There’s not a single person on this planet who has never been offended by someone. No one is immune to the sting of rejection or betrayal, of injustice or pain. It’s one of the core commonalities we share across the globe regardless of which race or ethnicity we belong to. While the magnitude of the offense(s) can vary across a wide spectrum of severity, each and every incident can leave us either bitter…or better, depending on how we choose to handle it.
When someone hurts you, many times the first reaction is to hurt them back. It’s human nature to quickly get angry and want to retaliate or keep a good distance away from the offender. It’s very easy to harbor negative feelings and have thoughts of hurt, regret, and/or even revenge. Why is this? It’s actually quite simple. We don’t want to feel like the other person got away with what they did. It doesn’t seem fair. It’s not right. We want justice.
Yes, it takes time to heal. But what we often fail to realize is that if we continue to dwell on negative feelings, we are actually hurting ourselves in the long run. Despite what most people might think, the only way to be strengthened is not with a mighty force of impact or putting up an impenetrable wall, but rather a humble softening of the heart in a moment of vulnerability with God. “It’s not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty (Zechariah 4:6).
Everything that Jesus says about forgiveness is the opposite of what our natural instincts would want to do. This is exactly why we are unable to extend true forgiveness without His help. We have to rely on His strength and allow Him to soften our hearts. “But you don’t understand what they did,” you might reason, “it’s unforgiveable!” Let me first say that when you forgive others, it doesn’t mean that what they did was okay. It doesn’t mean that the pain they caused isn’t real. What it DOES mean is that you are operating in faith and allowing for the following three types of releases to occur:
1. It releases YOU
As long as you are dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions from a past offense, the offender has control over you. You have given them the ability to control your moods, cause bitterness and/or even depression. The enemy is using them to steal your joy! They may not have ever admitted their fault and can seem to be living life unaffected, yet you are still dealing with mental and emotional turmoil. By forgiving your offenders, you are releasing YOURSELF from all unnecessary baggage. You are no longer allowing your future life to be hindered by your past one. You are free to be happy and at peace, and that, in and of itself, is liberating!
2. It releases THEM
When you forgive others, it releases them from your hands and into God's hands. God is very well aware of all that has happened and it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” You therefore do not need to worry about it or let it affect you any longer. To the contrary, God expects us to feed our enemy if he is hungry and give him something to drink if he is thirsty. We are not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:20)! Furthermore, we are told to bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28). So give God his rightful place as supreme judge and vindicator over your situation. That was never your position to fill.
3. It releases GOD
Every time you forgive someone, you look more and more like Jesus. I can say this because the main purpose of His life was to forgive us of our sins. Even while hanging on the cross, one of His final utterances was, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” He undoubtedly did this not in His own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit as He endured the most painful suffering leading up to His death. So by following Jesus’s example, you are enabling God to transform you into His likeness as well as bless you for your obedience. Forgiving others of their trespasses also releases God to forgive us of our own (Matthew 6:15). I don’t know about you, but I desire ALL of the above!
If you are dealing with unforgiveness and are ready to start the process of letting go, begin by meditating on the scripture verses I referenced in this blog. You can also look up other scripture verses on forgiveness as you ask God for His help. He will do it! Nothing heals and strengthens like His Word and He wants you to live a life of complete freedom and victory. Choose forgiveness!