When someone hurts you, you have an important decision to make: to forgive them or not. While not forgiving someone may seem like it’s a good idea (and you probably feel very strongly that it is), holding onto unforgiveness doesn’t serve you well.With research indicating that unforgiveness actually puts your physical, mental, and emotional health at risk, forgiveness is the better move. However, we may know something in our heads, but it’s another thing entirely to tell our hearts to get in line.
Forgiveness isn’t easy – it feels like we’ve giving up something important by forgiving someone, and we’re reluctant to do so. It turns out that what we give up is our anger, a sense of power over the other person, and unnecessary heartache; what we gain in their place is peace and freedom from bitterness.
Learning How to Forgive
Sometimes, seeing someone else in action as they do something inspires, challenges, and demonstrates to us how to do it. With forgiveness, it may be helpful to learn from others, to see their struggles and how they were able to overcome their own inclinations to arrive at forgiveness.
The Bible has many examples of forgiveness in action, and it’s clear that God’s people are meant to be a forgiving people. After all, we’ve each been forgiven an enormous debt by God, one which we could never pay. And that same Lord now calls us to extend a similar forgiveness and acceptance of others as he has given to us.
Mission impossible? Perhaps, if we were doing it on our own, that is. But Luke 1:37 reminds us, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Forgiving someone who’s hurt you isn’t a simple, once-and-done thing. The feelings of resentment that you feel toward your offender may bubble up again. In those moments we need to stand firmly by our commitment to release them.
One other thing that will help us on our journey of forgiveness is to understand clearly what forgiveness means, and what it doesn’t. For instance, Stormie Omartian has said, “Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right; it makes you free.”
We mustn’t feel that by forgiving someone, we are approving of their actions or giving them a pass. That’s not what forgiveness is about. It is about trusting God to handle the consequences instead of taking matters into your own hands.
Bible Verses on How to Forgive
The Bible challenges us to forgive others. It seems that God wants us to grow and become more like him, and so once we belong to him, he calls us to live in ways that reflect his goodness.
Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’– Matthew 18:21-22
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. –Ephesians 4:32
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. – Romans 12:17
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” 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 6:9-15
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. – 1 Peter 3:9
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. – Matthew 5:23-24
Meditate on these Bible verses when you need help with forgiveness.
Quotes on How to Forgive
Below are some quotes on forgiveness that can help you reflect not only on the power of forgiveness, but what it means to walk the path of forgiveness.
We ought to remember that forgiveness is vastly different from excusing a person’s behavior, as C. S. Lewis reminds us:“To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – how can we do it?
“Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it means to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.”
As hard as it is, forgiveness allows relationships to continue, and it creates room for them to flourish, as the following quotes remind us:
“Forgiveness is the only way to break the cycle of blame–and pain–in a relationship…It does not settle all questions of blame and justice and fairness…But it does allow relationships to start over. In that way, said Solzhenitsyn, we differ from all animals. It is not our capacity to think that makes us different, but our capacity to repent, and to forgive.” – Philip Yancey
“None of us are there yet, but if we each have this attitude, we will put to death our reactions to criticisms and offenses. And though we may still stumble, we will learn that carrying the cross is not merely dying to self; it is embracing the love of Christ that forgives the very ones who have crucified us, that the battle that comes against us has actually driven us into the embrace of God.” – Francis Frangipane
“Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” – Anonymous
“Real forgiveness is a lifelong commitment. You must practise it every day.” – Richard Daly
“When a partner does make a mistake, it isn’t acceptable for the other partner to dwell on it and constantly remind the spouse of the mistake. Forgiveness can make a marriage whole again.” – Elijah Davidson
“Forgiving other people who have wronged us or hurt us or embarrassed us is not easy. In fact, sometimes it seems impossible. But that is what God did for us and what He asks us to do for others.” – Korie Robertson
The Power of Forgiveness
It takes time for forgiveness to do its full work in us, and for us to even feel as though we’ve forgiven someone. However, the power of forgiveness is that it releases us from the resentment and anger that would otherwise trap us.
“If you have ever seen a country church with a bell in the steeple, you will remember that to get the bell ringing you have to tug awhile. Once it has begun to ring, you merely maintain the momentum. As long as you keep pulling, the bell keeps ringing. Forgiveness is letting go of the rope. It is just that simple. But when you do so, the bell keeps ringing. Momentum is still at work. However, if you keep your hands off the rope, the bell will begin to slow and eventually stop.” – Corrie Ten Boom
“Forgiveness is the key which unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.” – Corrie Ten Boom
“We win by tenderness. We conquer by forgiveness.” – Frederick W. Robertson
“The most miserable prison in the world is the prison we make for ourselves when we refuse to show mercy. Our thoughts become shackled, our emotions are chained, the will is almost paralyzed. But when we show mercy, all of these bonds are broken, and we enter into a joyful liberty that frees us to share God’s love with others.” – Warren W. Wiersbe
“Unforgiveness is like having weeds in the garden of our soul. Weeds grow and reproduce until an entire garden is destroyed. If you want a garden of love, joy, and peace in your heart, you must get rid of all the weeds.” – Patricia Partney Dascher
“We may not know how to forgive, and we may not want to forgive; but the very fact we say we are willing to forgive begins the healing practice.” – Louise Hay
“Chances are someone has hurt you really bad and the only way you will be free from the anger is to forgive them.” – James Robor
“The hardest thing in life is to forgive. But hate is self-destructive. If you hate somebody you’re not hurting the person you hate, you’re hurting yourself. Forgiveness is healing.” – Louis Zamperini
Forgiving Others Because God Forgives Us
We can forgive others because we carry within us an awareness of our own failings. We know that God has forgiven us, and we know that we too make mistakes for which others have forgiven us. Our experience of God’s grace helps us develop empathy, and that can move us to forgive others who have wronged us.
“And you know, when you’ve experienced grace and you feel like you’ve been forgiven, you’re a lot more forgiving of other people. You’re a lot more gracious to others.” – Rick Warren
“God has forgiven you many times for little and big things. You need to do the same and forgive others.” – Lisa Rusczyk
“Because I make mistakes, I know others do too. I’ve found when I give forgiveness, it’s me – not the other person – who benefits.” – Ellen Miller
“Forgiveness is a biblical decision that I must make, but trust must be rebuilt by you proving yourself to be trustworthy over time.” – Ron Larson
Rather than wait, perhaps we should pursue forgiveness at the earliest opportunity. As Wilfred Peterson reminds us, “Forgiveness should start now. Putting off forgiving only deepens the wound. Clinging to bitterness postpones happiness. Life is short, time is fleeting. Today is the day to forgive.”
If you need help pursuing forgiveness in your personal journey, a Christian counselor can be an encouraging resource for you. Your counselor will help you learn how to practice forgiveness in your own unique situations.
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