I think forgiveness is an important thing. Lack of forgiveness can turn a person cold inside and make them feel numb to the world or hot inside and angry at the world. Being unforgiven can also be a hard cross to bear. Part of why forgiveness is so important is that it is at the heart of resiliency, love, and healing. Forgiveness is not just for others. Forgiveness is for you. Everyone benefits.
As the great Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And if he can practice forgiveness, can we not also do so? If you fail to forgive yourself or others, hate is likely not far from what you are feeling. Anger and hatred, and are not comfortable or healthy to live with. Living a long time with consistently negative emotions can have a deleterious on our mental health and physical health. The healing power of forgiveness can open the door to good things again and allow you to once again have a happy life.
Why is forgiveness so hard?
When forgiveness is hard, it is usually because there was hurt involved. It is harder to forgive yourself if you have caused harm. It is harder to forgive others if they have hurt you. Forgiveness is often the hardest to give to those you love most such as your spouse or family members because their betrayal is one of the most painful experiences.
Is forgiveness a choice?
Forgiveness starts with a choice. The first step in forgiveness is the desire to do so.
As Dr. Gary Chapman said, “Forgiveness is not a feeling. It’s a decision to offer grace instead of demanding justice.”
Is forgiveness a process?
In the case of a small error or little things, forgiveness can be instant. In the case of a larger mistake or worse yet, purposeful injury, forgiveness is most likely going to be a process. Forgiveness is not forgetting but it is healing enough to stop feeling the pain and eventually forgetting the depth of the pain. You have to take part in actively working to heal the injury that was caused to yourself or to others in order to speed up the process of forgiveness. It is the only way to grow and learn from the experience.
Today, I am happy to have resiliency expert, Rich Wessenberg, to explain more about why forgiveness is important and an integral part of life. He is also the author of Treasures of the Believing Heart, (affiliate link below) where he discusses how successes and failures are linked to the kind of treasures found in the believing heart.
Focusing on Forgiveness
By Rich Wessenberg
What Is Forgiveness?
The importance of forgiveness is one of the first great childhood lessons that never should be forgotten. Saying “I am sorry” or “You’re forgiven” are often used phrases during those years. It’s understood that mistakes happen, that mistakes are how we learn, and forgiveness is how to patch things up.
Forgiveness means realizing that we are all imperfect people and accepting our common humanity. We can get past a difficult situation and feelings of hurt by calling out the poor behavior and expecting better. Not a big deal when we were kids. However, for whatever reasons, this simple human mending tool of life gets twisted, complicated, and becomes harder to apply the older we get. Have you ever wondered why?
Why Forgiveness Is Hard
The answer is simple. We forget how easy forgiveness is. The lessons of forgiveness never change, but we do. Hopefully we are changing for the better, but that’s not always the case. We forget that everyone of us is a work in progress, all the time. Physically, mentally, and spiritually, all of us are going through change. We forget how change makes us vulnerable to mistakes. We forget what we have been forgiven for. Furthermore, we forget to be patient with one another. We forget, that as adults, deep down inside, we all are like children, and all need the same love and tenderness a child receives by forgiveness.
Most of all, we forget to be humble like children, and be willing to admit our mistakes. One of the hardest things to do is take accountability for the bad things we have done. Big hurts caused by others or by ourselves can cause a lot of confusion and inner turmoil resulting in lack of trust.
Forgiveness In The Bible
Since antiquity, forgiveness has been practiced. Forgiveness is a Biblical principal, going back to Adam and Eve. Forgiveness for salvation and for fellowship with God is practiced by today’s believers. Receiving salvation from our Heavenly Father for mankind’s original sin, and for sins prior to salvation is the redemption found in making Jesus Lord in one’s life. Confession of sins to God that occur after salvation, is how believers maintain fellowship with God. In-addition, the truth regarding forgiving and forgetting, and the relationship that forgiveness has with healing is also found in The Bible.
Forgiveness Verses In The Bible
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.
Psalm 103:2,3; 10-13
How To Forgive
What are the first steps to forgiveness?
Forgiving ourselves or others is always just a thought away. The first step after committing a transgression is to admit it to ourselves. In this small way, we open the door to forgiving. This means mentally acknowledging the detailed motives, thought processes, and actions that were applied in the misdeed and changing the heart. Next, genuinely confessing the offense to those affected and asking for forgiveness. To complete the conditions of forgiveness, the forgiver must genuinely accept the apology, forgive and forget the misdeed, and move on. After the transgressor receives forgiveness, they need to forgive themselves. However, the transgressor must learn from the incident but not dwell. Dwelling on misdeeds that have been forgiven is called sin consciousness.
Why should I forgive myself?
Sin consciousness or guilt stunts the learning growth benefit that forgiveness provides. No one can fully move forward having a guilty conscience. Therefore, forgetting is one of the great keys of forgiveness. The heart functions the best by traveling light and not carrying excess baggage of sins that have already been forgiven. For of all parties involved in a forgiveness incident, the emotional pain must be treated. This means making a promise to allow mental wounds to heal and not open them up again. Without forgetting, sin consciousness will continue to tear open mental wounds that are trying to heal, in-addition to opening the door to additional negative outcomes.
