"Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:" (Luke 6:36-37)
As a mental health therapist, I meet a lot of people, especially children, who have been greatly hurt by someone. Their pain manifests itself in so many different ways from anger to anxiety, and many other emotions in between. When I bring up the idea of forgiveness to them, I never take for granted that they probably do not understand what such an action truly means. Usually the children will tell me, “someone says sorry, and you say it’s okay.” I love the simplicity in a child, but I am not satisfied with that answer. I will go on to explain that the offender may never say, “I’m sorry,” and you can still forgive; and what that person did to you is not “okay.”
Forgiveness does not mean that the offender is not guilty, nor does it mean that he/she “deserves” forgiveness. Forgiveness really has nothing to do with the other person, but everything to do with you. In fact, withholding forgiveness may affect the offender, but nothing like the way it affects the offended. The longer one holds on to unforgiveness, the more harmful it is to his/her mental health and spiritual well-being.
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean restoration of a relationship. Some people are too harmful to be restored to a place where they can cause more pain. I believe this is where a lot of people get forgiveness wrong. They feel as though they have not truly forgiven if they have not returned everything and everyone to the way it used to be. This is a very important aspect when it comes to abuse, whether it is physical, emotional, or sexual. The old adage “Forgive and forget” adds to this misunderstanding. Especially in cases of abuse, one should not “forget” what this person is capable of doing.
True forgiveness takes place when the offended releases the need/desire to see the offender punished for their crime. The dictionary defines forgiveness as “to cease to feel resentment against; to give up resentment of or claim to requital; or to grant relief from payment of.” Some people feel as though they cannot move on until that person "gets what is coming to them!” Or, they may think/say, “I want you to feel the same pain you have caused me to feel!” This is what unforgiveness looks like.
In the cases of spouses, you see this take place every time the offended reminds the offender of his/her crime. Every shortcoming is an opportunity to remind that person of the wrong they have done. This is also what unforgiveness looks like.
Stop allowing the offender to keep you in bondage within yourself and allow the release of resentment and payment to take place. May today be a new beginning for you!
Daniel & Marie Cox are best friends, soulmates, and co-laborers in the ministry. They and their four children live in Florida, where they have established a church, a private, Christian school, and a fun-loving family!