“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that
the prisoner was you.”
the prisoner was you.”
-Lewis B. Smedes
Close your eyes with me for a moment and reflect. (ok, maybe wait until after you read this paragraph first, otherwise this exercise is going to be exceedingly difficult to do) I want you to think of someone who has hurt you. I'm not talking about the kid in middle school who called you (and everyone else) brace face, I'm talking about someone who has truly, in every sense of the word, wounded you.
Maybe they lied to you.
Maybe they betrayed you.
Maybe they left you.
But in some form or fashion their actions, in your mind, justified a need for remorse. They've committed an act against you that warrants rectification. There is something that at some point, you feel they have owed you. There is a debt that needs to be paid.
Is your blood boiling yet? Take a deep breath and bear with me.
The irony of this situation is that in this scenario, unless you are willing to fully forgive that person (with or without an apology) YOU are the one enslaved to the offender. YOU are the one that will lie awake at night rehashing the situation, thinking through what you really want to say, if you had the opportunity to set them straight. And guess what? Odds are that they aren't losing any sleep over it. Guess what else? If just thinking about this person and this scenario is causing your blood pressure to even slightly rise, you're nowhere near close to truly forgiving them, no matter how much you think you've let go of what happened.
You see, the easy part is forgiving someone who is genuinely sorry. Someone who acknowledges the error in their ways and begs you for forgiveness. The problematic situation is forgiving someone who is not. Someone who either isn't willing to accept responsibility for their actions, or thinks they weren't in the wrong to begin with. How do you go about forgiving them? Do you forgive them? Is that even possible?
Learning this principle was a major game changer for me...so don't miss this:
There is FREEDOM in unconditional FORGIVENESS.
Forgiveness that is not earned.
Forgiveness that is not solicited.
Forgiveness that is not, in some cases, seemingly necessary.
If you look at the context of "forgiveness" you will see a very crucial word hidden within the text: give. I don't think that's a coincidence. True, unconditional forgiveness is not a feeling. It's a choice we make. It's a gift we have the opportunity to give...on behalf of the One who gave His life for our ultimate forgiveness.
Hidden within the confines of unmerited forgiveness are the offerings of grace, love and truth.
Grace says I will bless you even though you don't necessarily deserve it.
"...and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." -Romans 3:24
Love says I accept you right where you are.
"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself." -Leviticus 19:18
Truth says I will continue to point you back to Jesus in all I do.
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ." -Ephesians 4:15
So how do you know when you've truly forgiven someone?
For me, it was when I was able to sit down to pray for that person who hurt me...to genuinely pray for God to bless them and to know that I really meant it. It didn't happen over night. It wasn't easy all the time. But it was a daily (sometimes hourly) choice to cancel the "debt" I felt was owed to me, and to believe that God has much bigger things in this world for me to carry for Him than a grudge.
Who do you need to truly forgive today?