“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that the prisoner was you.” ~Lewis B. Smedes
There are a lot of false ideas floating around about what forgiveness truly is. These distorted concepts and ideologies are so rampant that upon hearing phenomenal acts of forgiveness (like those of Rose Mapendo, Corrie Ten Boom, and others), people are quick to shake their heads. “I could never forgive that.”
Let’s be clear: forgiveness is not saying what the offender did is okay. It is not excusing bad behavior. It’s not rolling over and letting someone abuse you over and over again. Forgiveness does not mean you stop feeling pain over the wrong and hurt they caused.
Don’t misunderstand. Forgiveness is choosing to let go in spite of all these things.
To forgive is to give up the need to control the outcome of the situation. It’s knowing that God will exact justice. It’s to cease striving, chasing after revenge because God will set everything right. Forgiveness is learning we’re all flawed and broken. Hurt people are messy…and that mess splatters every life they come in contact with. It’s choosing to see the world through a lens of mercy. People who make bad decisions are their own worst enemies. They ultimately hurt themselves as they learn lessons the hard way.
What a terrible price to pay.
Forgiveness is setting yourself free.
Think of resentment as a cord that binds you to your transgressor. With each step you take, you drag them, and the memories, the pain, the betrayal of what they did with you. You may think keeping the offense forefront in your mind is the best way to punish them. But when you’re dragging around pain, hurt and resentment, who is doing the pulling…the transgressor or you?
Forgiveness is cutting the cord. It’s saying, “I choose to let this go. Our accounts are settled. I want to be free.”
Perhaps the most difficult cord to cut is the one that binds you to your past. Sometimes, the hardest person to forgive is yourself.
“…As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” ~Psalm 103:12
Our emotions lie to us. They tell us if we feel something it must be true. Just because we feel shame over our failures doesn’t mean God is holding a grudge. He says if we confess our sin, He is faithful to forgive our sin and cleanse us completely. The stain is gone. Washed. Erased from existence.
Cut the cord. Dance in freedom. Life is too short to chain yourself to misery.