<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> The Art of Forgiveness
Pursuing the Truth Ministries
Home Resources Media Resources Questions About Us Contact us

The Art of Forgiveness

By William R. Cunningham
1998 All Rights Reserved

A Study on Forgiveness and How to Forgive

 

INTRODUCTION

Resentment, that is, unforgiveness is a silent destroyer of many Christian’s lives. We have been told many times from the pulpit to forgive others when they trespass against us or when people do us wrong. How can a person possibly just forgive someone for committing an offense without retaliation? To the natural mind that seems impossible. After all doesn’t the Bible teach an eye for an eye? We are also taught in church that God won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive those who wronged us. Ministers even tell us that to forgive is to forget!

If unforgiveness is so dangerous and I know it then why is it so hard for me to forgive? The forgive and forget teaching doesn’t work because I cannot erase the memory in my brain. As soon as I see THAT person or THAT thing, my emotions becomes active with animosity, resentment and pain. I can’t forget so I can’t forgive—or can I?

Another aspect of forgiveness that is very significant in all of our lives is the forgiveness of self. Sometimes we hold resentment towards ourselves as we blame ourselves "for the mess we’re in" or we are adversely affected by the mistakes we have made in the past. If only we could erase certain episodes of the past from our memory. If only we could erase the mistakes that we made from our memory. However, as you know we humans can’t do that—at least not voluntarily. Therefore there must be another way to initiate forgiveness for ourselves and others. There must be a way that I can learn how to really forgive others for the wrongs that they have done to me? The answer is the subject of this study guide.

The purpose of this study is to present the truths about forgiveness and unforgiveness according to the scriptures. We will also examine the effects of forgiveness on our lives and what the consequences of unforgiveness are. After learning the material in this study, you should have a much better understanding of forgiveness. This, I pray, will lead to a more fulfilled life as the obstacles generated by unforgiveness are eliminated.

FORGIVENESS DEFINED

According to my Bible dictionary, the word forgiveness means: The giving up of resentment or claim to requital of an offense. Forgiveness is conditioned on repentance and the willingness to make reparations, or atonement. The effect of forgiveness is the restoration of both parties to the former state of relationship. The Hebrew word for forgive means to pardon or spare. The Greek word for forgive means to send forth, lay aside, let go, omit, put (send) away. In general we can say that to forgive is to release the resentment caused by an offense.

FORGIVENESS in SCRIPTURE

Let’s review what the scriptures have to say about forgiveness and unforgiveness so that we will be able to apply forgiveness more effectively in our lives.

Spreading Resentment

It is not wise to spread your resentment for one person to others. You may be inclined to resent those who are associated with the person you are trying to forgive. Yes you may have a problem with someone but that does not give you the right to beat that person's dog or treat their children wrongly when we see them . Keep any ill feelings about someone on that person until such time that you are able to forgive them. This will help others not take offense to your ill behavior and it will help you not cause more reasons to resent those who retaliate because of your spreading resentment on them.

Doing Good May Lead To Repentance

(Proverbs 25:21-22 NIV) If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. {22} In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.

The phrase "Heap burning coals on his head" was a horrible punishment reserved for the wicked (Psalm 140:10). Here, however, it is kindness that will hurt the enemy, that is, the reciprocation of good for evil that will win him over (cause him to repent). It could also refer to an Egyptian expiation ritual, in which a guilty person, as a sign of his repentance, carried a basin of glowing coals on his head. This then implies that the meaning of the subject phrase is the returning of good for evil thus showing kindness to your enemy resulting in his repentance. Therefore, your decisive act of doing good may cause the offender to repent.

The Ornament of Forgiveness

(Proverbs 19:11 NIV) A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

The word glory in this verse is translated from the Hebrew word tiph'ereth and it means; ornament, beauty, bravery, comely, fair, honor, majesty. First we see that wisdom (good sense) results in the restraining of anger. Second we see that the honor, or beauty, or that which is like a piece of fine ornament on oneself is to overlook a transgression or offense.

Another aspect of this scripture is that anger can cause us to do something that will get us in more trouble later. See Matthew 5:21-26. This is acting or responding without the benefit of sound discretion. There is no discretion in anger. If we can restrain our anger (diffuse it somehow) then we can act wisely and overlook the offense. We will get into the how later.

An Eye For An Eye

The laws in the Old Testament that deal with this teaching is found in Exodus 21:22-27. As always, we must determine the context of this scripture and definitely see what it is not saying. First of all it is not God’s condoning revenge (See Leviticus 19:18). A study of the scriptures in Exodus 21 will show that the term ‘eye for eye, etc.’ simply meant that the restitution, retaliation, or punishment should fit the offense or crime. God was establishing a fair judicial system. For example, a person shouldn’t be put to death because they hit someone’s goat. Instead, perhaps a fine was levied. We practice the same thing in our judicial system. We fit the sentence with the crime. Some crimes constitute a fine and others constitute various levels of jail time depending on the crime that was committed.

Returning Good For Evil

Let’s examine what Jesus tells us about responding to someone who has offended us.