How To Forgive Myself
For the transgressor, changing the heart from a wrong to a right, for the most part, is an easy process. However, not all wrongs are the same. Doctrinal errors and practical errors are different. Doctrinal transgressions run deeper in the heart and harder to change, in-addition, to having to correct practical errors also. A person in doctrinal error always has more work to do and more to correct than a person who only has practical error.
A doctrinal wrong of life is when we do something wrong and it becomes a way of life. Doctrinal error is an evil motive of the heart supported by a lie. All misdeeds begin by practical errors but when practical misdeeds go on unchecked, they inevitably develop into doctrinal error. These wrongs are the most difficult to change because they have been practiced so long and gotten away with, that the transgressor has deceived themselves into living a lie. Once truth confronts the lie, the transgressor must acknowledge the truth and decide to change. In addition, a commitment from the heart to change to the truth and never go back to the lie by the transgressor is necessary. If this change of heart process is not totally applied, going back to living a lie is inevitable.
Those harmed by doctrinal error must understand that these types of transgressions can take a lot of work and time to correct. A person in doctrinal error may ask for forgiveness but they also must change a wrong habit of life based on a lie to a right habit of life based on truth. This typically does not happen overnight. Acknowledging doctrinal error and asking for forgiveness is not enough if the forgiver and transgressor are going to be made whole. The transgressor must go all the way, fulfilling all the conditions of forgiveness to receive all its’ benefits, including regaining the trust of the forgiver. In most instances this takes time.
Forgiveness And Healing
Spiritual and physical healing and wholeness is the most powerful element of forgiveness. To receive the benefit and value of forgiveness, both the offender and the forgiver must genuinely fulfill all its’ conditions. The person asking forgiveness must be genuine as well as the person giving forgiveness. It takes a conscious effort on both parts to be in the present moment and hear other person’s perspectives about what happened, why it happened, and how it resulted in bad feelings. The healing process requires taking responsibility for one’s own actions. The transgressor must desire forgiveness and the giver must be convinced that they understand the emotional wounds they caused and that they desire to right the wrong.
If all the conditions are met for forgiveness, then spiritual and physical healing can take place opening the path to positive emotions. If not, a hole exists which can lead to worse negative outcomes, that are even greater than the initial transgression itself. Furthermore, the person giving true forgiveness must forgive and let go, and promise not to bring up the offense ever again to the transgressor. Bringing up past forgiven transgressions is not the right thing and is a sign of bitterness.
Why is it important to forgive? What’s in it for me?
Bitterness is an outcome from holding unto misdeeds by others. Bitterness can develop in a forgiver if they genuinely do not forgive. Furthermore, not all misdeeds get resolved and forgiven. A person who has been transgressed by others must understand this and recognize the negative spiritual and physical effects effects of bitterness and let go to a greater hope.
Practical error is the easiest form of misdeeds to correct. Practical error is when someone practices actions of wrongdoing, but the motives of the actions are not evil based on a lie. This is the difference between practical error and doctrinal error. Practical error would go through the same processes of change as doctrinal error, but practical error is much easier to fix. A change of actions is all that is needed. However, the transgressor needs detailed instructions from the forgiver on how to do things the right way. This includes oversight by the forgiver over the transgressor until the right practice becomes established.
Generally, a onetime of calling out of practical error is not enough. Just as a parent repeatedly calls out practical error on a child, a forgiver must stay on top of a wrongdoer with practical error until correction is established and fully in place. Like doctrinal error, practical error also can require great patience but lead to a better person.
Focus On The Good
Also, insignificant matters must be understood as part of life and let go. Everyone has insignificant matters about themselves in what we say or do. Understanding our own short comings and what we have been forgiven for is the great key to not being over judgmental of others. Life is a balance and moderation of all things is necessary. The more we focus on the good in one another person, the better we will see the good in ourselves.
None Of Us Is Perfect
Forgiveness is one of the great childhood lessons we should never forget. Human beings are imperfect so we all need to be forgiven at some point. But also, we should all grow from the act of forgiveness.
In a perfect world, forgiveness wouldn’t be needed but we don’t live in a perfect world. None of us lives perfectly, and forgiveness is the tool that brings us together. Life is not about our mistakes or dwelling on our own pain. Life is about making a deliberate decision to bring out the best in each other. Forgiveness is the tool that should restore a healthy relationship and bring out the best in all of us.
When forgiveness is applied correctly, our full potential will define us, not our mistakes.
Learn From Mistakes And Move Forward
Life is about learning from mistakes, moving forward from strength to strength, reaching full potential to the end that forgiveness enables us individually and collectively to grow the whole and become greater than our sum. Thus, bringing into focus and unleashing all the good that is held within us and allowing us to accomplish great things!
Thanks again to Rich Wessenberg for sharing with us on why forgiveness is important and how to begin that process. I wish you well in journey to forgive yourself and/or others. Follow Rich on Twitter @RichWessenberg for more information.
Related Resources That Are Helpful To Me:
You Can Heal Your Life (affiliate link)