I recently heard a person say, “I will never forgive him for what he did!“ All too often, people who are hurt or offended do not believe the offending person deserves forgiveness. Many people believe such a declaration to be profound, valiant or courageous. Refusing to forgive another is often used to underscore the disdain the person holds for someone who is guilty of some despicable and cruel act against them or a loved one.
Perhaps the declarer
believes that refusing to forgive an offence locks the offender into a state whereby he or she is condemned to suffer forever. Or perhaps it sends the offender into some type of inescapable purgatory as penance for their actions. Or maybe the thought of someone holding a grudge against them haunts them daily. Probably not.
Does your unforgiving stance place a psychological chain around the wrongdoer’s neck as a constant reminder that you will never forget the offense? Not likely. Some people believe that in order to forgive a person who has hurt you that person must ask for forgiveness and/or make restitution.
Surprisingly, refusal to forgive another person actually has the opposite effect. Living in a state of unforgiveness may well trap the non-forgiving person in a place of bondage, while having little or no effect upon the offender. Refusal to forgive someone else requires one to own the hateful, spiteful feelings that accompany the state of unforgiveness. The offence must be recalled and renewed and dwelled upon each time that person comes to mind. The emotional chains intended for the offender become a prison for the unforgiving person.
Psychologists and counselors often find it impossible to make much progress with a patient unless and until the person deals with past hurts and offenses perpetrated by others. Often, emotional roadblocks to healing are a by-product of the patient’s refusal to forgive and let go of the anguish that automatically arises when they try to hold on to a hurt or transgression they have suffered. One physician stated that the problem is exacerbated if the wrongdoer is deceased. The patient is often left with the despair of having no object of his hatred, which seems to cause that hatred to turn inwardly.
The Bible includes numerous passages dealing with forgiveness, so the concept must be very important for our spiritual well-being. In Jeremiah, God told us that if we repent of our sins He forgives our wrongdoing and never again remembers our sin. A scientific study revealed that a person remembers only a fraction of their words and deeds, therefore, it is impossible to repent for everything. Christ resolved the problem of having to remember and specifically repent for each individual bad thought, word or deed. He came to our rescue; living a perfect life, and offering himself as the perfect sacrifice for all of our sins, and offering Heaven as a free gift to those who receive it.
He included this important concept in the Lord’s Prayer (..”Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us …“). However, He warns us in Matthew 6, “…if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing”.
Take a moment and say a prayer of forgiveness for each and every offense committed against you. Where possible, follow up by personally asking offenders for forgiveness. Whether it is accepted or not is immaterial. If they’re no longer alive, forgive them anyway. You will release yourself from the bondage of unforgiveness and open the door to your Father’s blessed forgiveness.
By James J. Jackson