(Mat 5:38-41 KJV) Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: {39} But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. {40} And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. {41} And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Jesus introduces a very different concept. The people were very familiar with the concept of retaliation (fairly). They accepted the fact that if someone did something to you and was found guilty that you had the right of retaliation. Of course, as I pointed out earlier, the retaliation or punishment if you will was determined by the "crime" committed.

Jesus teaches that retaliation is not always the road to take. He introduces a concept of "letting it go." We may even conclude that Jesus taught that sometimes let the offender "get away with it." Jesus introduced the ideal of not fighting back. Why? We can get a good clue if we look at the purpose of the law and what Jesus taught. The law was strictly to establish fairness in a judicial system. It was only designed to maintain order. Jesus on the other hand seemed to be more concerned about personal relationships and the Kingdom of God. Evidently it is not always a good thing to retaliate every time. Why not take the wrong that was done to you and return good for the evil you were given. Perhaps you could win your brother because of your kindness (See 1 Corinthians 6:7, Proverbs 20:22, Romans 12:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:15).

Hate, Love, and Forgiveness

See Matthew 5:43-48

This verse of scripture gives us insight of hate and love relative to our forgiveness. Recall that we said that forgiveness means to let go of any resentment that we have from an offense. The Bible says

(Proverbs 10:12 KJV) Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.

The bottom line here is that you can't forgive if you still hold resentment. The converse of hate is to love. Therefore, hatred binds resentment to us and love covers (we overlook) the offense allowing us the opportunity to release it. Therefore, you must love in order to release resentment.

(God) Forgive us as we Forgive

In Luke 11:4, Matthew 6:12, 14,15 we learn from Jesus Christ that God forgives us of our sins if we forgive others of their sins. We also see that principle in the model prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples. It appears that if we hold an offense over someone then God will hold our offense over us. Matthew 18:21-35 gives us a very clear picture of what God thinks of forgiveness/unforgiveness.

Forgiveness and Prayer Answers

The Bible says

(Mark 11:25 NIV) And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

Jesus plainly says that when we pray we have to forgive people of their offenses so God can forgive us of our offenses. It appears, based on the context here, that unforgiveness will have an adverse effect on our prayers being answered.

Scriptural Examples Of Forgiveness

Let's look at some scriptural examples of people actually practicing the art of forgiveness in the Bible. Notice what the results of their forgiveness was.

  • Esau forgives Jacob- See Genesis 33:4,11

  • Joseph forgives his brothers - Genesis 45:5-15, 50:19-21

  • David forgives Saul - 1 Samuel 24:10-12, 26:9,23

  • Solomon forgives Adonijah - 1 Kings 1:53

Suggestions For Forgiving

We are ready to learn how to forgive since we now know what forgiveness is and some of what the Bible says about it. Let's dissect forgiveness so that we can build up to the How To.

We said that forgiveness means to release the resentment associated with a particular offense. In order to do this you have to know exactly what resentment is. The word resentment means indignation or ill will felt as a result of a real or imagined offense, bitterness, rancor, spite. Resentment is a state of mind and/or emotion felt when we are offended by someone. Therefore, we have to send forth, cast out, or release the resentment caused by the offense originating from an individual. So in order to forgive we must release the resentment.

We can harness resentment in us simply because we were wronged by an organization. For example if you were cheated by Mark’s Tire Shop then you may resent anyone who works for the company. That is, you resent anyone that is even associated with the offender whether the offense was cause by a person directly or not. Another type of associated resentment is the recurring resentment caused by the memory, or something that reminds you, of the offense. For example suppose you were driving along and you were hit by a red car and the person drove off leaving you with the repair bill. Mentally you can't direct your resentment towards anyone because they didn't stick around for you to do that. Therefore, your resentment floats until you release it. Every time you see a red car your resentment rises. If you can get close enough you can direct your resentment towards the person driving by cutting them off or doing something else to spite them.

As we said earlier in this study, you may resent anyone associated with the person that offended you. If your neighbor offended you then you may resent him, his wife and children. You may even resent his friends and so forth. The resentment or unforgiveness grows like a seed until YOU are destroyed by it. Therefore, realize when you are harboring associated resentment. Don’t allow yourself to have bad feelings for those who are associated with the one you resent.

 

So forgiveness means that we release the resentment from us and for those we resent by association. This release is active. We have to take the initiative to send the resentment away from us and learn to guard our hearts against it day by day.

The Source Of Resentment

Try to understand the origin of resentment. Why were you offended in the first place. Use the mind that God gave you. You may discover, by the operation of reason, that your resentment may be foolish. First of all you should realize that resentment is a fruit of the sinful nature and not the Spirit of God. So the ultimate source of resentment is Satan. Resentment is a fruit of the sinful nature.

There are many reasons why you may become resentful. I will list some below.

Misunderstanding: You misunderstand what someone says and therefore become offended. This is why it is important to communicate your feelings when you are offended by someone. A simple act of understanding what was really said or done could clear up the whole thing.

