn against people and become bitter. As a result the person who hurt us can never repay, because the debt can never be repaid. The interest on the wound can’t be paid for let alone the original wound. At least not to our satisfaction.
Those who have lost a loved one to violent crimes who see justice served in the courts still don’t have true felt justice in their hearts. The loss can never be filled and the pain can never be taken away. Not even the death penalty can make things right.
Over and over again we hear news of people attacking others for no reason. One in recent history is Columbine high school. Two boys went on a rampage killing a lot of innocent people. All to get back at those who had bullied them and mistreated them. More recently a man in Germany walked into an elementary school killing several students and teachers. At Christmas a man shot and killed his family, just this last week a man stabbed and killed two of his younger sisters and wounded another. Unforgiveness has the potential to damage others as well as ourselves. It is a powerful emotion and one that can never be satisfied on our own. Any wonder why God asked us to forgive those who wrong us.
Forgiveness allows us to move past the hurt and get on with the healing process. Although it is never easy, and sometimes painful, it is necessary. Forgiveness is often misunderstood. People often think that it means you have to forget what happened and go back to things being the same, and that isn’t the case. If someone destroys the relationship, forgiveness doesn’t require you to go back to that relationship. It just requires you to release ownership of making that person pay for what they did. A wife whose husband beats her up is a prime example. It would be stupid for her to go back, until the husband has proven sufficiently that he has changed, and sometimes that means never, but it doesn’t absolve her of the need to forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t require that we trust those who have hurt us either. Trust must be rebuilt and is a different issue altogether.
Forgiveness releases the responsibility for justice from yourself and allows God to take over. He is the only true and just judge and the only one who can make sure justice is served anyway. Forgiveness is a choice and not a feeling. It is a conscious decision to release the hurt and allow the healing to begin and allow God to bring justice however He decides to. It means we are completely absolved from the whole process. Which means if God doesn’t bring justice as we would like it, we cannot decide to pick it up again. Forgiveness means we release the issue totally and we can begin to work through the process of healing and trusting again.
Forgiveness is often misunderstood and frequently ignored. And yet you can usually spot the people who forgive. Some people come by it naturally. Things seem to just role off them like water off a ducks back. They seem to be happy and their lives seem fuller and they are often healthier. Which is why God said to forgive. It was for our personal benefit and not for the person we choose to forgive. It doesn’t benefit them at all. Often they didn’t realize they offended us in the first place and whether we forgive them or not makes no difference in their lives at all. So it is for our benefit. More importantly God put a condition on our forgiveness. He states that He will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others. And if we want to be forgiven we have to forgive. And we all know the things in our lives that we need forgiven. Such an important choice that we need to give proper thought and consideration to.