The Art of Forgiveness

Introduction

Resentment is the silent destroyer of many people’s lives. We have often been told to forgive others, but we typically aren’t told how. Not only that, it is sometimes said that to forgive is to forget. How can I choose to forget something, i.e., erase my memory of the offensive event? Forgiveness would be easier if we could do that. Even the Bible reveals that we must forgive, mainly because God forgives us of our sins.

In this article, I will share what forgiveness really is and its process. Hopefully, you will discover the importance of forgiveness and how to forgive those who have offended you.

What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness means releasing the resentment you have for someone for offending you. The effect of forgiveness is the restoration of both parties to the former state of the 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. Forgiving someone means that you have released the resentment caused by an offense.

What is Resentment?

Resentment is the state of being that you experience after someone offends you. That offense could be physical or emotional pain, unfair treatment, betrayal, etc. For example, a person may resent a parent for mistreating them growing up.

Resentment is not an emotion in and of itself, but it involves several. For example, resentment is associated with anger. Resenting someone could also mean that you are angry at them for some pain they caused in the past. It’s the state of mind that surfaces emotions like anger or disappointment.

Resentment is synonymous with unforgiveness in the context of this study. It germinates and then grows over time—like a weed. If left unresolved, it can grow to where it takes over your life or even define you. It is a deadly thing that destroys marriages, families, and friendships.

Another critical thing about resentment is that it holds you to the past pains and hinders healing and moving forward with your life. It is a deadly poison to your life.

The interesting thing about resentment is that it hurts you, not the other person. The person that offended you (or you perceived to have offended you) might be enjoying their life while you allow resentment to ruin yours. You feel pain when you think of the offending event and person and how you might get even.

The Causes of Resentment

Both perceived and real things can cause you to resent someone. Keep in mind that the person may not have intended to offend you. We’ll discuss that later. Below are some possible causes of resentment.

  1. Disrespect
  2. Being taken advantage of
  3. Jealousy
  4. Physical or emotional pain
  5. Rejection
  6. Embarrassment or belittlement
  7. Embarrassment
  8. Being teased

Awareness of the causes of resentment can help you control how you respond to an offense. Remember, resentment hurts you more than the other person.

What Forgiveness is Not

Forgiveness does not mean that you ignore the offense or pretend it never happened. Forgiving someone is separate from dealing with something they did. You may release any resentment toward the person for your benefit, but you still will deal with the issue.

Forgiveness does not mean that you become friends with the person that offended you. A relationship may be severed, not because of resentment but because of the nature of the offense. For example, you may not want to continue a relationship with someone you no longer trust.

Do not think that you should like the person that you forgave. You may find that you don’t like them and prefer not to interact with them intimately. Forgiving them means that you have only decided not to resent them.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. You’ve probably heard, “to forgive is to forget.’ That phrase is wrong and probably impossible. Sure. If we could erase our memory of an offensive event, we would have effectively forgiven by forgetting. Resentment won’t exist because we won’t remember the offense. However, it is unlikely that we can selectively erase parts of our memory.

The power of forgiveness is to recall the offensive event and not allow resentment into our hearts and minds. We no longer relive the emotional pain we felt at the original event. We have moved on and not let that person or event enslave us or hinder us from achieving our dreams.

The Offense

Resentment starts with an offense. Someone hurts your feelings, cheats you, betrays you, etc. You resent the person for what they did to you. We sometimes call holding onto that offense holding a grudge. Your resentment may manifest through passive hostility or outright callousness, malice, or even cruelty towards the person. You may have feelings of getting even to make them pay for offending you.

The Response to the Offense

The ideal situation is not to become offended. Not allowing yourself to be offended is sometimes harder said than done. Sometimes an offense may take us emotionally down a path of resentment and expression. How do you forgive a spouse of 20 years after they betrayed you through adultery? How do you forgive someone that cheated you out of thousands of dollars by betraying your trust? It is possible but difficult sometimes. Forgiveness seems difficult because of emotions in most cases. After being offended, our feelings seem to affect our lives significantly.

As with anything else, the more you practice forgiveness, the easier it becomes. We’ll discuss the “how” later in this study.

Emotions

We typically resent people that offend us because of how they made us feel. Someone embarrassed us, and we resent them for it. Our emotions take us to the initial embarrassment or pain whenever we think of the offensive event. Our resentment develops more roots and can lead to malicious actions against them. Therefore, it is best not to respond emotionally to an offense even though it may be high.

Forgiveness in Scripture

Let’s review what the scriptures say about forgiveness (and unforgiveness).

Repay Evil With Kindness

Proverbs 25:21–22 (NKJV) — 21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; 22 For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the Lord will reward you.