Violation of your ideals: Basically someone appears to challenge your intelligence or makes light of what your ideals are. This makes you feel inferior which in turn brings on resentment.

Violation of personal protocol: Someone violates what you consider to be a proper mode of operation in the social realm. You may be offended by your friend because he acts "foolishly" amongst your friends. This is a common cause of resentment: Someone acts in a way that you deem inappropriate for one reason or another.

Violation of an accepted mode of communication: You are offended by someone because they said something that you consider to be inappropriate. This is a major mode of offense between the sexes. A women may be offended because of what a man says to her when he may have meant no harm whatsoever. The same applies to men. You may be offended because someone uses profanity or talks too loud for example.

Induction Of Pain: You are offended by someone because they caused you pain. Someone may have done something that negatively effected you or simply hurt your feelings.

Identifying the source will aid us in our battle with and victory over resentment. Understanding these root causes (there are more) will help us identify when we are about to be offended or in the process of such. Comprehending this mode of operation will enable us to guard against unforgiveness because we can "see it coming."

Setting The Environment For Forgiveness

I learned a while ago that sometimes we have to initiate an action solely out of knowledge. That is, you may not feel like doing something but you do it anyway because you know you should or you know it will benefit or lead you in the right direction. Applying this principle, we can set the environment for forgiveness by doing good to those that offend us. You will probably be absolutely amazed of what will happen if you do good to someone that offends you even if you don't feel like it. You force your own mind into a new direction. It is like you tell your mind "you are not going to have ill feelings about this person. You are going to think kindly of this person and love him/her the way God does." You have taken control of your mind instead of your mind controlling you. For example, suppose you are angry at your brother, sister, wife, or husband. You are so angry that you don't feel like seeing them for a month. Try something like buying them a gift and give it to them with no strings attached. Just present them with a gift and simply say "I wanted to buy you a gift" and give it to them. This will send a pleasant shock wave throughout your system not mentioning what it may do to the other person.

It is very important to understand that the above activity should not be spontaneous in hopes that your actions will make you feel better about that person. You must reason before you act. It is best to think about why you resent this person for what they did. Practice some of the things that we will discuss shortly and then act on it. Your actions are a result of you realizing that you don’t have to be resentful of the person and that your unforgiveness should be thrown out and replace with your normal relationship with the person. Don’t think that simply doing something nice will release resentment because it won’t. However, if you have already decided that you will release resentment, then act on it by doing something that you wouldn’t do for someone you resent.

The Power Of God

You do not have the power to release resentment on your own. Due to the sin nature, we would rather resent then to forgive. Therefore, we need an external force to our human (sinful) nature to bring about forgiveness. This force is the power of God. God’s power, by His Holy Spirit, is able and willing to empower us to forgive those we resent and to keep us from resentment in the first place. The power of God is the Gospel of Christ, the good news that Christ is victorious and we can share in that victory over all of the oppression of the Devil. See the study on the Power of God for more information on this topic.

Allow the power of God to operate in your life and you will find that there are many things that you can accomplish that you thought were impossible. You may think that you will never be able to forgive someone but with the power of God you may find yourself loving that person.

The Word Of God

It is impossible for someone to study and meditate on the word of God and not be effected by it. Therefore, our hearts and minds can be conditioned to resist resentment if we feed our spirit and mind with the word of God. The word of God produces life not death. Resentment produces death and forgiveness therefore counters unforgiveness. Read and study the Bible so that you know what God has made available to you. Read and study your Bible so that you have examples of overcoming various obstacles, one being unforgiveness.

Fellowship With God

Develop a close fellowship with God. This will allow the peace of God to flow more freely in all situations (we approach this point as we mature spiritually). Have many quite times with God where you can just talk to Him, worship Him, and just be with Him in His presence. This will help us to become more in tune with the voice of the Holy Spirit and therefore His activities in our lives (to overcome resentment at the start). Fellowship with God helps us to be more focused on God and his purpose for our lives. It will help us to live a more Godly life practicing love, compassion, understanding, and self control wherever we go.

Forgive The Situation

How do I send forth resentment? How can I get the resentment in my soul out? Consider this: What difference does the offense have in your life? A few years ago God taught me how to forgive. He said "Reggie (he calls me Reggie), you have to learn to forgive the situation." What does that mean? God said that I have to learn to regard the offense as insignificant in my life. How can I be offended if the offense is insignificant in my life? What difference does the offense make? God is still God and he is still my heavenly Father who takes care of me. So what does it matter what you do? I have God as my father who is well able to do far above what I can imagine regardless of the offense. Has someone stolen money from you? So What? Is God so small that he can't replace it? Is God so small that he doesn't have enough money to give you since the former was stolen?

How do you regard the situation/offense as insignificant in your life? Trust God fully! Believe that God is able to keep you and prosper you. Believe that God can move in your life regardless of the situations around you. Trust God and I know that he is fully able to keep you regardless of your situations. This doesn't mean that you walk around inviting people to offend you. No! It simply means that when or if you are offended that you know that God is greater and therefore won't have to waste a second being upset or resentful about the situation. If you don't get resentful, then forgiveness is not very difficult to do. As a matter of fact, if you don't get resentful, then forgiveness is not even an issue because you have nothing to forgive (there is no resentment).

