The following are individual quotes on the subject of forgiveness. Pray and ask the Lord to teach you what He wants you to learn. They are meant to help you in the process of learning to forgive. We pray they will minister to you as you read and pray through them:
• Marriage becomes a series of surprises for most of us, and one of them is how frequently we need to forgive and be forgiven. (From the book, “The First Years of Forever” by Dr Ed Wheat)
• Forgiveness is a key element in healthy long-term marriages. It is the oil that lubricates a love relationship, and it’s an oil we need daily. Forgiveness is not a one-time event; it’s an attitude of wanting to partner with your spouse in spite of his or her imperfections and irritations. (David and Claudia Arp)
• Forgiveness is one of the most painful decisions we can make. We know that somehow we’re supposed to forgive, but when we step right up to it, we feel as though we’re being asked to turn ourselves inside out, tear out our hearts, and give them into the hands of our enemy. (Linda W. Rooks, from the book, “Broken Heart on Hold”)
• Do I have to forgive my spouse?
The short answer, if you’re a Christian, is yes. Jesus Christ has been crystal clear on that subject: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins?” (Mark 11:25). The apostle Paul echoes this idea: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). …Both Jesus and Paul answered this question by emphasizing that the most important reason to forgive is that we’ve been forgiven.
If we’ve asked for God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice, for our terribly long list of offenses against Him (and if we think we haven’t offended Him, we’re really out of touch with reality), He’s already forgiven us. Why would we do less for those —including our spouses —who have wronged us? Another good reason for forgiving a spouse is that it’s in your own best interest to do so. As in art, what isn’t positive space is negative space. What’s left if we decide not to take the positive step of forgiving? The negatives of depression, anger, self-pity, and bitterness will be fertilized. (Philip J. Swihart, from the book, The First Five Years of Marriage)
• Forgiveness is not a cruel demand that a sadistic God imposes on the hurting.
It is the painful but healing door to freedom. It is surgery on the heart that extracts the poison of bitterness so we can move forward into a healthy life. Forgiveness is a choice we make intentionally, not because we just want to put the memory behind us, because we’ve been told we must, or because we think it will cause God to give us what we want. We choose to forgive because we recognized the tremendous mercy and power in God’s forgiveness of us. If God is able to forgive us our enormous cache of sin, our forgiveness of one who has hurt us is small in comparison.
Sometimes in trying to forgive we put an intense but unnecessary burden on ourselves.
I thought I could completely forgive right away. But I discovered that forgiveness is not a one-time act. It’s a process. While it begins with the decision to forgive, it often takes time before the heart fully accepts what the will has set in motion. How long it takes may depend somewhat on the severity of the pain. Forgiveness takes time, and we must give ourselves the grace that our healing requires as we put forgiveness in motion. (Linda W. Rooks, from the book, “Broken Heart on Hold”)
• We often confuse forgiveness with a single willful act rather than seeing it as an ongoing process that begins in the heart. We also often equate forgiveness with reconciliation—two connected but different movements of the heart. Forgiving another person is what happens in me, by God’s grace, as I let go of my demand to make the person who hurt me pay for it.
Reconciliation involves both of us coming together in humility to seek restoration.
Unfortunately, reconciliation is not always possible. Some who have caused deep pain in our lives (such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse) cannot be trusted nor can we agree to relational engagement with them—at least not until there is evidence of real sorrow and repentance. If we make unrealistic demands of ourselves and the one who hurt us, we attempt what is humanly impossible and miss the heart of forgiveness altogether.” (Beth Booram, in the Todayschristianwoman.com article, “Forgiveness: It’s Not as Simple as It Sounds”)
• Knowing how much we need forgiving, you would think we would quickly forgive those who hurt us or let us down. It doesn’t work that way. We humans minimize many of our own errors and maximize the errors of others. We like to keep our offender roasting awhile before we turn off the fire of our anger and indignation. Many of us would never think of refusing forgiveness, but we surely don’t mind making the offender uncomfortable first. (Mike and Diane Constantine, from the article, Forgiveness, posted on the web site Intermin.org)
• The difference between holding on to a hurt or releasing it with forgiveness is like the difference between laying your head down at night on a pillow filled with thorns or a pillow filled with rose petals. (Loren Fincher – More Stories from the Heart)
• Every husband-and-wife combination needs the healing touch of forgiveness.
Where else could there be more opportunity to annoy, insult, offend, or ruffle another person than in the intimacy of married life when we’re constantly under foot, get in each others way, and have to share all things in common (whether we like it or not)? That’s just ordinary living, without taking into account the astonishingly hurtful things husbands and wives do, which demands more forgiveness than any of us could work up on our own. (Dr Ed Wheat, The First Years of Forever)
• We live in a fallen world. We are going to make mistakes that not only affect ourselves, but the people around us —particularly the people that are most important to us, and there is no relationship more influential than the marital relationship. But why is forgiveness important? I will offer three major reasons why forgiveness is important for your relationship with your mate. (To read what Michael Smalley writes on “Learning to Forgive.”)
• I have learned that the best way to live is to decide in advance to be a person who forgives.
It takes the pressure off because you don’t have to try to make that decision every time something bad happens and you’re reeling from disappointment, hurt, or your own anger.
Once I was finally convinced that not forgiving destroys you and forgiveness sets you free, I decided to be a forgiving person all the time. Once I made that decision, of course I was put to the test. The next time my husband became angry, instead of reacting to him in my normal negative way, I caught myself and remembered that made the decision to forgive him even for the future times when he gets that way. I already knew that I had not done anything deserving of this anger to my knowledge, so instead of withdrawing in hurt the way I usually would have, I pressed him for why he was angry and upset. As it turned out, it was something that had happened at work. When he told me about it, I could totally understand why he felt the way he did. I would have been upset too. What I did not understand was why he felt it was right to take it out on me. He later recognized it was wrong and apologized.
…After I was truly freed from the powerful effects of my husband’s anger by deciding in advance of it ever happening again that I was going to forgive him, I felt sad for Michael when he became angry. I knew he was cutting off what God wanted to bring his life and that he would be the loser because of it. I felt sorry for the little boy who was made to feel like a failure for something he didn’t understand and couldn’t help. I regret that I wasn’t healed, whole, and mature enough sooner so I would not have taken his anger so personally. Even thought it was directed at me, it had a history back before I even knew him. Only after God had worked complete forgiveness in my heart was I able to see all of that. (Stormie Omartian, “Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage)
• Why forgive?
The answer… To move toward freedom from hatred and bitterness that can keep us from living life with joy and enthusiasm. To know more fully what it means to share in Christ’s suffering, to unite our spirit with His. To give God more opportunity to work in the world —in the victim’s life, in the offender’s life, and in lives of everyone they touch. And finally, we forgive because these light and momentary troubles are minimal compared to the glory we shall someday share with Jesus Christ our Lord. (Myrla Seibold, from an essay titled, When the Wounding Runs Deep, from the book, “Care for the Soul”)
• There is power in forgiveness.
Hate, anger and resentment are destructive, eating away at the heart and soul of the person who carries them. They are absolutely incompatible with your own peace, joy and relaxation. Ugly emotions change who you are and contaminate every relationship you have. They can also take a physical toll on your body, including sleep disturbance, headaches, back spasms, and even heart attacks. Forgiveness sets you free from the bonds of hatred, anger and resentment. The only way to rise above the negatives of a relationship in which you were hurt is to take the moral high ground, and forgive the person who hurt you.
