What’s the one thing that will block our development and maturity more than anything else? God cares about relationships, and having unresolved relationship issues in this one area stagnates our Christian growth more than virtually anything else. Even the world recognizes this issue – as Bitterness. In the Kingdom of God, the Bible has another name for it – Unforgiveness.
Forgiving others is a two-part process.
First, we have to acknowledge that they actually sinned against us. Often, especially in our family of origin, we excuse and rationalize it instead. “Dad really worked hard” or “he never beat me unless I deserved it.” Forgiveness is not pretending it never happened or pretending that what was done to us wasn’t wrong. Even if we’ve convinced ourselves otherwise, our spirit knows wrong was done to us, and harbors judgement against the other person – even if we’re not aware of it. So by pretending it didn’t happen or wasn’t wrong, we actually condemn ourselves to live in the prison of unforgiveness. So the first step is recognizing the evil the person did to us, being honest about it without minimizing it.
The second step is deciding to believe the person is not the evil they did to us. Hurt people hurt people. They have their own story and their own pain and lived under their own deception that lead them to do evil to us. When we come to the point where we accept that they are not the evil they did to us, when we let them out of the “bad guy” chair, we come to the point where, in our hearts, they don’t owe us anything. That’s forgiveness – in our heart we’ve dropped the debt they owe us because of what they did. We can still hate what they did, but we no longer hold anything against them for it.
Not holding anything against someone who’s sinned against us does not mean they aren’t responsible for their actions. We can still put up healthy boundaries, especially if the person is unrepentant and hasn’t changed. But those boundaries are there because of their unhealthy behavior, not because we vindictively are holding something against them or are trying to punish them for the past.
I have an friend we’ll call “Damien” whose wife left him. There was no abuse or anything like that, she just decided she didn’t want to stay in the marriage anymore. While getting prayer ministry, he saw a vision in his mind of Jesus hanging on the cross. The Lord asked him very matter-of-factly, with no condemnation, “Have I hung here long enough to pay you back for what she did to you? Or do I need to hand here longer?” Damien broke down. He answered in his heart, “No, Lord, it’s enough. You’ve done enough.” From that moment on, even though his wife had not repented, Damien forgave her.
Damien tells me that, to this day, whenever he starts to get bitter, he goes back to that moment. Even though he had to place some boundaries in his dealings with her after that because of her continued bad behavior, Damien does not hold anything against her. That’s living in forgiveness. In fact, Damien prays blessing over her without any begrudging feelings in his spirit. That’s the litmus test of true forgiveness.
How about you? Is there someone you need to forgive? Have you experienced the incredible freedom that forgiveness brings? Tell us your story in the comments or shoot us a message by clicking here. We’d love to hear your story and pray for you.