Therefore, in order to release resentment and even approach the point were resentment doesn't even attach itself to you, you have to fully trust (have faith in) God. Don't put the effects of the offense above God's ability to deliver or prosper you. Count the offense as insignificant in your life. Guess What? It is! Regardless of how big you think a situation is, it is nothing compared to what God can do. No matter how traumatic you think an experience is, it is not greater than God.

Emotional Deception

Our emotions can hinder us from releasing the resentment that we may have caught. It may, in more advanced spiritual development if you will, cause us to be offended in the first place. Our emotions can make something that is really insignificant seem larger than life. Therefore, we should learn how to be emotional, that is express our emotions, without taking offense. If someone does something to you that you don’t like or you sense causes offense, then you have the right to tell them. We talk more about communications later in this study. However, we may respond more to the way we feel instead of the situation at hand. Realize that our emotions are influenced by many things such as chemical imbalances, what happened on the job, and more. Don’t let emotions move you into the realm of unforgiveness.

The Deception of Pride

Pride can also cause insignificant events seem larger than life. Someone may say something to you and cause you to be offended simply because your pride has told you that you looked bad in front of everyone. You therefore take offense and retaliate. Pride can destroy marriages, friendships, and families. Pride can cause us to accept the resentment that Satan tries to give us as a gift. Therefore, resist pride. Realize that you are nothing without Christ. Live in such a way that you do not exalt yourself and therefore creating a facade to live up to in front of others.

THE OUTLINE TO FORGIVE

The following is a summary of how to forgive an offense.

  1. Read, Study, and meditate on the word of God. Build a strong fellowship with your heavenly father. This brings faith and confidence that you will need when you are offended. This should be practiced on a regular basis and not when the offense comes. You may have already acted according to your resentment and there was no WORD to stop you.

  2. Regard the offense or situation as insignificant. Know that God is greater than any situation or offense in your life regardless of how big you think it is.

  3. Place God's ability to bless you above the offense. That is, trust God in your life and know that no situation can change what God has for you. Nothing matters except God. This is the attitude that you want to obtain. If God is greater then the offense (the effects of such) then it won't matter to you. This is not mental assent however. God's ability has to be real to you and not something that you conjure up in your mind.

Practice the love of God when dealing with people. If you love people, even your enemies (those who offend you), then it will be easy (or easier)to forgive them. You don't resent who you love (or you can't for long).

REPENT IN ORDER TO FORGIVE

You cannot forgive someone unless you repent of the resentment that you hold in your heart for them. You can't forgive someone unless you make a decision to release the resentment Forgiveness starts with repentance. Unless you repent you cannot and will not forgive.

The Decision

It is so easy to make a decision. So why is it so hard to decide to forgive someone? We get to the point in knowledge where we know that we should forgive and we reach a point where we are ready to forgive. However, at the time of decision making there appears to be some force that makes it almost impossible to let go of the resentment. Why? Why can't I just say "OK I will forgive this person and love them anyway." What force hinders this decision? Sure I can say it but I have a hard time meaning it. Do you see what I mean?

For some reason we like to resent people. For some reason we like or enjoy hating people. Not that we enjoy hating them per se, but we enjoy the feeling of the emotion. What is locking us onto these emotions of resentment? Indirectly we are saying that we like to be offended so that we can enjoy that feeling. Why? If I hate resentment then I would want to get rid of it as soon as possible. Yes I was hurt by so and so but I don't have to hate him. However, because the resentment has somehow locked itself to me I can't let it go just by saying it. Resentment is of the sin nature. Therefore the feelings of retaliation fuel our desire for resentment. It is easier to talk about why we hate someone then why we love someone. The flesh loves to hate those that offend and we follow the lead of our flesh. However, the power of God is always there to release us of this bondage to the flesh.

Haven't you noticed your carnal love for resentment? You get to a place where you want to forgive someone (initiated by the Spirit) but you can't get yourself to do it or even start to do it. You just want to continue resenting the person because you were offended. Why is being offended such a big deal? Paul said

(1 Corinthians 6:7 NIV) The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?

What's the big deal? Why not just take it, release it, and then move on with your life. Imagine the freedom. But because we love that resentment, we can't let it go. Therefore, we must repent of such a lifestyle of being controlled by the sin nature. We have to make the decision to be led by the Spirit and love instead of resent.

Forgiveness Is One-Sided

A minister in my youth used to say "It doesn’t matter what you think of me but it does matter what I think of you." This was a profound statement with a life changing principle implied. The resentment that people has for me is insignificant as far as my own spiritual health. However, what I have in my heart towards others will directly effect my spiritual health. Therefore, forgiveness is one-sided. The Bible doesn’t teach us to forgive others as they forgive us. The Bible simply instructs us to forgive and for our benefit. Therefore, forgiveness is one-sided in that our releasing of resentment is mutually exclusive of what others do.

