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For many, forgiveness is a dirty word. It may conger up memories of forced apologies or asking forgiveness because someone twisted your arm behind your back and asking forgiveness was the only way to stop the pain. There is usually a very good historical reason for feeling the way we do about forgiveness. However, God does not coerce. He is all about relationship. He wants us to understand the consequences of our choices, but does not twist our arm until we choose to live life His way.
What does the word mean? Sometimes it helps to look at what a word is NOT before we can wrap our minds around what it is. We must have a proper understanding of forgiveness if we hope to be free and whole.
Forgiveness is not saying what happened to you was right, that it did not hurt, or that it does not matter. Truth is, the hurt/abuse/neglect was not right, it did hurt, and it does matter. Forgiveness is not making excuses or letting people off easy. Criticism, undercutting, minimizing are not all right, it does hurt and it does matter to God and to you. Forgiveness is recognizing that the hurt, trouble, and anguish is bigger than you are and that you cannot cope with the accumulation of hurt and burdens on your own. To forgive is to release that accumulation to the Lord for Him to do with according to His own discretion. It is an invitation for the Lord to free and heal “me.” It is giving Jesus the responsibility to determine justice for those who hurt you. Forgiveness does not let someone off the hook—it puts the offender on Jesus’ hook.
You do not need to forgive and forget. Psalm 103:12 does say that God forgives and removes your sins from you as far as the east is from the west. It does say that God remembers your sins no more and does not hold them against you. I have not found any Scripture that says that you have to forgive and then forget about it and act as if nothing happened when you were hurt. God can afford to forget. When God forgets, He does not literally lose all conscious awareness of the offence, no! Forgetting is not amnesia; for if it was, there would be no record in Scripture of any specific sin that had been committed, then forgiven. God “forgets” in the sense of dismissing the case from court. A record of the offense remains, but it does not affect your life.
God can forget and still be appropriate because He has boundless wisdom. You and I do not. We need to learn from what happens to us. If you have no conscious recollection of everything you forgive, where would the learning be? You would go out and be hurt again! You are to forgive and remember. When you remember, you will not again walk into hurtful situations with your heart wide open. You forget only in the sense that God does, you dismiss it from court—in the court of your heart you hand the person over to God, allowing Him to hold the person accountable.
Forgiving someone does not mean you have to immediately trust the person. First Peter 2:17 says that you should “respect everyone.” No exceptions. But, nowhere does the Scripture say you should “trust all men.” Even Jesus did not entrust himself to men, for He knew what was in the hearts of men (John 2:24). And He said to not throw pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6). When David sneaked through camp and stole Saul’s spear and water jug, Saul apologized and asked him to come back to Jerusalem, but David did not go back to Jerusalem, for he knew Saul’s heart would not retain his momentary repentance (I Samuel 24). Time proved David correct.
You can forgive a person who is not trustworthy because you want to be untangled; you need to be free to heal. If a parent (or other significant person) is a buzz saw that cuts you to pieces, forgive them for the hurt so you can go on with life, but you do not have to act as if nothing happened. No one knowingly walks back into the path of a buzz saw! It is possible to honor a parent or a person by respecting them, but at the same time give a wide enough berth to prevent new hurt from happening.
You respect your parents and others when you treat them the way you want to be treated. You can think for yourself; you can make your own choices, be responsible for your own thoughts and attitudes, responsibilities, and burdens as well as your own speech, deceptions, denials, blame or tempers. You respect your parents and others when you ask or entreat them to be responsible for those same things. Trust and respect (honor) are not the same.
After confession and forgiveness, you have room in your heart and spirit for the Lord’s love for the one you forgave. You will be more able to see the person through God’s eyes of love rather than through the filter of hurt and resentment, but this does not necessarily come quickly.
A young man came to my husband for prayer ministry with such an active hatred for his father that he wanted him dead, and said as much. After he confessed and repented of the hatred, and asked forgiveness for it, in a vision he saw the Lord standing over his father with sword raised to strike the man down. In alarm he cried, “No, Lord!” The Lord replied, “But you said you wanted him dead.” The confession, repentance, and forgiveness cleaned the wound. Then the son could see his father more clearly. Love flooded forward, and he interceded on his father’s behalf. This story indicated to me that God agreed with the son’s assessment that his father’s behavior was unacceptable. But the son went on to hate, whereas, God’s heart was forgiveness, not vengeance. God knew the young man’s heart, and to help him come to a place of repentance and forgiveness He showed him what the consequences of that hatred would look like. The son’s error was not in the assessment, but in the hatred.
This is an excerpt from The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity, chapter 11, Bringing Healing. If you would like to know more about this book you may visit my website: www.fromgodsheart.com or want to purchase the book it is available from the website, or Amazon.com
Action Step: This week take a few minutes to think about someone you have a hard time forgiving and see if it is because of a misconception of what forgiveness actually is. True forgiveness is not necessarily easy, and people who are highly sensitive feel hurt more keenly; the wound goes deeper. Ask for Jesus perspective on the issue.
Blessings, Carol...making it plain
Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive