HOW TO FORGIVE
Extending forgiveness, says Jesus, is the key to being forgiven. This is one of the most astonishing of the many remarkable spiritual and relational principles revealed to us in the pages of Scripture. It’s also one of the most difficult to put into practice. But while this teaching may be hard to grasp and even harder to implement, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that forgiveness is among the greatest remedies for pain known to man. How strange, then, that so many people avoid it.
We receive hundreds of calls here at Focus on the Family every day. Many of them come from wounded people. Profoundly wounded people. The depth of their brokenness is often astounding. They come to us seeking relief, but what many of them don’t realize is that one of the most important parts of healing is also one of the most misunderstood — forgiveness. This is especially true when it comes to overcoming the devastating pain associated with marital infidelity.
Forgiveness is about letting go of our anger toward someone who has hurt us. This can be tough for some people because they’ve confused “forgiving” with “excusing.” They have the idea that they’re being forced to consider the wrong done to them as acceptable. But this is not true. Forgiveness never waters down the awful nature of an offense. In fact, forgiveness really isn’t about the offending person at all. Instead, its purpose is to release the heart of the offended party from the resentment that often accompanies emotional pain.
Another hurdle to overcome is the idea that forgiveness always occurs in a single moment and that our pain will instantly disappear as soon as we say, “I forgive you.” The truth is forgiveness is often a process of letting go. It’s okay to forgive someone to the degree that you’re able at the time. Then, as you move forward, your healing will allow you to forgive more, and your forgiveness will, in turn, lead to more healing.
As has already been said, this kind of forgiveness is the key to reconciliation for any couple whose relationship has been shattered by an extramarital affair. If that’s you — if you feel wounded because of the unfaithfulness of your spouse, but you’re struggling to forgive — then bear in mind what Jesus had to say about the importance of letting go. And while you’re at it, remember the words of psychologist Arch Hart: “Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me.”