My Choice to Forgive

by | Jul 2, 2024 | Guest Writers

By Jami Rogers

To err is human, to forgive divine – Alexander Pope
The concept of forgiveness is an interesting and perplexing one. I’ve been looking to gain some more insight on why some people choose not to forgive, and others seem to be able to in seemingly impossible situations. The fact that forgiveness is a choice gives me a clue as to the power that it holds. When I think of forgiveness, I also think of love. We love people not because they are always on their best behavior and making us happy. We choose love in those times when our emotions are all over the place and not to be trusted. People are fickle. They make mistakes and don’t keep promises. They let us down and sometimes cause irreparable harm. We are those same “people” doing those same things to others. Sometimes we are the forgivers and sometimes we are the one in need of forgiveness. But love and forgiveness both require the same thing–a conscious choice.

There will most likely not be a day that we suddenly “feel” like forgiving someone who hurt us. So we must choose to, just like the days we choose to love long after the warm and fuzzy feelings of new love wear off. Forgiveness means something different to each person because everyone has a different story to tell. I have written about this topic more times than I can count, and I still discover new things about myself each time I’m faced with it. Why is it so hard to wrap our heads around forgiveness? Psalm 103:8-12 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Forgiveness is often seen as a divine gift, because it takes a Godly effort in order to do it. With God’s grace, we are able to be forgiven for our own sins, and because of that, we can forgive others. Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. In other words, we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.

Many people in the research I found attached forgiveness to acceptance. “Why should I forgive someone who isn’t sorry?” came up over and over. “No one should ever give up their power by forgiving someone who keeps hurting them over and over!” was another popular response. “Grey rocking is the only way to show them who’s boss!” seems to be the new way to “get back” at the narcissists who hurt them. (grey rocking is when you disengage or act indifferently so that someone will lose interest and stop bothering you) But the problem with all of those methods is they all require so much self-control to maintain them. The main theme throughout them is you have to stay in some form of anger, resentment, bitterness, or negative emotion. They also require action from the other person. I can say from experience that if you’re waiting for an apology, changed behavior, or to “win” at anything with someone who hurt you, you’re just wasting more precious time. Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. To keep being angry requires thought, passion, stress, and a constant watch over your shoulder to see if the person who hurt you is around. As justified as we may feel at the time, holding the offense over the other person will never make us more right and them more wrong. We just end up more wounded by our own bitterness because we don’t allow ourselves to heal.  I know that’s not a popular opinion, based on the things I’ve heard and seen. We sometimes have a strong sense of justice that says others need to pay for what they’ve done, or it’s not fair if they are getting away with hurting us. All of those things may very well be true, however, they won’t be solved with unforgiveness. Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. God sees what has been done to us, and in due time will make it right if we trust in Him.

I could tell you story after story about my own unforgiveness journeys and how wrong I handled them. These days, we hear a lot about people being offended and who is doing the offending, but we don’t see a lot of those stories being resolved. That’s the problem. Somehow we think our strength is in holding on to what has been done to us, and the weakness lies in letting go of it. But we need to look at this God’s way. Just because we let go of the offense, it doesn’t mean it never happened, or we’ve forgotten it. I’m grateful that not only does God forgive us, but He also forgets. Hebrews 8:12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. In my own examples, replaying the words over and over just kept me in a cyclone of anger and bitterness, and I couldn’t move on. I kept getting sucked into it like a tornado and my feelings were being flung around like debris, not caring who they hit. Being unforgiving kept me in a state of carelessness and self-serving sadness. Holding grudges and waiting for justice just kept me stuck. Romans 12:17-18 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  When we give our offenses to God first, we can avoid a whole lot of personal tornadoes! God will help us forgive in the hardest places, because He’s in the business of healing our broken hearts. 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. In my case, I had to keep handing it to God over and over, because I was hard-headed and prideful. Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Yes, even when someone has done something terrible to us, we can get out of hand if we’re not careful. Part of me was just wanting to be RIGHT! Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you–for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.  But I could hear God saying to me, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be at peace?” It’s a choice.

Why does forgiveness start with love? Because love keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5) Colossians 3:13-14 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. We don’t have to like the person we are forgiving. We don’t even have to maintain a relationship with them. We aren’t even forgiving them for their benefit. But when we let go of the resentments we’ve been carrying toward them, we free ourselves of the burden of them. That person doesn’t even ever need to know you forgave them in order for this to be healing for us. I think the misconception people have is that the person doing the hurting is going to get some kind of satisfaction from being forgiven. In some cases that could be correct if they are truly remorseful, but if they aren’t, it won’t matter to them if you forgive them or not. Again, it’s not about winning anything, or even who is more right and who’s more wrong. It’s about peace.

People have asked me for forgiveness, and I didn’t even know what had been done to warrant it. We’d never even had words before. We don’t know what is going on in other people’s hearts at any given time, which is why we are to put on love instead of judgment. Colossians 3:12-14 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. I didn’t question their request and simply gave them my forgiveness. I did so with love, because it felt like love when it was brought to me, regardless of their reason.

Forgiving someone who hurt you deeply is a choice, just like loving that person is or was a choice. It’s difficult sometimes, because as I’ve experienced, sometimes a person continues to hurt you while you’re still in the process of forgiving them. People can be prideful (cough cough…me) and they don’t want to admit fault, sometimes they aren’t sorry at all, or they don’t even know you (a public figure, rude stranger, etc…). Like I said, forgiveness stories are different for everyone. I called on God many times to help me, because in my humanness, I kept taking the offense back. I kept feeling the emotions that kept me trapped. I would rewind and re-watch the scenes over and over, trying to find meaning. Just when I thought I was “over” the offense, I would start feeling angry all over again. Matthew 18:21-22 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. God understands our fickle human hearts because He created them. Romans 5:6-8 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. When we live in God’s grace, we will extend this same compassion to others, giving and receiving love and forgiveness as God intends.

8 Comments

  1. Wow. What a deep dive into forgiveness! Well done!

    Reply
    • Thank you Clayton

      Reply
  2. Tough subject Jami. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Reply
    • It sure is. Thank you, Helen.

      Reply
  3. Forgiveness is a choice, like love. Forgiveness sets us free, not the offender.

    Reply
    • Amen.

      Reply
  4. For God so loved the world that he gave everyone the opportunity to be forgiven, and to forgive others. This is a lifelong lesson.
    Thank You, Jami.

    Reply
    • Amen. Thank you, Norm.

      Reply

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