Forgiveness is not about another person who has transgressed against you; it is about you.
Forgiveness is about doing whatever it takes to preserve the power to create your own emotional state. It is a gift to yourself and it frees you. You don’t have to have the other person’s cooperation, and they do not have to be sorry or admit the error of their ways. Do it for yourself. Strategy: Open your eyes to what anger and resentment are doing to you. Take your power back from those who have hurt you. (Dr Phil McGraw –from Dr Phil’s Ten Life Laws, Drphil.com)
• You can’t heal until you forgive.
Jesus used the analogy of setting someone free from a prison. When we get wounded by our spouse, what we do is we throw them in a little prison inside of our hearts, and we say, “You owe me, you hurt me, and I’m not going to set you free.” But Scripture says it only poisons us. It’s only messing with our lives, and it messes with us spiritually with our relationship with God. Forgiveness is not saying that what they did was okay or they’re going to get away with it. It’s saying that I’m releasing my anger, I’m releasing this person out of a prison in my heart. I’m turning them over to the Lord, I’m turning my anger over to the Lord. God is judge, he’s going to deal with them, and I’m going to show them mercy just like Christ showed me on the cross. (Stephen Kendrick, in a Family Life Today radio interview, 9/26/08.)
• When you choose to forgive, you untie the knots put into a relationship by letting go of the offense.
That means that when you refuse to resolve relationship issues, knots and tangles of resentment and bitterness thicken in your subconscious mind. They ensnare you and tie you up. When you’re ensnared, you can’t enjoy the freedom and joy God desires to give you. The moment you forgive someone, God unties your own tangles. He frees your heart and releases his grace and power to love others. (From Smalleyonline.com newsletter 4/14/08)
• We should forgive whether or not our offender asks our forgiveness.
We’re often asked, “If someone has offended me, shouldn’t I wait until he asks my forgiveness before I forgive him?” The testimony of Jesus will answer this question. While on the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:24). Obviously, at this point, the masses were not asking for forgiveness, but Jesus forgave them nevertheless. Forgiveness is not based on whether our offender deserves our forgiveness or whether or not he asks for it. We are to forgive because we have been forgiven; it’s a matter of stewardship. (David Ferguson, Don McMinn, Emotional Fitness)
• When your husband asks for your forgiveness, remember how freeing it feels to be forgiven without hesitation or reservations. Now do it! …Remember, we are our children’s greatest teachers. There is enormous truth to the adage that we reap what we sow. Show them by your example how to forgive and forget. (Judy Carden, from book, What Husbands Need)
• If you feel you can’t forgive, ask God to penetrate your unforgiveness with His love.
When we have to do the impossible, God says that the way it happens is “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). This means that certain things will not be accomplished by human strength, but only by the power of God. The Holy Spirit will enable us to forgive even the unforgivable. (Stormie Omartian, “Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage)
• Imagine you’re in a circular room. A ten-foot wall of solid bricks encloses you in an impenetrable fortress. The one thick door is bolted. This is what unforgiveness looks like in marriage. After a few minutes you feel around in your pockets and discover that you actually have the key to unlock the door. The key in your marriage to break free from this impenetrable fortress is forgiveness. Are you going to use the key? We all face obstacles to love in marriage, but unforgiveness is one of the strongest. Unforgiveness keeps you and your husband as prisoners locked away from each other’s intimacy.
“Love… does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
How is this possible? Only with God’s love pouring through you. Only by going honestly to the Lord and offering a heart that wants to please God more than it wants to be right, justified, hurt, or angry. This love doesn’t dwell on past hurts or bring up past offenses in the heat of a fight. The New International Version renders 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 this way: “Love… keeps no record of wrongs.” (Melanie Chitwood, What a Husband Needs from His Wife)
• You may think that your husband doesn’t deserve your forgiveness until he straightens himself out. But have you forgotten the mercy that Jesus had for you? Romans 5:8 tells us that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. By God’s grace, He didn’t wait for us to “get our acts together” before He provided a way for forgiveness. He gave it to us freely even when we didn’t deserve it. At Golgotha as the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothing, the dying innocent Christ prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). If forgiveness is given freely to us, how much more should we give it to our husbands? (Sabrina Beasley, from the Familylife.com article, Don’t Let Bitterness Poison Your Marriage)
• Want peace of mind? Forgive.
The same energy you use to hold on (to not forgive), is the same energy you need to create a new and exciting relationship together; a relationship anchored in unconditional love. Forgiveness is the most important single process that brings peace to our soul and harmony to our life. (Larry James, from Celebratelove.com)
• What is forgiving?
Forgiving is giving up all claims on the one who has hurt you and letting go of the emotional consequences of the hurt. How can we do that? It’s done at the price of beating back our pride. By nature we are selfish. Forgiving by definition is unselfish. Being hurt by another person wounds our pride. Pride stands in the way of forgiving. We cannot forgive without God’s help. It might be possible for us to forgive something inconsequential without God’s help; but in significant matters, we’re unlikely to accomplish anything without God’s involvement in the process. (Richard Walters, Forgive and Be Free)
• When most people think of forgiveness, they think of changing their feeling toward someone who has wronged them, of teary-eyed sweetness replacing anger and a thirst for revenge. But forgiveness is not a feeling at all. It is a choice you make, which may go against every self-centered fiber of your being. So forget the easy, mushy sentiment that the world inserts into the idea. True, you may feel some emotions when you forgive, perhaps gladness at being reconciled and close again. But if you are acting only on sentimental impulse, there’s no assurance that your forgiveness will last beyond that impulsive moment. True forgiveness is a strong rational decision based on spiritual values, fueled by spiritual resources, and modeled after the spiritual principle of God’s forgiveness. (From the book, “The First Years of Forever” by Dr Ed Wheat)
• We should not make our forgiveness conditional.
When God forgave us, he did so with “no strings attached.” We are to do likewise. In other words, we shouldn’t say, • I’ll forgive you if you promise to never do it again. • I’ll forgive you if you’ll clean the house. – Also, I’ll forgive you but I’m going to sulk for days. • I’ll forgive you but only after I tell everyone what you did. • I’ll forgive you this time but not if you do it again. Genuine forgiveness never involves an “if” or “but.” (David Ferguson, Don McMinn, From the book, Emotional Fitness)
• Forgiveness is a choice, a decision of the will.
It really has very little to do with our feelings —feelings can peak or plunge within a five-minute time interval. When we make the choice to forgive, we may still feel angry or resentful. Some wounds are so deep that it’s virtually impossible to get beyond these intense emotions on our own. When this is the case, we need to ask God to supernaturally empower us. A practical place to start is with a simple prayer: “God, help me to be willing to forgive. Enable me to do what is right, even though my emotions are pushing me in the opposite direction.”
I have never met a person who has prayed that prayer and not found freedom. God will always empower us to do what He asks of us. When we make the intentional choice to forgive, we open the door for God to do a creative miracle in our heart. Forgiveness gives Him access to our wound, and He heals, restores, and redeems what has been stolen from us. This is true even if nothing changes circumstantially or with those who have wounded us. (Pam Vredevelt, from The Wounded Woman)
• Forgiveness is hard.
