For a while, my kids were into watching American Ninja Warriors, and from time to time I would sit down and watch some of the competitors. I could only stand watching it for a short period of time before feelings of inadequacy would sweep into my life, watching feats of strength and agility that I knew I would never be able to do. These guys did extremely difficult things, and they did it with relative ease.
This past week, after the discussion we had in our Life Group on Sunday night, I realized that there probably needs to be a show dedicated to “Forgiveness Warriors”. Like the different things done on American Ninja Warrior, forgiveness is an extremely difficult task. And when properly done, it truly is a wonder to behold.
In our Life Group we came up with all kinds of reasons why forgiveness is so difficult to accomplish in our lives. Having had several days to think about it, I now realize that many of the reasons we gave, come down to not having a full understanding as to what forgiveness is, as well as an understanding of how it works, in the different situations that we face.
For example, some of us may struggle with forgiving our offender, because we feel like if we do, we are letting them off the hook, and they get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We may also struggle because we may think that forgiveness means that we have to be friendly with our offender again, going back to the old relationship.
Every situation and offense is different, which can forgiveness an extremely difficult task—but here are some principles to think about, as you try to be a forgiveness warrior.
- Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should still hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions.
- Forgiveness is returning to God the right to take care of justice.
- Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It may take some time to work through our emotional baggage and pain after certain, more difficult offenses committed against us.
- While Christ teaches that we need to forgive someone seventy times seventy, it does not mean we should deny reality or ignore repeated offenses. Some people are obnoxious, mean-spirited, apathetic, or unreliable. They may never change. We need to change the way we respond to them, and quit expecting them to be different. If we find ourselves constantly forgiving, though, we might need to take a look at the dance we are doing with the other person, that seems to set us up to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused.
- Forgiveness is not based on others’ actions, but on our attitude and will. People will continue to hurt us through life. We either can look at them and their actions and stay stuck and angry; or we can keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is good.
- If they don’t repent, we still have to forgive. Even if they never ask, we need to forgive. We should memorize and repeat over and over: Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.
- Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive.
- We might be pressured into false forgiveness before we are ready. When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it’s not true forgiveness — it’s a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, “I want to forgive you, but right now I’m struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it.”
Again, these nine principles don’t make the act of forgiveness any easier, but I hope that they clarify some questions that you may have. If you would like some more in-depth teaching on this subject matter, below is a link that will take you to a series of messages that I preached a year and a half ago on forgiveness. Click, listen, and I will be praying that we’ll all be better “Forgiveness Warriors”.