One thing we can count on in life is that others will hurt us and we ourselves will even cause others to suffer pain. Because we are human, we are going to make mistakes, treat others unkindly by word and deed, and we will inevitably suffer mistreatment by others. The question is whether we’ll respond with anger and bitterness or grace and forgiveness. Poet Alexander Pope aptly spoke “to err is human but to forgive is divine.” In deed, true forgiveness requires divine grace.
True forgiveness goes against every human sense of what is fair and right. Naturally, when someone hurts us, we want revenge. Many of us spend wasted years punishing our offenders over and over again in our minds for the pain they have caused us. Sometimes we even hold things against ourselves—past mistakes, bad choices we’ve made and pain we’ve caused others. By holding on to emotional pain and shame, whether self inflicted or caused by others, our hearts become hardened to the tender forgiveness that Christ extends to us. And, because Christ has forgiven us, how much more are we to forgive others?
It is extremely difficult to forgive others because we want revenge for the pain we’ve suffered. We become both judge and jury to all who hurt our feelings and our offenders are always guilty as charged. We think that holding others hostage for the hurt they’ve caused us is fair and just—after all, what we really want is retribution for every single infraction. We hold on to past hurts as a way of punishing others, when in fact, we’re only feeding our own pain. Until we let go of the bitterness and anger—until we forgive— we can never stop the emotional pain we feel. Our own healing cannot begin until we first forgive. Forgiving is not forgetting—it is not a matter of instant amnesia where we forget the pain another has caused. We do, however, stop seeking our own revenge and release the person to God’s judgement and healing. Once we choose to forgive, we open our hearts to God’s grace and His divine healing.
To forgive is a matter of choice—a matter of our will—and a matter of divine grace. We need the divine grace of God in order to release others from our want of revenge. Let us not allow bitterness, anger and resentment to fester and build a wall between ourselves and others. God can and will heal our broken emotions and our broken relationships. Let us open our hearts to receive God’s divine grace to forgive, to heal and to embrace a deeper relationship with Christ.
Scripture references: Ephesians 4:31-32, Romans 12:17-19, IICorinthians 2:10-11.