A while ago I reviewed Vicki Tiede’s book When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography and she said something very interesting about forgiveness. In essence, she said that God does not ask us to forgive in a way that He does not. He asks us to forgive AS He forgives. And how does He forgive? He forgives fully and graciously, but only when people repent and turn to Him. He doesn’t forgive everybody. 1 John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The confession comes before the forgiveness.
Jesus’ blood covers everyone’s sins, but it is only applied to those who repent.
And if that’s how God forgives, then God does not ask us to forgive lightly, either. God does not say that if someone confesses a sin, but doesn’t really turn from it, or doesn’t really have any intention of changing, that we need to forgive.
I thought about that long and hard, because that’s quite contrary to what I’ve normally thought about forgiveness. Yet Vicki makes a good point. She says that “cheap forgiveness” can do more harm than good. (Sheila Wray Gregoire, in Crosswalk.com article, “How Do I Forgive My Spouse?”)
• It is up to you to do everything within your power to see that hardness does not find a way to move into your heart. Bad things are sure to happen if you don’t. “Happy is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity” (Proverbs 28:14). When you harden your heart toward your spouse, you have hardened it toward God as well. This is dangerous ground to be standing on.
Don’t trust your heart, because it can grow hard over something you believe is completely justified.
“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26). God sees hardness of heart as never being justified. That’s because when you receive the Lord, He sends the Holy Spirit to live in your heart and soften it. “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). (Stormy Omartian, from “Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage”)
• Jesus Christ left us an example for our daily conduct.
He felt no bitter resentment and He held no grudge against anyone! Even those who crucified Him were forgiven while they were in the act. Not a word did He utter against them nor against the ones who stirred them up to destroy Him. How evil they all were. He knew better than any other man, but He maintained a charitable attitude toward them. (A.W. Tozier)
• Do you believe that God can change bitter circumstances into sweet blessing? Are you willing to let Him? (Oswald Chambers)
• When others hurt us in ways we don’t deserve, at some point we will come to the crossroads of decision. We will have to look our pain square in the face and ask, “Am I going to hang on to my anger and do violence to myself, or am I going to forgive those who have wounded me? Am I going to allow bitterness to poison and putrefy my soul, or am I going to invite God to empower me to let the anger go?”(Pam Vredevelt, from “The Wounded Woman“)
– Forgiveness is an act of the imagination.
It dares you to imagine a better future, one that’s based on the blessed possibility that your hurt will not be the final word on the matter. It challenges you to give up your destructive thoughts about the situation and to believe in the possibility of a better future. It builds confidence that you can survive the pain and grow from it. (Larry James from Celebratelove.com)
• Because God is a God of mercy and His mercy endures forever, you can trust that he will have mercy on you (See: 1 Chronicles 17:13). Therefore you can show mercy to your spouse by forgiving whenever he (she) does or says something that hurts or disturbs you. (Stormie Omartian, “Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage, p. 74)
• Your heart and mental health may depend on your ability to reduce hurt and anger, even at yourself.
A chronic state of anger and resentment interferes with life, Sharon A. Hartman (LSW, a clinical trainer at the Caron Foundation, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Wernersville, Pa.) points out. Countless studies also show stress and anger can cause or worsen diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and various auto-immune disorders. (From the article, Learning to Forgive Yourself, by Jean Lawrence, as featured on Webmd.com)
• Scientists have gotten interested in the health benefits of forgiveness. Their studies have shown the serious mental, emotional and physical consequences of an unforgiving heart. In some studies, forgiveness has been linked to a lessening of chronic back pain and depression; in others to reduce levels of stress hormones. Scientist have also found that forgiveness is one of several coping mechanisms that help people with HIV/AIDS live longer, or at least more satisfying lives. (Larry James, from Celebratelove.com)
• The psychological case for forgiveness is overwhelmingly persuasive.
To not forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control. If one does not forgive, then one is controlled by the other’s initiatives and is locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past.” (Lance Morrow)
• Living with resentment takes so much effort.
It creates a tremendous void in and around us. All the toxic feelings of hatred and resentment stay bottled up inside and eventually seep into all the areas of our life with the result that we become bitter, angry, unhappy and frustrated. And so, giving forgiveness becomes a necessity. Not that this is easy; it isn’t. But we cannot keep ourselves in the flow of good if we hold another in unforgiveness.
Forgiveness is not something we have to do, but something we must allow to flow through us. When we step away from the consciousness of our human nature, and allow God’s grace to be expressed through us, to forgive through us, we can at that point, feel the radiant and warm rays of the flow of divine love dissolving all hurt, all bitterness, all sense of injustice. We become aware that we are free and we can project that love outward into our world. (Larry James, from Celebratelove.com)
• But first, you might have to forgive yourself.
Did you cheat on your spouse? Hit a child in anger? Steal something? Go off the wagon? The list of potential human misdeeds is long. If someone else did these things, you might learn to forgive them or at least let go of the anger. That’s because it’s easier to forgive others. After all, they don’t live in your head, reading you the same old riot act. But forgiveness is such an elusive act, quicksilver in its ability to be strongly felt one moment and then dart away beyond reach the next.
“When resentment is interfering with your life, it’s time to forgive yourself,” Sharon A. Hartman (LSW, a clinical trainer at the Caron Foundation in Wernersville, Pa.) says. “So many people have a constant, critical voice in their heads narrating their every move.” …”Forgiving doesn’t mean not being angry with yourself, but not hating yourself. No one,” Hartman adds, “can beat us up better than we beat ourselves up.”
“People think forgiving yourself means you are letting yourself get away with whatever it was you did.
The pain and anger you are feeling are supposed to be your punishment.” People want to feel pain and resentment? “Oh,” exclaims Hartman, “resentment is a very attractive way of putting a barrier around yourself as protection against being hurt again.” If toting around self-loathing like a heavy backpack has advantages, how do you set it down? It can be done without formal therapy, Marshall says. “But not without community of some kind. It is in the context of our relationships (whether with therapists, pastors, counselors, churches, families, and friends) that we experience the grace of being forgiven and forgiving others.”
Grace, of course, is a peace of mind bestowed regardless of whether we deserve it or not.
“You need to talk to someone as a rule,” Hartman says. Hartman likens the sequence, if done properly, to a technique her husband used to correct a problem with his computer. He didn’t want to lose data, so someone told him to set the clock back to before the problem occurred. This way, he lost the mistake, but not the data in the memory. That’s what forgiving yourself is —you don’t forget the mistake, but it doesn’t cause any trouble and you don’t lose the memory of it. Forgiving yourself isn’t a slogging, long-term, “good day/bad day” type of thing, Marshall says. “At some point,” she says, “you reach a turning point. Something shifts. You feel less burdened, you have more energy. You live longer, you have better health.” (From the Webmd.com article, Learning to Forgive Yourself, by Jean Lawrence)
• Holding on to resentment… only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life. (Joan Lunden, in Healthy Living Magazine as quoted on Quotationspage.com/quotes)
• Resentment is like drinking a glass of poison and then glaring at your offender as you wait for him to die.
