How hard can it be to forgive?
Much harder than we think.
I’m not talking about forgiveness as in, “Hey, I forgive you for forgetting all about our lunch date the other day.” I’m talking about forgiveness when you’ve been wronged, and you can’t seem to let it go. I’m talking about forgiveness when you really don’t want to forgive. You’d rather let the grievance sit there, sucking away your emotional energy, festering and making you bitter.
Some people might think that it’s hardest to forgive your enemies. I suppose that might be true if you are like Corrie Ten Boom. But most of us will never suffer what she suffered. I wonder whether in real, everyday life, it is harder to forgive your enemies. Could it be that it’s actually harder to forgive our friends? And could it be that the closer they are, the harder it is? Maybe it’s true that only a friend can come close enough to ever cause so much pain. The hardest thing is being misjudged and mistreated by someone you love. That’s why it’s so hard to forgive when a parent walks out, or a spouse walks out. Perhaps forgiving a family member is the very hardest thing of all.
But what if they don’t want our forgiveness? What if they never ask for it? What if they don’t even realize they need it?
Sometimes when a person never asks, it is better not to give it to him immediately. This is what I mean: Sometimes we like to say “I forgive you” when we really haven’t forgiven the person. But we say it to get back at him in a way, to rub in the fact that we are magnanimously giving him something he hasn’t asked for. Our hearts are not true forgiveness. Instead, we need to wait until we really have forgiven the person in our hearts. And only then do we say, “I forgive you.”
On the other hand, it can be tempting to say, “Well, since I can’t honestly say that I forgive this person yet, maybe I should stop trying.” You can’t do this either, because if you do, you will not be at peace with God, or your friend, or yourself. But I believe that if you humbly come before God and say, “God, I can’t forgive my friend by myself. Help me to forgive,” then he will work what needs to be worked in your heart.
It can also be helpful to get a sense of perspective. Some people carry deep wounds with them, but others have such a limited outlook on life that the height of unfairness for them is having comments needlessly deleted on a blog. We can be genuinely hurt, but sometimes in a way that is not worth brooding over. And the moment we focus on what Jesus did at the cross, suddenly it becomes harder to hold onto our own small grudges. If Jesus could forgive his friend Judas for betraying him unto death, surely we can forgive our friends when they are simply stubborn and hurtful.