A popular saying goes: “I can forgive, but I can’t forget…” That saying is usually uttered by people who are still resentful and who haven’t really forgiven. They are not bad people, they want to forgive – and have probably really tried to forgive, but they just can’t seem to make it stick. Why is that?
Here’s the reasons:
1. Forgiveness isn’t easy
It requires you to stretch your limits and move beyond your wounds, which is especially difficult if you are still hurting. It requires you to love unconditionally – that means regardless of what another person does, you must still love them.
It also tests your limits of selfishness, it requires you to consider the feelings and perspective of another human being – that is something we are not accustomed to doing. It requires us to stop viewing that person as an evil entity, but to instead see them for the human they are. We are all flawed and on any given day, most of us are doing our best. But everybody’s definition of “best” is not going to be the same. Forgiveness requires us to have mercy on others even those who have wronged us.
2. Forgiveness is an ongoing project
It requires more than a one time commitment; it requires daily effort. Every day there will be painful memories that will test you on this. Have you ever been moving along through your day, just fine, but then out of the blue, you are confronted with a reminder: a song, a note, a memory – and then all of a sudden, you’re ready to curse the person? At that moment, if you give in to the urge, that’s when you lose your forgiveness. That’s when you have to stop and remind yourself to forgive again.
3. Forgiveness requires you to let go of anger
Letting go of anger is very difficult. Most of us have been taught to retaliate when others hurt us. So we hold on to our anger out of spite because it provides the right fuel for revenge. The problem with this, is that is not the Godly view of what we should be doing. Jesus said, “turn the other cheek” when someone wrongs us – that means let them do what they are going to do without acting out in anger. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with being angry – Jesus got angry, but about the right things – when it came to people disrespecting God’s church, yes, He got angry, but He didn’t let it cause Him to sin. He didn’t repay a wrong with another wrong.
The truth is, regardless of how hard it is to forgive, we are required to forgive if we expect to be forgiven of our own sins. If we expect to receive mercy for the things we’ve done, we’ve got to be willing to pass it on to others. It’s that simple. Don’t forgive and you won’t be forgiven. Fail to have mercy on others and you won’t receive any. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the sound of that. I need God’s forgiveness; I need His mercy.
So what can you do, when you want to forgive, but can’t seem to?
Start with prayer
You’re probably thinking: that’s her answer to everything. I’m not ashamed to say that, IT IS!) Ask God to help you deal properly with your emotions. Ask God to help you see things the way He sees them. Regardless of how you may feel about the person, God loves us all, including the person who hurt you. Ask God for healing, peace, wisdom and strength – those are the tools that will help you hold on to your forgiveness.
Two weeks ago, I wrote, “Stop Ripping Off Old Scabs” – the title sounds gross, I know, but the post talked about what happens when we don’t allow ourselves to heal. Most times it’s not that we aren’t capable of healing, it’s usually that we won’t let ourselves heal. That happens when we allow ourselves to rehash events over and over again, when we continue to complain about them to others and allow ourselves to become bitter.
Don’t keep reliving the injury by allowing yourself to sit and mope about it all day. You have the power to control your thinking patterns and change your thoughts. Distract yourself with activities that will allow you to heal and rebuild.
Now, I’d like to hear from you.
If you’re struggling to forgive someone, why is it so hard for you? If you’ve been able to forgive someone, what helped you do it? Are there any other reasons why it might be hard to forgive someone? What other tips could we add here that might help someone else keep their forgiveness?