Resentment is self-destructive, which is another reason we must forgive —we have no more right to harm ourselves than to harm anyone else made in God’s image. It’s not that the other person didn’t do something wrong. It’s that if we aren’t careful, their wrong can take ownership of our hearts and minds. In a very real way, resentment allows another to own part of you. Resentment can become an obsession, stealing your joy and ability to see clearly. When it comes to your marriage, you need all the clarity you can get. The call to forgive is also a path to your own freedom. (Paul and Sandy Coughlin, from the book, “Married But Not Engaged,”)
• An important aspect of forgiveness is to “give up resentment… stop being angry with.”
This is a conscious act. It is interesting that the word “forgive” actually comes from the very ancient roots meaning, “to give away.” And that is actually what we do when we forgive. We give away our resentment, our anger. I have a mental image of leaning over a bridge railing above a fast-flowing stream and heaving my resentment and hatred over the edge to be carried away by the swirl of the waters. (Maxine Hancock and Karen Burton Mains, from Child Sexual Abuse: A Hope for Healing)
• A KEY TO BEGIN FORGIVING:
Become soft and tender with the person. The first step is to become soft in your mind and spirit. Lower your voice and relax your facial expressions. This reflects honor and humility; and as Proverbs 15:1 suggests, “A gentle answer turns away anger.” (Dr Gary Smalley)
• If you can’t think about that person without having negative thoughts, you probably lack forgiveness.
One way to forgive is to write down the names of the people you’re struggling with. Then think of a blessing you would want. Write that blessing next to their names. Then pray that blessing over them. (Paige Becnel, quoted in the Marriage Partnership Magazine article, Dangerous Crossing)
• How do you forgive when the cost is staggering, the pain unbearable, and your own anger is still swelling? You need all the strength you can absorb from God in order to love and forgive. You need the potency of prayer, the power of His compassion within you, and cooperation with His healing touch. The secret is God working within and you working it out in life. He works within you; you work it out in your heart and mind. Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility. For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose.“ (David Augsburger, “The Freedom of Forgiveness”)
• Here are the Four Steps of Forgiveness:
(As outlined by Dr Ed Wheat, from The First Years of Forever)
1. Choose, with your free will, to forgive.
2. Make the promise to lift the burden of guilt from the person as far as the wrong against you is concerned. Remember the person’s sin no more — never naming it again to the person, to others, or to yourself.
3. Seal it with your behavior, demonstrating love in suitable ways with tender-hearted kindness, and doing what the Bible shows you to be right in the situation.
4. Trust God to allow you to forget and to renew your mind with new attitudes.
• When forgiveness is necessary, don’t wait too long. We must begin to forgive, because without forgiving, we choke off our own joy; we kill our own soul. People carrying hate and resentment can invest themselves so deeply in that resentment that they gradually define themselves in terms of it. (Lewis B Smedes)
• It is wiser to begin working toward forgiveness before the sting has begun to swell.
Begin before the molehill mushrooms into a mountain, before bitterness like an infection —or rigor mortis —sets in. What a strange thing bitterness is! It breaks in on us when we need it least, when we’re down and in desperate need of all our freedom, ability, and energy to get back up. And what strange things bitterness can do to us. It slowly sets, like a permanent plaster cast, perhaps protecting the wearer from further pain but ultimately holding the sufferer rigid in frozen animation. Feelings and responses have turned to concrete. Bitterness is paralysis. (David Augsburger, “The Freedom of Forgiveness”)
• There comes a time in every relationship when it’s damaging to seek justice, when settling the score only stirs the fire. There comes a time when the best thing you can do is accept your brother and offer him the same grace you’ve been given. (Richard Walters, “Forgive and Be Free”)
• What of revenge?
If you cannot get equal payment or restitution from the offender, at least you can get vengeance. To get even you make yourself even with your enemy. You bring yourself to the same level, and below. There is a saying that goes, “Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging an injury makes you but even; forgiving it sets you above.”
Revenge not only lowers you to your enemy’s lowest level; what’s worse, it boomerangs. One who seeks revenge is like a fool who shoots himself in order to hit his enemy with the kick of the gun’s recoil. Revenge is the most worthless weapon in the world. It ruins the avenger while confirming the enemy in the wrongdoing. It initiates an endless flight down the bottomless stairway of rancor, reprisals, and ruthless retaliation. Just as repayment is impossible, revenge is impotent!
“What? No repayment? No revenge?
But I can have the soul-satisfaction of hating the wretch!” Well, yes. You can hate him. You can nurse a grudge until it grows into a full-blown hate —hoofs, horns, tail, and all. But hatred harbored grows, spreads, and contaminates all other emotions. Hidden hatred turns trust into suspicion, compassion into caustic criticism, and faith in others into cold cynicism.
In addition to corroding a disposition, incubated hatred can elevate blood pressure, ulcerate a stomach, accelerate stress, or invite a coronary. Hatred, the wish for another’s destruction, is self-destructive. It is cheaper to pardon than to resent. The high cost of anger, the extravagant expenses of hatred, and the unreasonable interest on grudges make resentment out of the question! (David Augsburger, The Freedom of Forgiveness)
• We may never understand why we were hurt.
But forgiving is not having to understand. Understanding may come later, in fragments, an insight here and a glimpse there, after forgiving. But we are asking too much if we want to understand everything at the beginning. (Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget)
• The problem with thinking that someone has to repent and ask before they can be forgiven is that so often —especially in marriage —a spouse may never ask. While one reason may be stubbornness, the biggest seems to be that many people view offenses differently. For instance, suppose you thought your spouse snapped and was rude to you in front of a friend or relative. Later, you confront your spouse.
In a perfect world your spouse would lovingly take you in his/her arms and say, “Honey, thank you for pointing that out to me. Will you forgive me? I promise I will work hard to always speak kind to you, especially in public.” However, in a not-so-perfect world you may hear something like this: “What are you talking about! I wasn’t rude …you were!”
Now, what are you going to do?
You could pretend to forgive the offense in an effort to keep the peace at all cost. Or, you could get into a heated argument until your spouse finally cries “uncle.” But apologizing just so an argument will end is pointless because it’s not real.
Here are some choices when dealing with someone who is not repentant or has viewed an offense differently than you: — You could stay angry until the person sees things your way — You could harbor bitterness and try to get others to side with you, explaining that as long as the person refuses to repent, you do not have to forgive — Or, after speaking the truth (in love) you could choose to forgive the person and give the offense over to God.
“Father forgive them; for they know not what they are doing“
(See Jesus’ response to insults and hatred in Luke 23:34.) The key when someone is unrepentant or ignorant is not pretending to forgive, but, instead, giving their offense over to God and not harboring un-forgiveness. (Joe and Michelle Williams, from AMFMonline.com article: Forgive First —The Key to Real Reconciliation)
• A misconception is that it depends on whether the person who did you wrong apologizes, wants you back, or changes his or her ways. If another person’s poor behavior were the primary determinant for your healing then the unkind and selfish people in your life would retain power over you indefinitely. Forgiveness is the experience of finding peace inside and can neither be compelled nor stopped by another. I believe that to withhold forgiveness is to choose to continue to remain the victim. You have a choice. When you forgive you do it for you, not for the other. The person you have never forgiven owns you!
How about an affair?
Just because you choose to forgive, does not mean you have to stay in the relationship. That is your choice. The choice to forgive is yours. When you feel that forgiveness is necessary, do not forgive for “their” sake. Do it for yourself! It would be great if they would come to you and ask forgiveness but you must accept the fact that some people will never do that. That is their choice. But the hurts won’t heal until you forgive!
