The Power to Forgive

Day 3 of 5 • This day’s reading

Devotional

The Myths of Forgiveness

One of the most common statements I hear when working with people who are having a hard time forgiving is: “But the person who hurt me needs to apologize before I forgive them. They need to admit their guilt.”

This is where Jesus’s example of forgiveness is so powerful. As he hung on the cross, right in the middle of an act of betrayal by the very people he came to help, he said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus forgave before we ever asked for it. I’m convinced this is the model for true forgiveness. We need to forgive before those who hurt us even know that they’re being forgiven. We simply release them, whether they ask for forgiveness or not.

You may never hear an apology from the person who hurt you. They may never admit guilt. If the person who hurt you is a parent who has passed away, or a criminal who was never caught, it isn’t possible to seek a confession. In many cases, it’s dangerous and unwise to confront the person who hurt you.

The great news is, you don’t need the other person to acknowledge their guilt before you can forgive them. The power to forgive is in your hands, right here and now. Being a forgiving person is part of your new identity in Christ. Your true self is a forgiving person because God gives you the grace to forgive, if you’ll just take it. Even if circumstances or your environment don’t change, you can walk in the freedom of forgiveness.

Here’s another myth of forgiveness. “I’ll forgive when it feels right.” I hate to break it to you, but that good feeling will probably never come. But forgiveness doesn’t come as a result of some mystical good feeling. Instead, it’s the opposite. The good feeling of forgiveness will only come after you choose to forgive and keep reminding yourself of your decision.

When you make a decision to forgive, it’s done. You’ve forgiven. Now you just live it out, even if your feelings haven’t caught up. It’s not that you fake it until you make it, it’s more a conscious decision to embrace the reality that you are a forgiving person in Christ – that’s part of your new identity in Him. So you walk in ongoing forgiveness.

The final myth of forgiveness is a line most of us have heard so many times that we don’t even realize how flawed it is. The myth is this: Forgive and forget.

Let me be blunt: you cannot forgive and forget. It’s impossible. Your mind is too powerful to just forget. If you spend your life trying to forget something someone did to you, thinking this is true forgiveness, you’ll live in constant guilt. We don’t forgive and forget, we forgive and choose to remember with forgiveness.

God’s grace gives you the power to forgive. You just need to make the decision to embrace that grace by letting go and forgiving those who hurt you.