“I forgive you.” Those may be the three hardest words you ever have to speak to someone. I would challenge that with the counter question of, “Will you forgive me?”
Recently, I saw the much acclaimed movie War Room, which highlights prayer and stories of forgiveness and redemption. I was moved and envious of the main character, Clara, as she freely and willingly went to her prayer closet to pray for people, pray for her own messes, and forgiveness. Then she paid it forward and taught another woman how to do it.
If you think long and hard (or maybe it doesn’t take that much effort), you will most certainly identify at least one person you want or need to forgive for an offense. Easier said than done, right? Pain and loss take time to process and even more time to heal. We are human, made with emotions and hearts and when our heart aches, or we feel offended, almost nothing can relieve us. We try to numb it at times. We try distraction. We try busyness. We try substances. We try to forget. Forgiving is miles away…or is it?
Once, long ago, I had a choice to make. I was the offended one, and I had every right to be angry and it was mighty difficult to forgive the one who hurt me. I did not bring the offense upon myself and I did not fight it. I allowed the person to inflict the pain and I suffered greatly. However, I found myself with a choice to make. The choice to forgive or not to forgive. I certainly would not forget what happened to me or the effect it would have on me for years thereafter. However, I remembered the words of Christ when He said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, then your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15, NIV). Whoa! That was a game-changer. Not only did I instantly forgive the person, but many times in later years, I was once again convicted to do the same in relationships.
What about reversing the choice? How many times do we take the initiative and go to someone who we know we have hurt and ask their forgiveness? How often do we even discern that we have hurt them? Wouldn’t our relationships, our friendships, marriages or parenting be different if we could only humble ourselves and take that step of asking? Sadly, pride gets in the way. Time passes. Anger resumes. Distance grows. Fortunately, there is no statute of limitations on forgiveness, and we can do it freely when we are ready. My dad had an argument with his father and they didn’t speak for years, until my dad’s heart softened and one year before he became ill with cancer, he reached out to his father and asked for forgiveness. He was freed. You see, forgiveness is not only for the person who initiated the offense. Forgiveness frees us. It allows us to live with peace, to move on, to let go. What about the adage, “Forgive but don’t forget.” I don’t buy it. If we truly forgive someone, we do forget the offense. And isn’t that what Christ did for us? He paid the ultimate ransom and died on a cross for our sin, our offense. No questions asked.
What about you? Is there someone whom you need to go to, to ask for forgiveness? Don’t hesitate. Do it today.