Recently, the Lord revealed a ball of unforgiveness within me. Mentally, I saw a ball of yarn composed of many strands of different colors. Each strand was an offense that remained unforgiven. Not a pleasant experience when God calls you out!
I know, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)
I know, “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15)
I know, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27).
Yet, Whoomp, there it is! another unforgiveness strand gets added to the ball. Arg!!
Why is forgiveness so hard? Lewis Smedes wrote, “Nobody seems to be born with much talent for forgiving. We all need to learn from scratch, and the learning almost always runs against the grain.”*
It runs against the grain because:
we feel we’re letting them off the hook if we forgive
the hurt/offense is too big or runs too deep—often the deeper the love the deeper the hurt.
we’re unaware of the real issue at hand—I take offense at your comment, but, in reality, my fear of inadequacy was triggered, anger erupts, and another strand is added
we don’t understand how forgiveness works—for example, thinking that forgiving someone and trusting them are the same thing
we forget how much we’ve been forgiven by our loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and by God Himself—for those who’ve accepted Christ’s forgiveness for all their mess-ups (sins).
So what do I (we) need to do?
Remember that forgiveness can’t be forced, rushed, or demanded. It’s a choice.
Write down the offense (action, inaction, or situation that caused the hurt) and your feelings about the individual and offense.
Confess to God the unforgiveness in your heart.
Review all the Bible verses you can find on forgiveness.
Pray for God to show you the heart of your offender.
Pray that God will give you the desire to forgive. This is necessary because sometimes the wound is deep or we crave the power we think we have over the individual by not forgiving them.
Seek counsel if this is proving too hard on your own.
Tell God you’ve forgiven the individual (when you have).
Remember you may need to forgive again. (Matthew 18: 21-22)
Repeat this process for all of the strands in your unforgiveness ball of yarn.
When this process is complete, some people recommend shredding, burning, or otherwise disposing of the written offense. It can provide powerful closure on the forgiveness process.
What about telling them how you feel?
Here are some good books on forgiveness that can help here and with your other questions. Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall, Forgive and Forget by Lewis Smedes, and When Sorry Isn’t Enough by Gary Chapman.
*Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve
yarn by Vicki Becker Pixabay