Our enemies are certainly worthy of resentment. However, the Bible tells us to love our enemies (See Matthew 5:43-48) and continually forgive those who offend us daily (Matthew 18:21-22).

The metaphor of burning coals implies intense pain. In the context of this study, that pain comes when a person is humiliated by their enemy helping them. The point is that returning kindness for evil (or an offense) is God’s way. Rewarding an enemy with kindness may soften their heart and lead them to repentance (for the evil wrought on you).

Repaying evil with evil, i.e., revenge, will only escalate the situation and make matters worse. Someone needs to break the cycle of resentment to produce peace for all parties involved.

Wisdom in Conflict

Proverbs 19:11 (NKJV) — The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.

I discussed earlier the impact that emotions can have on our response to an offense. However, a person with wisdom or discretion can avoid conflict. They are patient and will not respond rashly but with understanding and possibly diffuse the situation before resentment has a chance to germinate.

The word glory in the passage is translated from the Hebrew word tiph’ereth, which means; ornament, beauty, bravery, comely, fair, honor, majesty. Therefore, the beauty or honor of a person is that they use wisdom and respond wisely when offended.

Forgiveness—Significant Teaching of Jesus

Forgiveness of sins (offenses) is highlighted in the teachings of Jesus.

Luke 11:4 (NKJV) — 4 And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6:12 (NKJV) — 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.

Matthew 6:14–15 (NKJV) — 14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV) — 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Those in God’s kingdom forgive others just as God forgave them. The concept of forgiving others can also be found in Luke 7:41 and Matthew 18:23.

Forgiveness and prayer answers

Mark 11:25 (NKJV) — 25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.

A forgiving heart is essential for praying. When we stand praying (standing was the normal posture for Jews while praying), we must forgive others so God will forgive us. Another way of looking at it is we should forgive others because God forgave us through faith in Jesus Christ.

Other Passages About Forgiveness

Here are more passages of Scripture about forgiveness and being forgiven.

  • Esau forgave Jacob – Genesis 33:4,11
  • Joseph forgave his brothers – Genesis 45:5-15, 50:19-21
  • David forgave Saul – 1 Samuel 24:10-12, 26:9,23
  • Solomon forgave Adonijah – 1 Kings 1:53
  • Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant – Matthew 18:21-35
  • Forgive one another because God forgave you – Colossians 3:13
  • Forgiveness in prayer – Markk 11:25
  • Effects of forgiveness on friendships – Proverbs 17:9
  • You are forgiven – Isaiah 43:25

Setting The Environment For Forgiveness

We often do things not because we want to but because we know it is the right thing to do. I call that doing something out of knowledge instead of feelings. Most of the time, we do not feel like forgiving our offenders. On the contrary, we feel like taking revenge or reciprocating. Therefore, the first step in setting the environment for forgiveness is to abstain from emotional responses.

Respond to the offense with wisdom, not emotionally. That will give you more time to deal with the situation effectively. I mentioned earlier that the person may not have meant to offend you. You wouldn’t discover that if you responded emotionally and thus possibly offending the other person.

Be rational. Think about the person and the offense. Do you think the person would have intentionally offended you, e.g., embarrassed or hurt your feelings? Take time to rationalize those kinds of questions in your mind. Here are some possible questions you might ask yourself when you are offended by someone.

  1. What is my relationship like with this person?
  2. Would they intentionally hurt me as I am perceiving?
  3. Is what they said true?
  4. Could it be they are trying to help me and said it wrong?
  5. Could I be overreacting?
  6. Could they be trying to help me?
  7. Did I hear them correctly?
  8. Are we having a culture clash?

These and similar questions should automatically enter your mind instead of reacting emotionally to what you heard or thought you heard. You may find that you misunderstood or that the person made an extremely pragmatic statement.

Fellowship With God

Develop a close fellowship with God so His peace would flow freely in all situations. Train your mind to pursue God first instead of taking things into your own hands through retaliation. Be aware of His presence in all cases. You’ll then be more apt to respond with wisdom instead of emotionally and irrationally.

Forgive The Situation

Forgiving the situation is a concept that helped me tremendously when I first learned it. A significant part of forgiving a person is to forgive the situation. Ask yourself what difference the event will make in your life. Is it even worth the trouble of getting upset and resenting the person? Probably not. Therefore, consider the event a tiny influence in your life.

Is God not mighty enough to prosper you despite the offense? Will the offense keep God’s provision and purpose from manifesting in your life? The answer is no unless you let it. Remember that you should respond rationally and with wisdom when offended. That gives you time to consider those types of questions quickly. Resolve in your mind that God can pull you through anything, and He will help you.

God is much greater than the offense, the person, and the situation. Consider it a minor blip in your life on your journey to success. When you think of it that way, you’ll not want to spend precious time and energy thinking about getting even or allowing yourself to become emotional about the situation.