Time Perspective

It takes time to forgive someone who has hurt you. It takes time to release the resentment for someone that has done you wrong. A major principle of life is that things operate on the seed principle. Nothing just happens or appears. Rather it grows. Therefore, your ability to forgive and the actual act of forgiving someone will grow as you practice the art of forgiveness and do what it takes to approach a point where you can forgive someone for wronging you.

Don’t let the fact that you still sense resentment deter you in your pursuit of forgiveness. Realize that pain hurts and that you have a lot to overcome in order to forgive. The larger the offense, the larger the energy required to forgive. So keep at it and don’t give up. Forgiveness is on its way. Remember that it will take time. As we said earlier, to forgive is not to forget. Let's talk about this in a little more detail so that you can get a better understanding of why you found it so hard to forgive people in the past.

THE MEMORY TRIGGER

I am sure that you have had a situation when you were offended and you declared that you would forgive the person. The pain associated with the offense rises inside of you every time you see this person or every time you think of what they did. What happened? I thought I forgave this person. Why do I continue to feel this way? The problem is that you didn't forgive the person. You used mental forgiveness which is a form of mental assent (we mentioned this earlier in the lesson in the section Casting Out Resentment On Command). What you did was to suppress the offense as well as all of the pain and other emotions associated with it. Sooner or later the situation will smack you dead in the face bringing with it all of the pain and ill feelings (resentment). No you didn't forgive—you suppressed

Suppression is a common method to deal with things. For example, we may throw a bill into the trash because we don't have the money to pay for it and we don't want to deal with it. However, the problem doesn't go away. Sooner or later the situation with that bill will hit us in the face again for us to either deal with it or suppress it again. We treat forgiveness in the same manner. Suppressing the feelings you have about someone does not mean that you forgave them. Confessing forgiveness until you are blue in the face does not cause forgiveness to rise, real forgiveness that is.

There are two things involved when we deal with forgiveness. There is the offense itself and then the memory of the offense. The problem with "forgetness" is that you usually don't forget. You may not remember all of the details of the offense but you will probably always remember the pain associated with it or just that you were offended. One day or minute when you least expect it something will trigger the memory of the offense and all of that pain will rise. What then should you do so that when you remember the offense you won't remember the pain associated with it so that resentment won't rise? Neutralize your memory!

Neutralize Your Memory

All that you have to do is to strip all of the pain, ill feelings, and resentment away from that memory. This is the same thing as casting the resentment away from you. The resentment is connected to the offense and is the result of the pain inflicted by the offense. What has to be done in the natural is that the memory has to be neutralized so that when you remember the event there will be no associated resentment. Basically all you have to do is to strip the event or the memory of it of its pain or offense.

We see that the only problem with forgiving someone is that we keep remembering the offense and the pain associated with it and then rises the resentment. If we could strip the pain then there would be no resentment. This is an application of counting or regarding the offense as insignificant in our lives which is discussed in this study. The thing here is not to forget but to replace. If you do that then you can remember the event as many times as you want but no resentment will rise because there is no pain associated with it.

THE EFFECTS OF FORGIVENESS

Now let's look at some results of forgiving. These are really benefits because of the desirable effects forgiveness brings to our lives.

Freedom From The Influences Of Resentment

What are the effects, or in this case benefits, of forgiveness. For one thing you are free. You are highly influenced or even enslaved by someone as long as you hold resentment in your soul for someone. All that person need do is to show up and be seen by you and you become unglued because of the resentment that arises in you. Your blood pressure may rise, you may lose concentration and other things. However, if you forgive that person then their presence will not affect you any more than it would have before the offense. You live a liberated life in that no one can control you by planting seeds of resentment.

Releasing Others From Guilt

You may also release the offending person from guilt. The person may have expressed a genuine sorrow for what was done and even apologized. You however, in your determination to promote justice, refuse to forgive and you seek restitution. The offending person is only left with guilt (unless they release it) because they feel as though they did you wrong and you wouldn't release them of their guilt by forgiving them. We should also consider that not everyone who offended us meant to offend. Sometimes the offense may be the result of an accident, oversight, or a simple misunderstanding.

The Importance of Communications

In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus teaches us what to do when we are offended by someone. The overall principle is to communicate the fact that your were offended with the objective of reconciliation. If we don’t communicate the fact that we were offended then the offending party may never know it. We may then perceive that they intentionally hurt us or just don’t care that they did. You may then resent this person for years waiting for them to apologize and he/she doesn’t even know you were offended. Therefore, we have to communicate to people how we feel if they did something to offend us.

An Example of Unknown Offense

I remember my father telling me of an incident that happened a long time ago with a friend of his. He said that he had some food at his friend’s house that the wife had cooked. My father said he made a statement something like "Your wife sure can burn." Now the wife heard this and thought that he meant that she burned the food and was therefore a bad cook. My father said that she was crying in the kitchen and he could not figure out why she was crying. Later she revealed why she was crying and then my father, as well as his friend, explained to the wife what the original statement meant that she could cook well. This whole situation could have resulted in the wife resenting my father for his statement that she thought was insulting whereas my father was complimenting her.

