Forgiveness is one of the most challenging of God's commandments to obey. Many people, if they had a say in it, would tell God to drop the commandment. Why is it so hard to forgive? Why should we release someone who has hurt us so badly? Why should we let go? When we know why it is so difficult to forgive, it may signal the answer to our quest. Diagnosis gives birth as it were to prescription. Understanding the innerman enables us to seek answers we so desperately need.
1 The Offender Does Not Acknowledge Your Hurt or Desire to Apologize
We find it difficult to forgive someone who refuses to acknowledge that they have hurt us. How can I forgive someone who does not understand the pain they caused or the consequences of their actions, which I am living with? The sense of justice within us demands that they acknowledge their ways.
After hurting us, they refuse to acknowledge their offense adding insult to injury.
Then there is also the refusal of the offender to apologize. Perhaps their pride prevents it. We demand that they should apologize so that it will be easier for us to forgive them.
Nonetheless, whether they come to us or not, we still need to forgive. We are not answerable to their actions. Leave justice in the hands of the God of justice. He said that vengeance is His, not ours.
When the drunk young man who killed my husband and my three children did not come to apologize to me, I felt partially hurt. Nontheless, I knew I had to forgive and let go the resentment and the anger. Jesus Christ Himself did not expect the Pharisees to come kneeling before Him and asking for the forgiveness of their sins. The key idea to remember is to let God be judge. If a man refuses to apologize to you, determine not to put the judgment of that man in your own hands
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but [rather] give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance [is] mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19).
2. The Offender Points Out What You Did to Him or Her in the Past
There are times when someone hurts you, and following the injunction of the Lord, you go to him and point out what he did that has hurt you. It was so obvious. Perhaps your friend embarrassed you in front of people who respected you. You felt humiliated. When you confront him with this, rather than apologize, he reminds you of an occasion when you lied about him too. The idea is to shift focus from his own action to yours. He has now become the victim and you the offender.
You might have even apologized for what he brought up, so he brings up another and yet another until it becomes evident that he is not going to take responsibility for hurting you. As a matter of fact, he tells you he has been very patient and kind and good to you and that the first time he did something you didn’t like, you were rather harsh with him. It is okay. Forgive him. You are forgiving because of your fear of God and also because it initiates your own healing.
Confess out loud in the privacy of your room that you release him. Do not allow his action to stand in your way of doing what is right… forgiving him. If he apologizes to you later, all the better. Sometimes, the way you are handling his accusation may prick his conscience and he will come to you feeling sorry and even embarrassed for his action. Some will, but others will not. Yours is to forgive against all obstacles. You know what is at stake.
Ps 111:10 The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do [his commandments]: his praise endureth for ever (Ps 111:10).
3. The Offender Rationalizes That It Is Your Fault
Another difficulty of forgiveness is when the person who should apologize to you points accusing fingers to you that you should be the one to apologize. Perhaps, at this point, it is wise to see if there is some reason in what he is saying. He might be right; he might be wrong. There is nothing wrong in telling him that you are sorry if he was hurt, but do not own up to what you did not do. Some people are “never wrong;” they are good at talking their way out of any situation. Don’t take it personally. It is their own personality at work. They might have done it to others in the past, and chances are that they will claim more victims in the future. You are just one of many that they have hurt.
Look up and realize there are unseen eyes watching over everything. If you are wrong take responsibility for your actions. God knows every action taken. He hears every word uttered. He even knows the plans and thoughts of the heart. He understands the motive. Take comfort in the fact that God sees it and you should therefore still forgive him, because you understand that forgiveness is not based on the action of your offender but on the Word of God.
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also [do] ye (Col 3:13).
4. You Hurt
How can I forgive the one who is responsible for what I am going through? The pain inflicted by the offender is one of the most stubborn reasons why forgiveness is difficult to achieve. Oh, the pain of betrayal. How it hurts! Or the pain of being jilted by the one whom you have poured out the love of your heart. Or the pain of facing the man who murdered your husband, or the man who raped your child! There are various levels of pain. Some are so great, we think we could never forgive them. Some are smaller but come everyday. Some come once in a while but which are nonetheless painful. When we are inflicted by the pain that makes life so painful, that is when to cry out to God, the healer of the heart.
He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds (Ps 147:3).
The human physician is limited in his capacity to heal our broken heart. He could prescribe some medication, but it offers, at best, temporary relief. God alone can offer His healing. He alone knows how to apply His balm to the driest patches recessed in our hearts. We look up to God as our Healer and we do the next best thing, we forgive. It was as I forgave James who killed my entire family that my heart began to heal towards him as a person.
Forgiveness is not easy when we hurt, but we must also consciously remember that forgiveness is the path to the healing of the hurt and the pain. How? Disconnection. You refuse to be tied to the pain of the past by releasing your offender from their action. The disconnection may not take place immediately, but start working on it. It will reap its dividends... soon!
In 1986, Tai Ikomi lost her husband and three children to a drunk driver. She teaches and conducts seminars on forgiveness as a path to healing.
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