One of the biggest benefits of forgiveness is not what it will do for your offender, but what it will do for you. If you are hesitant to forgive because you feel that your offender doesn’t deserve your mercy or you don’t want your offender to receive anything good from you, then you are missing the point of forgiveness. God wants us to forgive because it is the right thing for us to do. It is right because it is the God-like, loving thing to do. It is right because it brings about good in our lives and often in the lives of others–including our offender’s (Mt. 5:7, Mt. 6:12). It is right because it is what Jesus would do and wants to do for us (Mt. 5:14-15, Mark 11:25). Mostly it is right because it gets our focus off of our offender and back on to God (Mt. 5:23-24) and that’s when God’s blessings begin to rain down on us!
In contrast, when we refuse to forgive our offender, we choose to remain a victim to his or her hurtful actions against us. It’s as if we are refusing to sever the unhealthy connection we have with our offender. Thus, we are allowing ourselves to be emotionally bound to the hurtful people in our lives. (Think about it–how much do you think about what your offender is doing or not doing in an average day? If you are bitter, you won’t be able to go a day or moment without thinking about that person, and often ruining your mood because of it!) When we allow ourselves to be emotionally bound to our offender, we end up dragging the memory of those hurts with us everywhere we go–reliving the pain over and over again! So when someone else comes along and does something that might not even be wrong, but looks similar to what our offender did, we get angry, even volatile, all over again. Eventually, the bitterness becomes like a cancer in our hearts and souls, that overtakes every area of our lives and relationships.
On the other hand, choosing forgiveness helps us to move on in our lives and to be all that God wants us to be. We are no longer consumed with angry and frustrated thoughts, but with hopeful and purposeful thoughts from God. However, when we choose to hold on to our hurt, anger and resentments, we are giving our offender endless opportunities to hurt us now and in the future–without a single effort on their part. But if we choose forgiveness, God empowers us to break the chains of victimization. It is only then that we can live, laugh and love again. And as an added bonus, by forgiving we are, in essence, releasing our offender into our Father’s mighty hands who can teach them what they need to know much more effectively (to put it mildly) than we can (Rom. 12:19-20). So my suggestion would be . . . don’t waste another minute depriving yourself of the freedom, the momentum, and the blessings God wants to give you through forgiveness.
Look for my next post, if you are interested in how to move from forgiveness to reconciliation.