FORGIVENESS: WHY WE DON’T, BUT NEED TO AND HOW Part 1

Is there someone in your life that you either refuse to forgive or are having a hard time with? I’ve often heard people make statements such as “I’ll never forgive them for what they did!” Or, “Some things should never be forgiven.” Still others feel that some people simple do not deserve exoneration. Why are some reluctant to do so when others believe it is absolutely necessary and must be offered to the offending party? Shouldn’t the choice to extend absolution be a personal one?

Let’s first examine some of the reasons why people withhold this act:

1. People believe that some offenses are too heinous to be worthy of forgiving. Rape, murder, an affair, embezzlement, betrayal and others are considered too serious by nature to move beyond.

2. Some feel that forgiveness opens the door for the offending party to recommit the transgression as it appears to remove all accountability. Holding on to one’s anger and judgment imposes guilt and shame on the offender and therefore offers some reassurance that it will not occur.

3. Holding on to arrogance and judgment makes us feel powerful. It enables us to damage the offender’s reputation and credibility, influence others to rethink the nature of their relationship with the guilty party, and inflict pain and suffering on them, thus offering us some distorted sense of satisfaction and restitution for their crime. (We’re getting even.) Forgiving may make us appear weak. Ghandi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

4. Smaller wrongdoings are understandable as for the most part we all realize that people are not perfect and will make mistakes. But by a certain age, we feel they should know better. That is, they should know right from wrong, how to treat people, to recognize their own weaknesses and refrain from acting them out. We impose our values and expectations on others (“They should know…, they should do/be…”) and those who fall short are not granted exemption.

5. Those we are less fond of are often judged more harshly than those we care about. We deem them unworthy of forgiveness. They simply don’t deserve it. Yet were that same offense committed by a loved one or someone of greater importance to us, we might be more inclined to extend compassion. Our feelings towards the individual can play a role in who we determine is deserving.

6. The individual continues repeating the same offense or commits additional affronts against us.

7. Those who refuse to acknowledge their wrongdoing, take ownership, apologize, or make amends are often denied absolution.

8. If we forgive we fear it will send one of two messages: either the offense was not as serious as first believed or we are allowing the person exemption from facing the consequences.

However, those who choose to withhold absolution put themselves (and others) at grave risk. One can easily become consumed with anger or rage which can lead to an assortment of physical maladies, interfere with the health of other relationships, and impede one’s ability to be fully happy and enjoy life. It can also become a crutch for hindering one’s successes, such as in the case of a person who was bullied as a child and suffers with self-esteem and trust issues as an adult. The object may hold the other fully accountable and blame them for their continued suffering and failures. Long-term unresolved anger and blame can easily lead to bitterness and self-pity which will ultimately destroy a person’s life.
“Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” (unknown)
Although one may not seek a reconciliation with the other party in the moment, holding a grudge will obstruct their chances of ever making amends and possibly reuniting in the future.

While all of the above grounds seem reasonable to a many people, each fails in comparison to the reasons why forgiveness is essential.

1. We need forgiveness because it neutralizes our feelings of anger, judgment, resentment, and thoughts of retaliation. Louis Smedes: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

2. It thwarts any chance of seeking revenge or retaliation, thus preventing both side from further harm.

3. It is the first step towards a possible reconciliation and at the very least enables both parties to part without feelings of animosity or hostility.

4. It restores inner peace. Some say that when you have your health you have everything. I say, if you have inner peace your life is truly blessed beyond measure. You have all you need and need nothing more. You cannot achieve optimum health or happiness if you harbor feelings of hostility towards anyone. “Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior. It prevents it from destroying your heart.”

Choosing to pardon someone from an egregious act in no way condones their behavior nor does it minimize the serious nature of the offense. One must still be held accountable, accept the consequences, and offer restitution whenever possible. Ephesians 4: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Forgiveness is freedom from the past; it heals all wounds and enables the individual to move beyond the incident and fully embrace the present. It’s akin to breaking a bone: in time, the pain subsides as the bone heals. One remembers the incident and the extent of the pain but no longer feels it. Forgiveness does not erase nor diminish the serious nature of what transpired. One remembers but without emotion, for they have been restored to wholeness.

One of our primary goals in life to continually improve the quality of our lives: to become healthier, not sicker; to gain intelligence, not to become more ignorant; to have more fun not less; to be happier, not miserable; to be more loving and less judgmental; to gain courage and relinquish fear; to be more peaceful and tranquil, not more hateful. Therefore, it is only logical that to forgive is a life-affirming method of self-improvement.

Mark 11: 25 “And when you stand praying if you hold anything against anyone forgive them so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Watch a very powerful video on the importance of forgiveness at www.FromGodWithLove.net.

Tune in next week for the “How To’s” of forgiving.

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