Recovery from wrongdoing that produces genuine forgiveness takes time. For some, it may take years. Constantly reliving your wounded feelings gives the person who caused you pain power over you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt, it helps to focus your energy on the healing, not the hurt! Learn to look for and appreciate the love, beauty and kindness around you. It’s there, and you may have to change your thinking and behavior to discover it. (Larry James from Celebratelove.com)
• Forgiveness is a matter of stewardship.
We are to forgive others because we have been forgiven. Colossians 3:13 says, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” We are often reluctant to forgive because our offender doesn’t deserve being forgiven. The truth is, no one deserves to be forgiven; it’s one of the manifold graces of God. When we forgive others, we’re simply sharing with them some of what God has already given us. If we have difficulty forgiving others, it may be because we have not yet received God’s forgiveness, or perhaps we have forgotten about His gift to us. (David Ferguson, Don McMinn, from the book, Emotional Fitness)
• Forgiveness has two directions, and both are of infinite value.
The first direction of forgiveness is vertical: God forgives us for our sins against Him. This is the Good News, the incredible fact that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can personally know God and receive His forgiveness of our sins. The second direction of forgiveness is horizontal: we forgive others for their sins against us. This, too, brings tremendous freedom! When we forgive people who have hurt us, we escape from the top of the hourglass. Forgiving frees us from resentment, from false and unnecessary guilt, and from a thousand forms of bondage in which we trap ourselves. (Richard Walters, Forgive and Be Free)
• Not forgiving somebody is like drinking poison and hoping that the offender will get sick. (Dr Gary Smalley)
• The longer we hate, the harder it is to heal us. (Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget)
• Not forgiving prolongs hurt and anger and leads to smoldering resentment.
This will make us miserable until it kills us. Resentment destroys the perception of reality. As we try to bend the world to accommodate our resentment, fear, and selfishness, we become less accurate in understanding the world. This eventually destroys our ability to cope successfully with life. (Richard Walters, Forgive and Be Free)
• Forgiveness is essential to recovery.
“When a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.” (Alan Paton, author of Cry, the Beloved Country)
• Forgiving someone else is to agree within yourself to overlook the wrong they’ve committed against you and to move on with your life. It means cutting them some slack. “What?” you say! “Cut them some slack after what THEY did to me? Never!” Let go! Move on! Non-forgiveness keeps you in the struggle. Being willing to forgive can bring a sense of peace and well-being. It lifts anxiety and delivers you from depression. It can enhance your self-esteem and give you hope. (Larry James, from Celebratelove.com)
• When we resent someone we need to “be on the alert.”
Even innocent gestures on their part can become suspect to us. Even something as simple as their walking into a room or whispering something to someone else can be conjured up in our minds. It will look to us as if they’re doing it on purpose to irritate us —as if they’re involved in some diabolical plot to hurt us further. What they may be doing may have no connection to their past actions that hurt us in the first place. But our resentful feelings against them can often taint our perception of what’s really taking place. (Cindy Wright)
• When we forgive someone, we do not forget the hurtful act, as if forgetting came along with the forgiveness package, the way strings come with a violin. Begin with the basics. If you forget, you will not forgive at all. You can never forgive people for things you have forgotten about. You need to forgive precisely because you have not forgotten what someone did; your memory keeps the pain alive long after the hurt has stopped. Remembering is the storage of pain. It is why you need to be healed in the first place. (Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget)
• Forgive and forget is a myth.
You may never forget AND you can choose to forgive. As life goes on and you remember, then is the time to once again remember that you’ve already forgiven. Mentally forgive again if necessary, and then move forward. When we allow it, time can dull the vividness of the memory of the hurt; the memory will fade. (Larry James, from Celebratelove.com)
• Once we have forgiven, however, we get a new freedom to forget.
This time forgetting is a sign of health; it is not a trick to avoid spiritual surgery. We can forget because we have been healed. But even if it is easier to forget after we forgive, we should not make forgetting a test of our forgiving. The test of forgiving lies with healing the lingering pain of the past, not with forgetting the past has ever happened. (Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget)
• Can you stop your memory on a dime?
Can you put it in reverse, and spin it in another direction the way you can reverse direction on a tape recorder? We cannot forget on command. So we just have to let the forgetting happen as it will; we shouldn’t rush it, and we certainly should not doubt the genuineness of our forgiving if we happen to remember. The really important thing is that we have the power to forgive what we still do remember. (Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget)
• On difficult days, when forgiveness seems not only hard, but also undesirable, we urge you to cry out to Jesus and ask Him to help you through. He understands more than anyone else what you are going through. How Jesus must treasure the sight of you trying to forgive in the same way He forgave you. It may help to keep in mind that forgiveness is not the same thing as forgetting. You can’t simply turn off your memories by an act of the will. But you can choose to set the memories aside and move forward. Though it takes time, it really is possible. When you choose forgiveness, the vivid memories of what your husband has done will eventually fade into softer, less painful hues.
What if I can’t let go of my anger?
The longer you dwell on your husband’s faults and selfish insensitivities, the angrier you probably become. This lingering anger may be uncomfortable —and can be harmful —but it can also feel good because it gives you a sense of power over your husband. You may use your anger as your justification to ignore him, put him down, shut him out, yell in his face, or even to walk out on him.
Releasing your anger means giving up some of this power, and you may be reluctant to do that. You might be thinking things like, He hurt me. Why can’t I do the same back to him? You want him to feel the loneliness, rejection, and neglect that you have felt. Or you may simply feel too vulnerable without your anger to let it go.
What if He’s Sorry?
If your husband has shown that he is sincerely sorry for hurting you and has made some offer of restitution, it is time to move forward. Focusing on his effort for reconciliation rather than on what he did wrong will help you let go of the anger. But even if he doesn’t have a humble heart about his wrongs, holding on to grudges and the desire for revenge will ultimately hurt you more than it hurts him. Holding on to anger can cast a long shadow on the life and pain your future with bitterness. At the very least, it keeps you glued to a dark past. Letting go of it releases you to a brighter future. (From The Walk Out Woman, by Dr Steve Stephens and Alice Gray)
• If you already know that you have unforgiveness in your heart, say, “Lord, take the burden of unforgiveness off my shoulders and help me to let go of it completely so I can walk free.” What’s even harder is that God asks us to bless those who hurt us (see: Matthew 5:43-44). Sometimes it feels as though not killing them should be enough. But God wants more than restraint. He wants us to actually want good things for them. He wants us to show mercy to someone who we think doesn’t deserve it, just as He showed mercy to us when we didn’t deserve it.
Asking for Forgiveness?
The thing is, forgiving your spouse does not depend on him (her) asking you for forgiveness or showing any repentance. If we wait for that, we could wait a lifetime for something that may never happen. …When we have that kind of amazing willingness to forgive, God will use our very act of forgiveness to turn things around in our marriage. He can even restore a marriage that is dying if the people in it extend total forgiveness. (Stormie Omartian, Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage)
• Anytime we reconcile it’s a picture of what God wants to do with man. (Unknown)
• Forgiveness is never easy, made harder when the offender shows little or no remorse.