Forgiving Yourself

We have a most difficult time forgiving when it involves forgiving ourselves. We hold guilt and condemnation for ourselves for past mistakes. We condemn ourselves for the sins that we have made in the past. Recognize that it is not God who condemns us. God forgives us. Let’s look at a couple of key scriptures to start this discussion off.

(Romans 8:1 NIV) "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,"

(1 John 1:9 KJV) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

The word confess in the preceding scripture means to acknowledge our sins.

Unforgiveness of self is more of a holding of guilt then it is of resentment. We may tend to hold the guilt associated with something we have done whether hurting someone else or something that we deem is a great sin against God. If we hold guilt then we make ourselves vulnerable to the enemy. Guilt will keep us in a perceived state of unrighteousness (though we are not unrighteous).

The pain of unforgiveness of self can be very great and can destroy us in the same way as unforgiveness of others can destroy us. However, I have found that the road to unforgiveness is an obscure one if we do not consider the true source of our deliverance. I say deliverance because unforgiveness of self binds us to the actions of the past and keeps us from freely experiencing all that God has for us now and in the future. Therefore, we must learn to forgive self so that we can continue on our journey of fulfillment according to God’s will.

Focus

Why can’t we forgive ourselves of what we have done in the past? The answer to that question may very well be the key to your deliverance. I propose that the reason we sometimes can’t forgive ourselves is because of ignorance of God’s word and effective ignorance of God’s word. Let me explain the difference.

Ignorance of God’s word simply means that you don’t know what God says concerning forgiving you. You don’t realize that Christ paid the price for your sin nature and thus sins. You don’t realize that God has forgiven you and is holding nothing against you. You don’t know that God loves you so much that he is not looking for ways to put marks by your name every time you sin. You don’t know what God thinks of you because you don’t know the word of God pertaining to forgiveness. You are ignorant of God’s word concerning his forgiveness of your sins.

Effective Ignorance of God’s word means that you do know what the Bible teaches about God forgiving you put you have allowed your situation(s) and your thought patterns to negate that knowledge and put you in a state as though you were ignorant of it all. You know the truth but the truth has been hidden from you because of the attention and nurturing you have given to your circumstances. You are therefore effectively ignorant.

Ignorance of the word can be easily cured though it may take a while to obtain the revelation of the truth and apply it to your life. All that is necessary is to study the word of God, listen to word centered men and women of God counsel you with the word of God. Basically you obtain the knowledge of the word of God concerning forgiveness. In the process you should also obtain more of a revelation of the love of God for you.

I believe that one of the greatest hindrances to forgiving ourselves is improper focus. As a matter of fact, this is the same basis for unforgiveness in general. Recall earlier that I stated that we should learn to forgive the situation in order to set the atmosphere to forgive others. We should consider that God is greater than anything that anyone has done to us. The same applies to self. Are we focused on what we have done and the consequences, from which guilt grows, or are we focused on God. We cannot forgive ourselves if we do not focus on God. I propose the forgiveness of self must come from an external source and manifest itself on the inside thus releasing of from the bondage of guilt. Therefore, we need to consider God and his power to release us from our guilt and unforgiveness of self. We have to focus on God’s love for us. The Bible says,

(Proverbs 10:12 NIV) "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs."

(1 Peter 4:8 NIV) "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."

(John 3:16 KJV) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

(Romans 5:8 KJV) "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

These and other scriptures reveal to us that God loves us. This love covers all of our sins. God does not hold grudges against us. He does not count our sins. The only requirement is that we forgive others and that we confess (acknowledge) our sins to God. Therefore, realize that any guilt that you feel because of a past action is not from God.

How To Forgive Yourself

The fundamental principle necessary to activate to forgive yourself is the proper focus on God. Without this proper focus, we tend to try to release ourselves on our own strength. Furthermore, we may be prone to live out the guilt until, so we think, it will dissipate and all will be well again. However, unless we deal with our own guilt and eliminate it from our system, we will always be a memory away from experiencing the pains of that guilt

Now let me give you some suggestions for forgiving yourself. These suggestions come from my personal experiences and the information I received from talking to others. It is all based on Biblical principles applied to this area of unforgiveness of self.

Realize God’s loves you. Know and understand that regardless of how great a sin you have committed or how great you messed up, God still loves you and he always will. His love transcends any sin that you think you may have committed. His love transcends any mistake you have made. His love is necessary for you to free yourself from the guilt that enslaves you. The Bible says,

(Romans 5:8 NIV) "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

2. Realize God’s forgiveness for you. Know and understand that, since God’s love covers all sins, that God has forgiven you. That is, God has provided for your forgiveness if you would only receive it. God is not holding a grudge against you but has forgiven you. However, unless you receive that forgiveness you will live with the guilt and be adversely influenced by it. Jesus Christ was sacrificed so that you would be delivered from your sins. God proved that he loves you by sending Jesus Christ to die for you and by forgiving you even though you and I didn’t deserve it.