Therefore, learn to trust God with your life, and you’ll find it easier to forgive and ideally not to allow yourself to be offended in the first place.

How To Forgive

Awareness

Understanding the current state of your response to offenses is the first step to mastering the art of forgiveness. You first realize that you are offended, and then you can move towards forgiveness and possibly reconciliation. Become aware of how you respond to offenses. Here are some questions you might ask yourself when you are offended by someone.

  1. What were you thinking?
  2. How did you feel?
  3. How did you respond?
  4. Why am I offended?

These will help you to shortcircuit the emotional response. Now, being human, sometimes we may immediately respond emotionally without any thinking, depending on the severity of the offense. However, practice being aware of your state of mind when offended. You might even think about recent offenses and analyze your thoughts.

The more aware you are of your state of mind when you are offended, the more precise action you can take to master forgiving people.

Consider God

We resent those who hurt us. That includes those who embarrassed us, cheated us, disappointed us, were mean to us, etc. In some cases, the offense is severe, like when someone cheats you out of money or an opportunity. You feel that you have lost something significant, which will somehow stunt your success and cause you a variety of trouble.

It is true that some offenses are severe, but not so much that you can’t recover or start a new path to success. That is possible when you think of what God can do for you. You’ll realize that the offense will not stunt your business growth or personal success. With God’s help, you can still succeed regardless of the offensive event. You’ll realize that the offense has no bearing on your life, but only if you forgive.

Call on God when you are in trouble. Don’t think that the offense will destroy you. God will help you, and you will be okay.

Decide to Forgive

Forgiveness is a decision. It will not happen on its own unless you have trained yourself to respond more pragmatically. Ultimately, you must decide to forgive someone and then take the necessary steps to make it happen. Don’t rely on your emotions because they will most likely lead you down a path of resentment. Instead, think about the situation and respond with wisdom. That will give you more time to consider what happened and how to react constructively.

Like anything else, forgiving people is a learned response to offenses. You will become more apt to forgive people as you practice doing it.

Tips To Forgive

The following are some tips to help you become proficient in the art of forgiveness.

  1. Build an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Read and study the Bible, and meditate on what you learn.
  2. Increase your awareness of God with you at all times.
  3. Regard the offense or situation as insignificant. Know that God is greater than any situation in your life, regardless of how big you think it is.
  4. Be rational instead of emotional
  5. Place God’s ability to bless you above the offense and your desire to get even. Trust Him to take care of you.
  6. Practice the love of God when dealing with people. You’re less likely to want to hurt someone for hurting you.
  7. Pray for your offenders, i.e., your enemies, as Jesus taught us.

It would help if you increased your awareness of how you respond to offenses and learned to respond in a manner that leads to forgiveness, not resentment.

Decide To Forgive

Decide to forgive regardless of how you feel. That sets the stage for you to do it and puts you in a more productive mindset. It is unlikely that your emotions will lead you to desire forgiveness. You’ll most likely want to get even or take revenge. Therefore, forgiveness must be a decision.

Remember, forgiveness is the process of releasing resentment. It is not about establishing a friendship with the offender or letting them off the hook. Forgiveness protects you from the ill effects of resentment. Therefore, deciding to forgive is for your benefit, not the offender.

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.” I didn’t realize how profound a statement that was until much later. It doesn’t matter what you think of me (that may have led you to offend me), but I am responsible for what I think of you. What if God treated us the way we treat others?

Therefore, forgiveness is not a mutual agreement between the offended and the offender. You decide not to resent the person for what they did to you. It’s a one-sided act. You may still feel as though you were cheated, disrespected, etc., but you don’t allow that event to define your future. You forgive for your benefit regardless of what the offender does.

It Takes Time

I said earlier that saying “to forgive is to forget” is wrong and probably impossible. It takes time to forgive someone who hurt you. You may find yourself forgiving the person every time you think of the offense. That’s okay. Forgiveness is a process, especially when you first start practicing it. Soon it will be a way of life for you, and forgiving someone will be natural. Remember, it’s for your benefit, not theirs.

So, do not fret if you still feel the emotions when you think of the offense. Just stay committed to your decision to forgive. Practice it as often as you can, regardless of how you feel.

Conclusion

Forgiveness is the process of setting yourself free from the harmful effects of resentment. Releasing the resentment will allow you the opportunity to move forward with your life without the weight of an offense on your mind and heart. Forgiveness benefits you.

Learn to forgive when you are offended by taking control of your emotions and thinking about the situation. Know that it does not need to be the end of the world, so to speak, especially when you consider God’s help in the situation.

Master the art of forgiveness by purposely pursuing forgiveness and forgiving people when they offend you. Remember, God forgave your sins and you didn’t earn it. Therefore, forgive others and free yourself!

 

 

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