It would seem to make sense to wait for an offending husband to ask for forgiveness. But that puts him in the driver’s seat, effectively letting him decide when and if the wife ever moves forward. A wife’s decision to heal should have nothing to do with her husband’s understanding of what he has done.
The best reason to forgive is because Christ asks me to, and because He forgave me first. If I’ve accepted the forgiveness offered on the cross at the exorbitant price of His life, then how can I balk at giving so much less? The story of the ungrateful servant, found in Matthew 18:21-35, makes it clear to me what God wants, and how He sees me when I refuse to forgive someone else. (Meg Wilson, from the book “Hope After Betrayal”)
• In the beginning of your relationship, forgiving your spouse comes easy.
But when you have to be forgiving time and again, you wonder if perhaps you are encouraging him (her) by appearing to condone his (her) actions. Sometimes you may be hesitant to forgive because you’re afraid that in doing so you are setting yourself up for the same thing to happen again. But there is a clear line between enabling and forgiving. In other words, you can still confront your spouse about changing his (her) ways, and you pray for that to happen, but if he (she) doesn’t do it, you refuse to let it eat at you and make you bitter.
Forgiving does not mean you are giving the offender a free pass to commit the offense again and again. It does not mean you are inviting abuse or giving that person a license to walk all over you or continue to hurt you. It doesn’t make you a doormat. Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right; it makes free. (Stormie Omartian, “Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage”)
• Let’s be clear —forgetful forgiveness is not a case of holy amnesia that erases the past.
Instead, it is the experience of healing that draws the poison from the wound. You may recall the hurt, but you will not relive it. No constant reviewing, no rehashing of the old hurt, no going back to sit on the old gravestones where past grievances lie buried. True, the hornet of memory may fly again, but forgiveness has drawn its sting. The curse is gone. The memory is powerless to arouse or anger. It was said of Lincoln, “His heart had no room for the memory of a wrong.” Forgetting follows forgiving. It’s not that the past is changed as a result. The past is the past. Nothing can alter the facts. What has happened has happened forever. But the meaning can be changed. (David Augsburger, The Freedom of Forgiveness)
• Forgiveness is not about glossing over wrongs.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “Forgiveness is taking seriously the awfulness of what has happened when you are treated unfairly. Forgiveness is not pretending that things are other than the way they are.” Forgiveness is not amnesia. “Forgiveness does not equal forgetting. It is about healing the memory of the harm, not erasing it.” (Dr. Ken Hart, as quoted in Zest Magazine UK, October 2000).
The offense will still be part of your history, but it does not have to dominate your life. Forgiveness is not pardoning, condoning, or excusing: forgiveness does not remove consequences. Pope John Paul II forgave his intended assassin in a face-to-face encounter. The individual remains in prison where he can do no further harm.
Forgiveness does not have to include reconciliation; forgiveness is not the same as trusting. The injured party can forgive an offender even though the offender may never (or for safety sake, must never) be a part of his or her life in the future. “Forgiveness is not a magic trick that allows us to control other people.” (Robert D. Enright, PhD. From the web site Forgiving.org) Even if you change, the other person may not. Each person has free will.
What About After Forgiving?
• Even after forgiving, we still have the memory of the injustice that was done to us, but it will no longer hurt us. Even if we could forget, that would be second best because forgetting can only take us back to zero. Forgiving, on the other hand, is an opportunity for growth beyond zero. If we could forget, we would not recognize the need to forgive and would miss out on all the positive effects of forgiving.
Remembering the injustice and our response to it has some benefits. It can help us avoid committing a similar injustice against another; it can help us understand ourselves better; from it we can learn to improve our relationships with others; and, as a result of it, we may be able to teach others about God’s healing power. Best of all, forgiving an injustice is a direct experience in living in partnership with our Lord. (Richard Walters, Forgive and Be Free)
• Forgiving does not mean condoning the wrong the other person has done.
The person is still responsible to God for his/her sins. We forgive all who hurt us, as Christ, on the cross, forgave those who in ignorance, disbelief, and rebelliousness sinned against Him (Luke 23:34), but we’re obligated to confront our brothers even as we must forgive (Luke 17:3-4). (Richard Walters, Forgive and Be Free)
• Forgiveness is not easy, especially when the hurts are ongoing. Forgiving can feel like giving up a part of yourself. But it’s hard to underestimate the power of forgiveness in a marriage. It can be a source of wonderful freedom because when you choose to forgive, you release new energy and vitality in yourself. It also provides a model of how you want your [spouse] to respond to you when you stumble or fall. And perhaps the best reasons for forgiving are that God asks us to do so and because He has forgiven us first: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (From The Walk Out Woman, by Dr Steve Stephens and Alice Gray)
• Forgiving is tough. Excusing is easy.
What a mistake it is to confuse forgiving with being mushy, soft, gutless, and oh, so understanding. Before we forgive, we stiffen our spine and we hold a person accountable. And only then, in tough-minded judgment, can we do the outrageously impossible thing: we can forgive. (Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget)
• I never want to give the impression that forgiveness is easy or should be easy. Holding on to the pain, though, and staying chained to the past events is, in the long run, much harder. It not only takes more energy, it verifies the lies of the Enemy. One lie says, “If I hold onto this anger for a good long time, then my husband will ‘get’ what he’s done.” Another says, “If I forgive him, then he gets off scot-free.” Or “I need to hold onto my right to punish him with my anger.”
There are many variations to the above lies.
But the one left holding the unforgiveness is the one holding the pain. Forgiveness is the only way to be free from the past and the pain. Leaving the judgment in God’s hands is a good place for it, since He is the only one truly righteous and fair. A wife’s (or spouse’s) moving on brings peace like nothing else can. Even though she (or he) has scar tissue, it eventually will no longer hurt to the touch.
It’s also important to understand that forgiveness does not mean remaining with an abusive person, or forgoing the pursuit of restitution if warranted, or having your say in court. It does mean that letting the natural consequences happen is for the other person’s growth, not to make you feel better, fuel your revenge, or meet your need for justice. (Meg Wilson, from the book, “Hope After Betrayal”)
• Recognize that forgiveness is a process. It ebbs and flows; it starts, stops, and starts again; it gets better and gets worse. No matter what the issue is, forgiveness can be more than just a one-shot decision. Understand that forgiving may take time. (Mitch Temple, one of the authors of the book, “The First Five Years of Marriage”)
• Forgiveness isn’t a one-stop train.
This is a commitment, and a continual act. And yes, forgiveness means trying again and also risking again. Our flesh is weak. And in our weakness, it forces us to depend on God. The voice of condemnation tells us to write the faults of others on stone, where it is so permanent. But the voice of forgiveness [God’s voice] tells us to write the faults of others on the sand, where with one touch it can be so easily washed away. (Nicki Koziarz, from Crosswalk.com article, “To Love Honor and Forgive”)
• Forgiveness isn’t always a one-time thing. There are layers of it that need to be recognized in any situation —especially in a marriage. Sometimes we think we have forgiven, but we don’t realize how many layers there are. And if we don’t deal with each layer, hardness of heart can set in and build up to monumental proportions. (Stormy Omartian, from “Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage”)
• Forgiving is a realistic objective.
Unfortunately, many people take on themselves the impossible goal of forgetting. And then, mistakenly believing that they haven’t forgiven, feel guilty. This is not only sad, but tragically common among Christians. It provides an incubator in which Satan can hatch destructive doubts about the reality of our faith. The test of whether or not we remember the incident, or even in whether or not there is some pain connected with the memory. Those leftover effects are common. The proof of forgiving lies in attitude and action.