3. Receive God's forgiveness. It doesn't matter if you have the knowledge of God's forgiveness if you don't receive it. Receive God's forgiveness and live like you are forgiven. Say it! "I receive the forgiveness of God. I am the righteousness of God according to 2 Corinthians 5:21." Meditate on that to make it real to you. Unless you receive God’s forgiveness, as I said earlier, you will not experience it and thus live with the guilt.

Love yourself. Forgiveness is possible because of love. If you don't love yourself then you probably will not forgive yourself. A prerequisite to this of course is to love God and let the love of God abide in you. Learn to see yourself the way God sees you. He sees you as His own and righteous before Him by the blood of Christ Jesus.

Realize that God knows you. You can’t surprise God with your mistakes or sins. God already knows you. He knows your weaknesses and faults. There is nothing in the Bible that would suggest that God expects us to be perfect (without flaw). Consider what he said about David who was a murderer.

(Acts 13:22 KJV) "And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will."

Though David made mistakes, the fact is that he had a heart after God. God knew David but God saw something else in David, namely his heart. If you love God and want to do what he says then realize that you are not surprising God when you mess up. He still loves you. Repent and get on with your life.

Focus on God. Too often we focus on our mistakes, the consequences, and a perceived fallen state from grace when we make mistakes or even commit a sin. Focus on the power of God and not your circumstances. Focusing on your situation will only get you deeper into bondage by it. The power of God’s love will overpower any guilt that you have and He will restore you to fellowship with himself.

Perverted Forgiveness - Justification of Sins

I must add that we have to be careful not to take our righteousness in Christ and our freedom from the bondage of sin into a realm where they don't belong. If we sin then we are wrong. Regardless of what you say or think, you were wrong. You cannot justify your sins and call it forgiveness. If you have sinned then repent and go to God to receive forgiveness for your sins. The Bible says

(1 John 1:9 KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Basically, do not use your liberty and the fact that God has forgiven you as an opportunity to sin. That is definitely not the way of the Christian nor is it indicative of the Holy Spirit living within.

Go to top of Page

THE EFFECTS OF UNFORGIVENESS

What happens if you retain resentment in your heart? Let me propose some of the effects that unforgiveness will cause in YOUR life.

Unanswered Prayers

Jesus teaches us in Mark 11:25 that when we pray we are to forgive so that God can forgive us. Resentment in your heart, I believe from Jesus' statement, will hinder your prayers from being answered. More precisely, it will corrupt the spiritual force emanating from your prayer. Let me give an example in the natural to help you understand. Suppose I am a boxer. If I eat right and train effectively then I will approach the best conditioning for the fight and I will be able to perform to my maximum. This is because of all of the physical energy and ability that I have put into my body by my training and correct eating. However, If I eat a chocolate cake right before the fight then I will not be able to perform to my maximum. I just put a negative influence into myself when I ate the chocolate cake. The same is with prayer. Resentment in my heart when I pray is like eating that chocolate cake before the fight. Regardless of how much I believe, trust God, and studied my Bible, my prayers will be negatively influenced by the resentment I have in my heart.

Praying for Someone You Resent

Have you ever tried to pray for someone you resent? It is a very difficult thing to do. You may go through the motions of prayer but deep inside of your spirit, you know that your prayers were ineffective. What if it is your wife, husband, or child that you resent and a situation arises where you have to pray for them. What if they are dying and they need your prayers to lift them up. Resentment doesn't care about the other person because it is the other person that causes the resentment as far as your emotions are concerned. Settle matters quickly with your brother so that resentment doesn't take hold of you and later place you in a precarious position. The bottom line is to forgive quickly because someone's life or well being may depend on it. At the very least your spiritual well being will be effected.

Casting Out Resentment On Command

Don't be fooled. You can't cast out resentment with mental assent at any time. You can't just decide that you will not resent this person because they need me right now. Your resentment will negatively influence your actions toward this person. In the same way you can't just quit smoking, you can't just quit resenting. There are other things that you have to do in order to uproot resentment that we previously talked about. So don't be fooled. Resentment is not alleviated by your mind but by the power of God.

Reaping Unforgiveness

I believe very strongly in the "seed principle." This principle basically states that whatever is planted will grow. Therefore, if you sow unforgiveness then you will reap unforgiveness even from yourself. If you don't forgive people then they won't forgive you because of your unforgiveness or bad attitude. Your unforgiveness can actually cause someone else to stumble. Don't sow unforgiveness because you don't want to receive unforgiveness.

Depression

If you don't forgive yourself then you can easily fall into guilt fueled depression. You may feel that God has left you or that he doesn't love you anymore until you do some ritualistic action. You can be very vulnerable in this state. Your Christian walk and/or ministry can be rendered ineffective. Even a Christian may commit suicide if he/she gets depressed enough. If I love God with my whole heart and am deceived into depression believing that God, the one I love, has abandoned me because of my offense, then I may very well contemplate ending my life since, according to my state of mind, my life is over anyway. Do you see?

Perverted Discernment

I have learned that resentment in my heart can pervert my discernment about someone. Consider what Jesus said in scripture.

