FORGIVENESS: Infinitely More Than Just

Letting Someone OFF THE HOOK

November 20, 2019

Written by: Kaitlynn Zaenger

[ I forgive you. ]

I've said it, you've said it, we've all said it. Is it that simple, though? Is forgiveness just a word we throw around in casual conversation, or are its implications far more complex? Lexico, Oxford's free online dictionary, defines forgiveness as "the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven." The definition for forgive, however, gives us a closer look at what it really means: to "stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake." It seems simple enough, really. 

You lied to me? I forgive you.

You said something hurtful? I forgive you for that, too.

You cop an attitude over something small? Yeah, I forgive you.

It's easy to forgive when the offense is something seemingly insignificant and unimportant. But what about when a parent abused you? Or when a spouse cheats on you? And what about when someone murders your family member? Are we so quick to forgive when the hurt pierces straight to our soul and affects our lives, day in and day out? Can we? Are we supposed to?

YES, "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 6:14-15).

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The Bible doesn't say "except for when it's hard" or "except for when they do x, y, or z." 

Now, you're probably thinking that I don't understand, that I don't know what they did. You might be thinking that it's too hard, it's just something you can't let go of. I do understand. I've been in your shoes. Many days, I still am in your shoes. Forgiveness isn't easy. Oftentimes, it's the hardest possible thing you can do. But forgiveness isn't for the other person. You're not "letting them off the hook." You're not telling them what they did is okay, and you're not giving them permission to do it again. What you are doing -- and this is so critically important to understand -- is acknowledging the pain they caused and allowing yourself to move forward. Holding onto a grudge will do nothing but cause you more pain and heartbreak (often more than the original offense).

I've heard it said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Holding onto unforgiveness doesn't hurt the other person; you're not "getting even."

You're making yourself sick.

I'm not suggesting that it will come easily. Or quickly. But I am saying that we are commanded to forgive. Who are we to choose to hold a grudge when God has forgiven us? Who are we to freely accept forgiveness for our mistakes -- some minor, some major -- and turn around and refuse to give it to someone else?

Forgiveness is about healing. About moving forward. About being able to breathe again. 

It's not about them. Forgiveness is about you. 

Choose to heal. Choose to forgive.