Forgiveness has always come naturally for me — I WISH! The truth is, I have an unhealthy ability to hold on to grudges for a long, long time.
Not that I haven't been legitimately hurt, I have. I was abandoned by my parents, betrayed on the mission field, and excluded by church people. I've been robbed, insulted, gossiped about and lied to.
One of the hindrances to forgiveness for me has been the misconception of what it means to forgive. Understanding what forgiveness is NOT has allowed me to overcome — or at least continue the process.
1. Forgiveness is NOT excusing the offense.
"That's just the way he is.", "They meant well." Blah blah blah. Jesus didn't die on the cross for those who "meant well". He died for sinners. The hurt I have suffered has been because of sin on the part of the other person. Call it what it is. Brushing it under the carpet is not forgiveness.
Problem is, I am also that sinner who has hurt others. And Christ has so graciously and abundantly forgiven me of all my wrongdoing — not just against others, but against Him. Soaking in the forgiveness I have received is the key to letting go of grudges.
2. Forgiveness is NOT becoming vulnerable to more hurt.
Logic keeps us from forgiving because it says, "If you forgive him, he will hurt you again." But, what about all the hurt unforgiveness is doing to our soul?
Forgiveness doesn't mean we must trust the untrustworthy or become vulnerable to someone who will take advantage of our weakness. We can still manage relationships wisely AND forgive at the same time.
3. Forgiveness is NOT a one-time decision
"I'm still angry. I guess I didn't forgive her after all."
Forgiveness is a process. If "that person" walks into the room and we want to ignore her, that's a red flag. The red flag tells us to return to the merciful feet of Jesus to ask for more help in forgiving her.
We can approach Christ boldly because he doesn't blame us for repeatedly asking for help in forgiving. Besides, sometimes we have to forgive the same person a bazillion times.
"I forgave, so I must not talk about it."
Talking about an offense is probably a bad idea UNLESS you are talking to Jesus or a Christian therapist. A therapist can help you see things from a different perspective and can keep it confidential.
Praying about the offense, even if it happened years ago, is the first step toward healing. Cry out to Jesus. He came to bind up the broken-hearted.