(Matthew 7:1-5 KJV) Judge not, that ye be not judged. {2} For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. {3} And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? {4} Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? {5} Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

When you have resentment, your righteous judgement is corrupted. You become a self righteous judge that criticize people when all of the time you are in a worse state then they. This is an overall application to a frame of mind and not necessarily to individuals. For example, the Pharisees resented whom they called the 'sinners' when all of the time they were way off from God. We too can be so resentful that we become judgmental seeking to find every little fault in someone because we resent them so.

Slave To Resentment

Of course if the resentment turns into hatred then righteous judgement is probably not to be found. You are so hostile that you don't see truth. You are only reacting to what your hatred tells you. Hatred and anger clouds our vision of the truth of any situation. This is why it is very important to remain level headed in the midst of crisis so that your discernment can operate effectively. If this is not done then the wisdom you have built inside of you will not operate.

After a while resentment can get such a hold that you don't even want to hear the truth. You become callous to anything that anyone says in defense or support of the person that offended you. You especially don't want to hear anything from the offending party. Resentment has taken hold of you and is now controlling you. You are now a slave to your own resentment! It controls you. It is your master. You will do whatever it tells you unless somehow you can see the light and release it from you.

Conversion

Once you have been enslaved by resentment, i.e. unforgiveness, you become what you resent in a way. Think of this first. If someone lets the door close in your face and doesn't even turn around to apologize, you may become resentful of that person. You reason in your mind that they were rude to you and was not courteous towards you. You may even conjecture that they are uncaring or selfish. Now if you become a slave to resentment and do what it says then you will become the rude, selfish, uncaring, discourteous person that you believe the offender to be (whether they were or not). Why? Resentment has no thought for the other person. It only fuels on your selfish emotions. YOU were hurt so YOU must retaliate. YOU were offended so YOU must repay.

You may take opportunity to let the door slam in your offender’s face if possible and you will rejoice in your accomplishment too. You may plan to do things that will offend your offender so that you can feel good about yourself and your resentment. It is subtle but very powerful. Your resentment, unforgiveness, or hatred has converted you into what you resented (or the principle of such) in the first place.

The bottom line again is to release or send forth, as T.D. Jakes said, resentment. It will only hinder your insight into the truth or reality of the situation. It will also enslave you and deceive you in thinking that you are justified for your resentful actions.

Ungodliness

A person, even a Christian, can get so resentful about a person, cause, or ideal that they become ungodly in there actions. Think of the so call pro-abortion Christians (professed anyway) that committed murder and think what they did was justified and God's will. Think of the many church folk who look down on people because they smell, wrong nationality or color, or even the "wrong" denomination. When resentment takes control of us and we are motivated by it, we end up doing all that it tells us and what it tells us is not Godly. Therefore, our entire life begins to be motivated into ungodliness and we start being a "Saul of Tarsus". What makes it more difficult is that the more resentment controls us the more blinded we become to the truth of forgiveness. And what's worse is that our human nature does not want to admit that we were wrong so we continue to fuel our resentment justifying our actions and emotions. Do you see how this can destroy a person? The pitiful thing is that you may not even remember why you are upset with Johnny but your resentment assures you that you are.

Think of the many people and organizations that harm others in the name of God. Think of all of the people that are oppressed because they are resented in the name of God. Who do you resent? Who are you oppressing with your unforgiveness? Who are you judging unrighteously? Are your eyes clouded or blinded by resentment (unforgiveness)? Are you wearing those old sunglasses called UR specks, that is unrighteous specks. So you need to take them off before you have destroyed yourself and the judgement you judge is judged back to you.

Summary

Forgiveness is to get rid of the resentment that is in you for someone. We have to have the love of God operating in us in order for forgiveness to take affect. We have to also trust God with our lives and know that he is greater than any situation that arises in our life. This shows the importance of a personal Bible study and fellowship time with God. The power to do what God wants is in His own word. We must forgive or we cause detrimental things in our life. Forgiveness, however, brings us freedom from the evil force of resentment and it helps keep us on a Godly path. Forgiveness should be part of the lifestyle of a Christian since God is a forgiving God. Think of the many times you sinned against him. Didn't He forgive you. Likewise, we should forgive others. Jesus said,

(Luke 11:4 NIV) Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'"

We cannot pray this unless we do this: Forgive everyone who has sinned against us.

What do you do now? Realize that unforgiveness or resentment is not of God and therefore wrong for the Christian. Next fill your spirit with the life that is only in Christ. This life does not resent rather loves. Allow the flow of God’s love and power operate in your life. Practice forgiving people you resent. Try to practice not being offended in the first place. Learn to see people not as opponents but fellow humans (Christian or not) that are influenced by Satan, the sin nature, or selfish ambitions (this will help in the area of understanding). Also learn to see God as more powerful then any situation that you may face or have faced in the past. In addition to this know that you cannot forgive by your own power. You can only effectively forgive by the power of God.

 

 

© <%= year(date) %> Pursuing the Truth Ministries