We need to keep in mind that when we forgive someone, it is not the same as condoning their actions. For example, suppose your brother borrowed a thousand dollars from you and promised to pay you back when he received his next paycheck. It has now been a full year and he still has not repaid you. At the time, you needed that money for your own bills, and he put you in a tough situation for a couple of months. Forgiving your brother doesn’t mean you disregard the fact that he hasn’t repaid the loan. It means you don’t hold any anger, resentment, or bitterness against him because he borrowed money and failed to reimburse you. It means you let go of those feelings of ill will and take the situation as a life lesson.
The lesson is that you won’t put yourself in a position to lend your brother money again because he can’t be counted on to pay you back. Just because you forgive doesn’t mean you can’t act wisely in subsequent financial matters. You survived the situation and your bills eventually got paid. Your brother is still family and you need to love him. Holding on to bitterness and anger will certainly kill love. You might talk to him about what happened and express your forgiveness while letting him know you won’t be able to lend him money again. You can allow him a chance to explain and make things right, but you should make a commitment to forgive either way.
In most situations, forgiving someone in our heart takes time. The amount of time usually correlates with the severity of the situation. If someone killed your child, your ability to forgive them fully in your heart will obviously take a great deal of time and effort, as compared to forgiving a friend for a minor fault, such as missing a lunch date with you.
We can make the decision to forgive in our heart, but it is human nature to have a mixture of emotions arise within us when we are reminded of the offense, even after we have consciously chosen to release the other person. For example, suppose your husband cheated on you. You have forgiven him and gone to counseling, both by yourself and as a couple. As a result, there has been much healing in your marriage and a strengthening of your bond.
However, when you go out for date nights, it sometimes seems as if he is eyeing other women, even if it is just a flicker of a look. In those moments, all of your anger and bitterness about his past affair comes boiling to the surface. These are the times you especially need to pray and ask God to help you overcome the feelings that are eating at you. They aren’t affecting your spouse. You are only hurting yourself when you continually allow yourself to dwell on those emotions.
You can make a conscious decision not to feed your negative feelings any longer. Wallowing is when you allow yourself to throw your own pity party, giving those emotions fuel. Don’t throw fuel on your feelings. It is okay to recognize that your emotions are natural, but also remind yourself that you made the decision to put the issue behind you. Moving forward, your relationship will only be healthy if you choose not to focus on your negative feelings.
Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude. —Martin Luther King Jr.
Continued therapy can also be very helpful if these feelings arise often. Partnering with a therapist, counselor, or psychologist can greatly assist in your healing process. A Christian counselor can help you process your feelings so that you don’t constantly have to deal with the same emotions from past hurts.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:12–13 NIV)
Is there someone you should forgive but haven’t yet because you were concerned they would harm you again in the same manner? After forgiving, do you need to put in place boundaries so they can’t harm or violate you again? Go to God in prayer and ask for His guidance on this matter and search your heart for a softening that will allow you to forgive.