Forgiveness is something we all want and usually expect, but we often find it difficult to give; especially when it comes to forgiving ourselves. This verse is one that come to mind when I don’t seem to be getting the forgiveness I think I deserve:
“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.” Matthew 6:14-15 The Message
I don’t like to think about this verse when I am angry and need to forgive, however. I’ve been told my entire life to “forgive and forget” when I am offended or hurt. That’s really hard for me to do. I think I’m good at forgiving, until something new arises and I all those old memories come flooding back. I don’t always realize that I’m holding a grudge, but it’s there. Forgiveness is something that I have to work on everyday. When that old grudge rears its ugly head, I must remind myself that it’s been forgiven and move on into the light of life.
I find that I have a hard time forgiving when the offense is against someone who I love. If one of my kids or my husband, one of my siblings or my parents are the object of ridicule, unjust criticism, rumor or other attacks either physically or emotionally, I want to punish the person responsible. History has proven that retribution doesn’t always pan out the way I would like, it just leads to more hurt. And the cycle is repeated over and over and over.
“Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” Romans 12:19-20 The Message
I am learning each day that I must forgive. Even (especially) when the other person involved is not aware that they need forgiveness. Words are thrown carelessly around. We talk about anything and everything without a thought to what those words may mean to the listener. Hearing another woman wish her husband was gone caused pain to me as a widow. My children react when they hear others complain about their parents and/or step-parents. We need to be aware of the audience and be sensitive to others.
We say what we “think” others want to hear. Unfortunately, social media is used to broadcast our every thought and action. Inconsistencies are highlighted because of it. Keeping our stories straight is very difficult these days. If I say I cannot go to dinner with you because I don’t feel well and then post on social media my night out on the town with someone else, you probably would be hurt. The trust between us would be broken. And I may never realize there was a problem. What if I go out of my way to help someone and they thank me profusely; then, I find out that they complained about my interference to a mutual friend. I’m probably not going to help or trust as easily the next time. And, I must forgive that person and tolerate their inconsistent behaviors.
Tolerance has become a big part of forgiveness for me. There are things that offend me, that make me angry. Being angry is hard work. I don’t tolerate half-truths very well. My nature is to point out the white lie very loudly. However, I’ve come to understand that sometimes, people are conditioned to say just enough to get by. It’s the way they have survived: by saying what they perceive is expected of them. It’s usually not meant as hurtful. And, I need to learn to be tolerant of the behavior and earn their trust so we don’t have to tell half-truths any longer.
I continue to learn how to tolerate and to forgive those that need to tear everyone around them down in order to feel bigger. These are the gossips that grab any shred of information and blow it up to destroy another person’s reputation. The gossip may have begun with a shred of truth, but it rarely is accurate. It’s not meant to tell the truth. It’s meant to help the teller feel better about their own fallacies. We have all been victims of rumors and gossip and one time or another. And, I would venture to say, we have all gossiped as well. I struggle with forgiving the back-stabbers, the ones that smile to your face and tear you down when you walk away. But, I’m working on it.
“Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.” John 8: The Message
I fear that one of the biggest issues we all encounter is accepting forgiveness. When we have wronged another, it can be very uncomfortable and maybe even awkward. It’s hard to ask for or accept any forgiveness. Sometimes, we don’t believe that we deserve that forgiveness. And, I find it especially hard to forgive myself for stupid decisions and mistakes. I have only to look at the example of Jesus to see how important forgiveness is. He gave His very life so I could be forgiven.
“If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.” 1 John 1:8-10 The Message
So, why do I find it so hard to give or accept forgiveness? Why do I continue to hurt others with my words and actions? Why do I gossip? What makes me better than anyone else? Each day, I decide anew to be the more like Christ in my actions and deeds. I strive daily to do my best to forgive any wrongs of others, to be tolerant of those that just don’t “get it” and to accept the forgiveness I am given. It’s hard. I fail. I try again. God continues to work on me. What about you?