Defining Forgiveness

What is forgiveness?  When we say, "I forgive you," what do we truly mean?  I won't hold it against you?  I'll erase it from my memory?  I understand why you did what you did?  I acknowledge that your good still outweighs your bad?  What is forgiveness all about?

For the longest time, I thought forgiveness was a combination of all the things above.  I was under the impression that to forgive someone meant that I didn't hold the deed against that person and that I removed the instance from my memory.  The problem with my definition, however, was that I felt I was constantly failing in the area of forgiveness.  Allow me to explain.

Several years ago, I was hurt very badly by someone who claimed to be my friend.  This person outright lied about me, and her lie resulted in serious trouble for me with my boss.  After that event, things were never the same with that person, my boss or even my job.  Since that time, I have made every effort to "forgive" her for what she did.  The problem is that every time I see that person or even think about her, I can't help but think of what she did to me and how much her betrayal hurt me.  Since the memory and negative feelings always returned, I assumed I just hadn't forgiven the person, and obviously my failure to forgive was a bad thing.

But recently, I heard forgiveness described in a way like I'd never heard it described before.  Finally, it made sense.  Finally, I no longer felt incapable of offering forgiveness.  To sum it up, to forgive can be defined in three words:  let it go.  That doesn't mean we won't remember.  We will.  It doesn't mean the wrongdoing won't still hurt.  It will.  What it means is that every time that wrongdoing surfaces in our minds, we make a choice to let it go.  Acknowledge it, and then put it away.  Forgiveness means that we don't let it fester until it causes bitterness in our hearts.  It means that we don't allow the wrongdoing to affect the way we show the love of Christ to others. . .including the wrongdoer.  It's the simple (albeit not easy) process of letting it go.  It's over.  It's done with.  There's nothing about the event that can be changed.  What can be changed, however, is how we allow the event to dictate our future.

Have you been hurt?  I think we all have.  Is there someone that stirs up memories of disappointment and anger in your heart?  If so, know this -- forgiveness is available to all.  Don't let the actions of another rob you of peace and joy.  Acknowledge the fault, but then let it go.  The other person may not notice a difference, but I guarantee that you will.  We all need forgiveness from time to time, but let's not forget that we also need to forgive.

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. - Ephesians 4:31-32
Print Friendly and PDF