What causes us to be resentful and unforgiving? Every time someone offends or harms us in some way, they disregard a right we believe we should have. It is hard to release something we believe we have the right to and this causes conflict. Why is forgiveness is difficult? Because it’s hard to give up our rights in relationships.
Sometimes it’s not about rights but we are upset because we didn’t receive something we wanted. When we refuse to forgive, we insist on our rights or what we want. This keeps us stuck. The more we dwell on what is owed us or what we want, the more angry and frustrated we are. One time I ran my car into a ditch on a rainy night. The more I tried to get out, the more my tires spun and the deeper I went into the rut. Finally, I had to give up and go call a tow truck to help me get out of the ditch.
Unforgiveness is like that. The more we dwell on the offense or what we should have gotten, the more it is like a car or a truck whose tires are stuck in the mud, we spin and spin and never get out.
The good news is we can get unstuck through forgiveness. We can call for help from our friends, wise counselors and God. They can be like the tow truck. They can come lift us out of that rut so we can get on the road again and make progress to our destination.
When we forgive, we give up our rights to have things the way they should be and instead to accept the way things are. As long as we hang on to either our rights or the way we want things to be, we can’t move on.
In order to let go and go forward, it is helpful to deal with our disappointments. Some trespasses are small and we can let go quickly. Others wound us deeply. In those cases we need to acknowledge the loss and the resulting grief. Our hurts and resentment are usually justified. Grieving in a healthy way allows us to process the anger and the heartache. Recognize that this can take time depending on how serious the offense was.
Once we let go, we will find relief from the pain of what happened and we can look for ways to redeem the situation and bring good out of bad. We can benefit from the lessons learned in even negative situations and often be able to help others.
Here is a variation on a quote I heard.
“Forgiveness is giving up the right to a better past for the hope of a better future.” Sharon Rose Gibson
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
What has your experience been with forgiveness? Share with us in the comments below.