The Truth about Forgiveness Lies
by Candy Arrington
Our Christian faith is based on the concept of forgiveness—we admit we are sinners, believe Jesus died for our sins and accept the forgiveness He freely offers—but forgiving others is often a different concept. Emotions get involved, tying us up in knots of anger and resentment and holding us prisoner to negative thoughts and feelings. Then forgiving seems unnecessary and not worth the trouble. But when we fail to forgive, we’re miserable, relationships are ruined and we displease God.
Lies We Believe About Forgiving
While we’re thankful for God’s forgiveness and happy when others extend forgiveness to us when we’ve wronged them, forgiving someone who has hurt us is hard. Satan whispers deceptive ideas about forgiveness, lies that often halt the process.
Lie—Forgiveness can wait
Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” God’s time for forgiveness is always right now. Delayed forgiveness compresses anger, and stale anger changes the way a person talks and acts. Unforgiveness transforms a person, negatively, and causes separation from others and from God. To maintain healthy relationships, we must forgive.
Lie—Forgiveness equals weakness
When we’re offended, we usually hide how much words or actions hurt us. Some people view forgiving as a sign of weakness and believe refusing to forgive proves you weren’t affected by what happened and are still in control. Jesus forgave those who sent Him to the cross. The world may view this as weakness, but Jesus demonstrated amazing strength in forgiving those who mocked Him and unjustly sentenced Him to death.
Lie—Forgiveness means no consequences
When someone hurts us, we want that person to suffer, too. We’re unwilling to let them get away with what they did, unpunished. But the Bible reminds us punishment for sin is God’s responsibility, not ours. “Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Don’t take the law into your own hands” (Romans 12:19 TLB).
Lie—Forgiveness risks more hurt
While cocooning ourselves with a stiff emotional shell of unforgiveness may make us feel we can’t be hurt again, it also means we can’t heal from the pain. When you have a cut or scrape, the wound heals faster if it is washed, medicated and bandaged. Sometimes, treating the wound makes it hurt a little more, but soon that pain fades. Forgiveness is similar. Forgiveness washes away the anger, soothes the emotional pain and covers the wound. You may have some uncomfortable feelings at first, but then you experience relief.
Lie—Forgiveness requires admission of fault
While dying on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Mark 11:25 NIV). Those who crucified Jesus didn’t ask for forgiveness, but Jesus forgave anyway. Many times those who hurt us never admit they’ve done anything wrong and never ask for our forgiveness. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t forgive them. Jesus set an example for us, modeling forgiving those who aren’t sorry for what they’ve done.
Lie—Forgiveness involves feeling like forgiving
Feelings often determine our actions, but Jesus calls us to a higher standard: actions that are the product of spiritual maturity and Christ-like love rather than feelings. The act of forgiveness often comes before you feel like forgiving. Remember, you are not the only one hurt by a broken relationship. Choose to forgive whether you feel like it or not. Eventually your feelings will follow your choice to forgive.
Lie—Forgiveness lowers your self-esteem
Often, we don’t forgive because our pride gets in the way. And sometimes we’re the ones who need to ask for forgiveness, but pride stops us from admitting we were at fault. It’s harder to see sin in ourselves than to notice it in others. Learning to forgive and asking for forgiveness from God and others helps produce spiritual growth and preserves relationships. When we forgive, we give ourselves a gift. In forgiving, we free ourselves from anger and bitterness and allow healing to begin. And our obedience pleases God because He commanded us to forgive. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13 NLT).
Practical Steps to Forgiveness
1. Write about what happened, how it hurt you, and what you are feeling. Include as many details as you choose. This is just between you and God, not for a social media rant or with the intention of showing your words to anyone else.
2. Pray. Ask for God’s help with forgiving and tell Him you want to separate what happened from the person who did it. Acknowledge that we are all sinners, guilty of hurting others at times.
3. Tear up the paper you wrote on and dispose of the remnants to symbolize you’re releasing the offender from the offense. You do not have to tell the person you have forgiven. This is a transaction between you and God.
4. Decide to move forward. When you start thinking about the offense again, ask God to help you stop replaying the events, the words said, and the words you’d like to say. Mentally mark the event “canceled.”
5. Read Scripture that reminds you of God’s love and forgiveness. Trust that in time your emotional pain will dissipate.
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