God always responds to our honest, sensible efforts. He never asks us to do anything that’s beyond our control. He will do with our memories whatever leads us to wholeness. After we’ve forgiven an injustice, whether we remember it once, frequently, or never, it’s of no consequence —the wound is healed. In summary, we don’t forget. But, miracle of miracles, it no longer matters that we remember! We are no longer controlled by the hurt; we’re no longer controlled by the desire to get even. We spring free through God’s power helping us to forgive. (Richard Walters, Forgive and Be Free)
• Our forgiving of others represents the forgiveness available to them from God.
By seeing Christ in us, others will better understand the meaning of atonement. How we handle our claims against others is one of the most important influences in shaping how others will respond to God’s claim on them. If we are picky and demanding, the image of God others see in us is a disagreeable one. If we are generous and merciful, others see that image of God, which is so much more accurate. This puts a lot of responsibility on us. As we think of that, it should encourage us to maintain our fellowship with God so that we really do live in partnership with Him. (Richard Walters, Forgive and Be Free)
• We have a stewardship responsibility to keep ourselves healthy physically and emotionally. If we don’t, we cannot carry out our obligations to God, to family, to our employer, or to others. With this in mind, we put limits on the extent to which we allow others to abuse us. Doing right will mean abuse part of the time; that goes with the turf. But inviting abuse or failing to deal with it is wrong. (Richard Walters, Forgive and Be Free)
• Sometimes people hurt us unintentionally.
We may view that they’ve hurt us intentionally and want revenge. But sometimes when we really look back again, we can see that they weren’t intentional in trying to hurt us. That’s when we need to confess our judgment of them and forgive them for their unintentional hurts committed against us. (Cindy Wright)
• Everything you go through can be a lesson for you. Lack of forgiveness can manifest itself in different ways —in some lives it can be through sickness in someone else’s life it can be through a bad attitude —or maybe through torn relationships and being angry all the time. I don’t know how unforgiveness will manifest itself in your life, but what I can tell you is: it isn’t worth it! All of us have done something we need forgiveness for. (Thelma Wells)
• Only if you have no need for forgiveness yourself do you dare consider hesitating to forgive another.
The two go hand in hand. “If you forgive other people their failures, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you will not forgive … neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you your failures” (Matthew 6:14-15). George Herbert once wrote, “One that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which all must pass if they would ever reach heaven; for everyone has need to be forgiven.” Forgiving and being forgiven are all of one piece. They cannot be separated. In giving we receive. In accepting those who injured us we open ourselves to God’s acceptance. (David Augsburger, “The Freedom of Forgiveness“)
• When we fail to forgive, it affects not only us —but also everyone around us. It’s like throwing a pebble into a pool of water —many ripples come out of it.
• I will not permit any man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him. (Booker T. Washington)
– Bitterness is an acid that hurts more the object in which it’s stored than the object on which it is poured.
• Forgiveness is the only way in which we can both simultaneously embrace and be free of our pasts.
Until there is forgiveness, we are locked in a painful relationship with the person who has wronged us. Our living hatred and resentment of the person keeps him present even though it may be years since we have seen him. He may be completely removed from us and still continue to ruin our lives if we are bound to him by the cords of hatred, We are, after all, slaves to the persons we hate, we are released from this destructive bonding. (Maxine Hancock and Karen Burton Mains, from Child Sexual Abuse: A Hope for Healing)
• When you don’t forgive you permit your enemies to live rent free in your head —evict them today. (Lee Ezell)
• Are your feelings holding you captive?
Are you exhausted from waiting for “just the right time” to forgive your spouse for whatever it is you’re angry about? Don’t wait! Life is far too short and your relationships much too important to wait a moment longer. Understanding the principles of forgiveness will transform your life and the lives of those close to you. The motive for forgiving is simple: Jesus requires it. If we want to be like Him, then we must choose to forgive. (From the book The Politically Incorrect Wife by Nancy Cobb and Connie Grigsby)
The following is written by Dr Gary Smalley (posted on a former web site that he had):
Is forgiveness an option?
Forgiveness is important for any relationship. The first reason is the reality we are made in God’s image. Being made in God’s image carries with it a tremendous amount of honor and responsibility. Honor in knowing our innate value because of our likeness with the Creator. Forgiveness is our responsibility because it is God’s nature to forgive. And he gives us the power to forgive.
1 John 1:9 reads, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.“ If we are to strive to be more Christ-like in everything we do, then forgiveness is incredibly important. If God’s nature did not consist of forgiveness, where would we be? God knows the awesome power of forgiveness, and God graciously uses it to cleanse us all of our sins.
When we refuse to follow in God’s likeness and will, we only find pain and suffering. Forgiveness is simply erasing the offenses of others from OUR heart’s wall. The second part of forgiveness is praying for the other person’s healing and growth because everyone who offends us still has room to grow more like Christ themselves.
Q: Must I forgive someone who feels they have done nothing wrong?
A: According to Matthew 5:44-48, even our enemies are worthy of forgiveness. Last weekend, Norma and I went to the newly released movie Diary of a Mad Black Woman. What a great movie! While there were scenes that I did not entirely agree with, I did weep throughout the movie at the powerful message of forgiveness.
When it comes to the command to forgive, the Bible is very obvious in what is expected of followers of Jesus Christ: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your sister or brother has something against you leave your gift there in front of the alter. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift” Matthew 5:23-24.
So is anyone excluded from receiving our forgiveness?
According to Matthew 5:44-48, even our enemies are worthy of forgiveness: “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect (mature), even as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
What a verse! What a message! This touches on the very nature of our incredible God who is merciful and gracious to all. Christ was willing to love those who were unlovable. He cared for the prostitutes, thieves, and yes, even tax collectors.
• When you don’t forgive, you are effectively saying, “I no longer want to be like Christ.” (From the book The Politically Incorrect Wife by Nancy Cobb and Connie Grigsby)
• Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent.
A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. (The Message – Eugene Peterson – Hebrews 12:15)
• When we allow unforgiven hurts to dominate our lives, we are in effect saying, “I don’t want to be free from this pain. I want to keep it, nurse it, feed it, and help it to grow. Then, when the time is right, I will thrust this pain upon someone else, hoping to bring misery upon him as well.” Joyce Meyer once said that unforgiveness is like taking poison and hoping the other person would die. In fact, unforgiveness is like taking in a slow poison. (Julian Marion)
• Following Christ means that we must learn to forgive those who most offend us. Why our enemies? God knows how much unresolved anger kills the spirit within. He wants us to be free from regret and guilt. No one is to be excluded from our forgiveness, even the person who is not asking for your forgiveness. (From the book The Politically Incorrect Wife by Nancy Cobb and Connie Grigsby)
• Forgiveness involves pardon.
Basically, that is like erasing their offenses toward us from a marking board. We immediately wash their offenses away like a wave washing away a message in the sand. Second, forgiveness involves caring for the offending person because most people who offend us have something in their own heart that needs healing. When we forgive others, they are released from our anger and we are healed by God. (Gary Smalley)
• Cut the umbilical cord to yesterday.
