Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

The Difficulty of Forgiveness


For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Why is forgiveness so difficult? It might be because we often think of forgiveness as a word. We say “I forgive you” and we think that is it, but it isn’t. Forgiveness is more than a word. When we have been deeply hurt by someone, simply saying the word will not take care of the problem. Forgiveness is a process. It is something that takes time. It is something that does not end with the utterance of a single word. It is something we must continue to work at. I believe many people struggle with forgiveness because they think saying the word is going to magically make things better. When it doesn’t they then think they have done something wrong or that they are terrible at forgiveness. In reality deep wounds are not quickly healed.

We must begin changing the way we think about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not just a word we say. It involves our feelings. It has to do with our attitude towards other human beings who sometimes do awful things. Forgiveness is about following the ways of Jesus. It is about loving others who do not always love us in return. It is also about not allowing bitterness and hatred to take over our lives. When we refuse to forgive the person we hurt the most is ourselves.

What does it look like to be a forgiving person? What sort of practices must we commit to if we want to truly forgive?

We must forgive more than once. Forgiveness involves saying “I forgive you” but what some people don’t realize is that these words may have to be said over and over again. We may say “I forgive you” and even feel good about it afterwards, but then a few days or weeks later those same feelings of bitterness come back. When this happens we must forgive all over again. Sometimes forgiveness does not come easy at all. Sometimes it is difficult to even get the words out of our mouth. Just saying “I forgive you” may be an accomplishment in and of itself. When this occurs we might want to treat forgiveness as a discipline. We might want to keep saying “I forgive you” until it becomes easier. Words have power and meaning, and when it comes to forgiveness we often have to return to these words multiple times.

We must pray. Forgiveness and prayer go hand in hand. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is difficult to be like Jesus when people hurt us. We often struggle with feelings of revenge and bitterness. These feelings do not go away overnight and they don’t go away on their own. We need God’s help. We need to talk to God about how we feel. We also need to pray for those who have hurt us. Praying for our enemies will help with our own feelings.

We must change the way we think about others. Forgiving someone who has hurt us does not mean we must be friends with them, but it does mean we must change the way we think about them. We must wish the best for them. We must not hate them or wish something bad happen to them. Forgiving someone often involves changing our attitude towards that person. This happens through prayer and speaking words of forgiveness, but it also happens through our actions (Rom. 12:20). When we are struggling with how we feel about another person we can commit to doing something good for them. Our actions influence how we feel and think about others. An act of kindness may make all the difference in the world.

As Christians forgiveness is a necessity. We cannot be a Christian and refuse to forgive. We must also recognize that forgiveness is a lifestyle. It is something we commit to and it often takes time. Forgiveness is about the words we speak, but it also involves our feelings toward others, prayer, and acts of kindness. Let us follow in the footsteps of Jesus and be willing to live a life of forgiveness.


2 Responses to “The Difficulty of Forgiveness”

  1. Very well thought out and written.

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