Forgiveness is a process that should always be working in our lives. If it is, we will constantly be using it to mend and repair broken relationships. People who have never been introduced to the concept of forgiveness carry a lot of baggage around. They are bitter and angry. Their list of resentment goes back through the years. They can readily recall incidents where they have been hurt. When they recall the event, the pain is as real as if it happened yesterday. The entire focus of the episode is on the wrong they have endured. Their demeanor is cross and annoyed. Absent is any attraction of being pleasant and inviting. How do people get like this? They get this way by not forgiving the person or persons who hurt them, and of course, the list continues to grow. What a terrible way to live! Their circle of life gets smaller and smaller the longer they live.
In contrast, the person who forgives is blessed with an easy burden to bear because forgiveness lifts the load of hurt, anger, and resentment. Being a forgiving person is a choice! We choose to forgive or not forgive. When we choose to forgive, we are saying, “I refuse to allow this hurt to control my life.” When we forgive, we set ourselves free from this quicksand of bitterness that envelopes us. Choosing to forgive is not always easy, in fact, sometimes it can seem almost impossible, but doing it is an abiding principle.
People who do not forgive rationalize that their situation is different. Their offense is unforgiveable. Confronting the perpetrator is essential because their behavior is inexcusable. It is true that forgiving a person does not automatically mean reconciliation nor that we confer trust to someone who has betrayed our trust. The forgiving person understands that there are no offenses that should not be forgiven, and this is what distinguishes their life from the unforgiving person. The forgiving person forgives to maintain the flow of God’s forgiveness in their life. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount: “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt 6:15).
Forgiveness is not the goal but the means of restoring relationships. We long for connection, and offenses are the visible damage of broken connections. Forgiveness is our means of connecting with God and with those around us.
If you have been struggling with a person for years and the very thought of carrying on a good conversation is non-existent—you need to forgive them. If you are tortured by resentful thoughts about an incident and a particular person always comes to mind—you need to forgive them. Remember it is a process! It takes time, and you will have to forgive and keep on forgiving until the hurt goes away. Remember forgiveness is a choice!