Although we can’t change history, we change the effect the past has on the future. (Lee Ezell)
• Forgiveness is about learning how to live again without being overwhelmed by self-pity or driven by a passion for revenge. It is facing life soberly and realistically without repression, denial or escape/avoidance behaviors. (Myrla Seibold, from an essay titled, When the Wounding Runs Deep)
• Don’t drag anchors of unforgiveness into your relationships. Forgive who you need to forgive. Reach out to someone who may be able to help you work this through. Don’t drag around those things that “encumber” you. (Lee Ezell)
• Forgiveness isn’t an option in a godly marriage, it is a must.
It was meant to be standard equipment for the godly life. Forgiveness puts the pieces back in place when they’ve been broken apart or blown to bits; it is the very cement that glues the heart back together. Learning to forgive your mate for his shortcomings and oversights is critical if you want to become the [spouse] God intended you to be. (From the book The Politically Incorrect Wife by Nancy Cobb and Connie Grigsby)
• Stated in marriage relationships, forgiveness takes place when love accepts deliberately —the hurts and abrasions of life and drops all charges against the other person. It’s accepting the other when both of you know he or she has done something unacceptable. Forgiveness is smiling silent love to your partner when the justifications for keeping an insult or injury alive are on the tip of your tongue, yet you swallow them. Not because you have to, to keep peace, but because you want to, to make peace. Forgiveness is not acceptance given “on condition” that the other becomes acceptable. Forgiveness is given freely.
Out of a deep awareness that the forgiver also has need of constant forgiveness, daily.
Forgiveness exercises God’s strength to love and receive the other person without any assurance of complete restitution and making of amends. Forgiveness is a relationship between equals who recognize their deep need of each other, share and share alike. Each needs the other’s forgiveness. Each needs the other’s acceptance. Each needs the other. So, before God, each drops all charges, refuses all self-justification and forgives. Seventy times seven. (David Augsburger, Cherishable: Love and Marriage)
• Forgiving love safeguards your marriage by healing hurts and helping you feel accepted and connected… it’s a love that is securely rooted in God’s love for us. When you exhibit the grace of forgiving love toward your spouse, you change the entire tone of your marriage. No longer are you like referees counting each other’s fouls, ready to toss each other out of the game. Marriage becomes a safe place where you don’t have to hide your foibles and your failings. Instead of feeling scrutinized and condemned for your shortcomings, you feel accepted and forgiven. (Gary and Barbara Rosberg, America’s Family Coaches)
• Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting.
It means I won’t look at it the same way. It also means I will not act in a punishing way. But I don’t have to hold that grudge. It’s being willing to never bring it up again —like throwing away garbage. Forgive, claim it, close it, and keep it closed! (Nancy and Connie Grigsby, from The Politically Incorrect Wife)
• Forgiving is letting go of the past, but not in the sense of forgetting what happened or disconnecting myself from the pain. Forgiveness is refusing to allow the past to be the sole determinant of my life’s course. (Myrla Seibold, from an essay titled, When the Wounding Runs Deep)
• Why do we as victims have to extend mercy to those who hurt us? Isn’t that like rewarding them for what they’ve done? Haven’t we suffered enough? Isn’t that like condoning the wrong that they’ve done? Doesn’t that let them off the hook? In answer to those questions, we have to understand that the person who hurt us is still responsible to God for their actions. It’s just that we aren’t to be the ones to punish them —God is —and in some cases, the legal system is also involved when it’s appropriate. (Nancy and Connie Grigsby, from The Politically Incorrect Wife)
• What happens when trust is lost?
It is not a simple matter of doing once again what was required to earn the trust in the first place; earning back lost trust is far more difficult than earning trust in the first place. Each additional violation of trust makes it even more difficult to earn back the trust, and if trust if violated too many times, it becomes humanly impossible to it get back.
If you have violated your wife’s trust [and the same advice is true if it’s the husband whose trust was violated], you need to understand that her unwillingness or inability to trust you again is not about her; it’s about you. If she trusted you originally, that means she is able to trust. If she no longer trusts you because of your actions that means it’s on you. She can’t read your mind, she has no way of knowing you mean it this time; but she does know you didn’t mean it last time. Getting upset with her for not trusting you is only kicking her while she is down. Being mad that she does not believe you, when you have proven you cannot be trusted, only makes the situation worse. This is especially true if you have violated trust multiple times, be it the same issue or different ones. (Paul Byerly, from The-Generous-Husband.com article, “When Trust is Gone”)
Look at all that forgiveness does:
1. When we “forgive those who trespass against us,” we empty our hearts of hatred and make room for God’s love and forgiveness.
2. When God forgives us, he is offering grace, not just as a gift for us to have and to hold, but in order that may flow through us and on to others. By forgiving, we become channels of God’s love in a love-starved world.
3. When we forgive, we act like Christ: we experience personal Gethsemanes and Golgothas. We walk the way of the cross and share in fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ. It is, for us, an act of obedience and identification.
4. When we forgive, we open the festering wounds of our lives to the healing of God. As any medical person knows, only clean wounds can heal properly. That’s why the first step in healing is cleaning —however painful that may be. (Maxine Hancock and Karen Burton Mains, from Child Sexual Abuse: A Hope for Healing)
• We’re forgiving this person who has hurt us because of our love for God.
This is not because we condone their actions. And it also doesn’t mean that we don’t protect ourselves from future hurt. By forgiving this person we’re the ones who’ll actually benefit the most —we receive God’s blessing and we’re no longer tied to their hurtful actions. Sometimes the act of forgiving isn’t for the other person —it’s something you do for yourself. (Nancy and Connie Grigsby, from “The Politically Incorrect Wife”)
• We often want to forgive, but only if it comes easily, especially in our marriages. If it is a difficult situation or the circumstances are especially hurtful, we want to step back, nurse our wounds, and think it over. Christ didn’t do that. He didn’t step back. Instead, He allowed His feet to be nailed to a cross. He didn’t nurse His wounds, and they were far deeper and more painful than yours or ours. He thought over only one thing: whether or not He was doing the will of His Father.
How long has it been since you’ve considered doing God’s will regarding forgiving another?
His desire is for you to forgive. Over and over and over again. Are you a forgiving person? Would you consider following God’s plan for your life in this area? The hallmark of Jesus’ life was forgiveness. It’s the reason He was born. It’s the reason He lived. It’s the reason He died. Is forgiveness a hallmark in your life? (Nancy and Connie Grigsby, from “The Politically Incorrect Wife”)
• You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well. (Lewis B. Smedes, “Forgive and Forget”)
• You know you have forgiven someone when he or she has harmless passage through your mind. (Rev. Karyl Huntley)
• The following is a prayer written by Stormie Omartian in the book, The Power of a Praying Wife, that can be used by both husbands and wives.
Help me not to hold myself apart from [my spouse] emotionally, mentally, or physically because of unforgiveness. Where either of us needs to ask forgiveness of the other, help us to do so. If there is something I’m not seeing that is adding to this problem, reveal it to me and help me to understand it.
Remove any wedge of confusion that has created misunderstanding or mis-communication. Where there is behavior that needs to change in either of us, I pray You would enable that change to happen. As much as I want to hang on to my anger toward [my spouse] because I feel it is justified, I want to do what You want. I release all those feelings to You. Give me a renewed sense of love for him and words to heal this situation.