Forgiveness (unabridged)

Are you ready to forgive? Let bygones be bygones? Have you decided yet that the sooner you forgive, the quicker you can forget? Nope, me either!

But I do think it is time to consider forgiveness.

When the subject of forgiveness is broached, it is often associated with forgetting, no longer holding responsible, concluding that everything is okay, and that any offense has been rectified. This is an unfortunate association, because forgiveness has little, if anything, to do with these dynamics.

There is an interesting verse in Isaiah 43:25. God says, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake.” Paul emulates God’s action when he says, “I determined this for my own sake, that I would not come to you in sorrow again” (2 Cor. 2:1).

Notice that both of these verses use the common phrase, “for my own sake.”

It is a fascinating consideration to amplify God’s quote out of Isaiah: God makes a determination, based upon His self-awareness. He decides that for His own good, and the benefit of His own soul, He will forgive. And Paul employs the same logic as he reflects upon his earlier interactions with the Corinthian church.

Both decide to forgive because it is in their best interest.

Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, not for the person who offended us. This truism empowers the act of forgiveness.

When I think of absolving the offenders in my life—whether that be the suicide pilots of September 11, those who are dismissive of my viability, or the joker who cut me off at the exit ramp to the airport—I feel recalcitrant!

Forgiveness is often positioned as turning the other cheek, speaking softly, going the extra mile, or not complaining. This philosophy works as long as the offenses I suffer are not too profound. However, let something big happen, and these gracious ideals are insufficient to carry the day. When I suffer a profound offense, my will to forgive suffers a seeming lack of resolve.

Furthermore, if the old adage, “forgive and forget,” is the barometer used to test whether or not forgiveness has occurred, the greater the offense, the harder and more elusive forgiveness becomes. For example, Americans can no more forget the atrocities of September 11 than we can forget the attack of December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor.

Forgiveness is not about forgetting, granting absolution, or considering the offense to be like water gone under the bridge.

Neither is forgiveness what I hope to hear after saying, “I’m sorry.” This is the transaction of reconciliation, which has a decision of forgiveness associated with it, yet is different. Reconciliation requires the agreement of two parties, the offender and the offended.

You can forgive someone while sitting all by yourself.

In fact, you can forgive whether the person who offended you ever apologizes or not.

You can forgive someone—or a group of folks—who offend you, and who you may not have ever met. You can forgive a movement, such as abortion rights. You can forgive a government. You can even forgive a dead person.

Forgiveness is a choice you make, for yourself, that initially benefits you.

Forgiving seems counterintuitive. What does forgiveness do for me?

Forgiveness uproots the offense that can give rise to bitterness, resentment, and hatred if left untended.

Forgiveness is the determination to live life differently than you have been under the offense perpetrated against you.

Forgiveness establishes a protective boundary around your soul and eliminates the foothold your enemy seeks to use in assaulting your life.

Choosing to forgive—for your own sake—is a decision to model your response to the ungraciousness foisted against you after your Heavenly Father’s response to the offenses He recounts.

If we hang on to the offense brought against us, whether for revenge, hatred, or as our just due, we join the offenders in our lives and assist them in bringing destruction to our world. Choosing not to forgive is a self-destructive decision.

Forgiveness is a gift God gave to Himself—for His own good—modeled for us, and granted to us. It is an act of self-care, freeing us from the ongoing tyranny of the offense thrust upon us.

Forgiveness does not absolve our offenders. Rather, it leaves them in position to suffer the response of our anger given to them as well as the consequences of their actions.

Choosing to forgive moves you forward. Beyond the offense. Past your offender. Into freedom.

I’m ready to forgive!