It’s toughest to forgive ourselves. So, it’s probably best to start with other people. It’s almost like peeling an onion. Layer by layer, forgiving others, you really do get to the point where you can forgive yourself. -Patty Duke
As I get into this subject of forgiveness, I’d like to start with a few things that FORGIVENESS is NOT:
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.
- Forgiveness doesn’t remove the pain.
- Forgiveness doesn’t excuse what has been done to you.
- You don’t have to FEEL like you’ve forgiven.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to TRUST the one who hurt you.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to LIKE them.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to allow them back into your life.
Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about who the REAL ENEMY is.
John 10:10-11 (NLT)
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.”
Who do you think the thief is that Jesus is talking about here in the Gospel of John? If you said the Devil, Satan, the Destroyer, the Father of Lies, or a combination of any of those, you would be correct. One of the unfortunate truths that most of us would like to conveniently forget is that there is a real enemy that truly wants to destroy all that concerns us. We have got to be aware of who the enemy is to successfully walk in all that God has for us on this earth.
Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War
One of the things I like about the above quote is it says we should know the enemy and also “know yourself.” As a Christian, the only way to really know yourself is to get to know Jesus. Simply put, that means spending time in the Word of God and in prayer. I have grown in my identity in Jesus by reading the Epistles or letters that were written to the churches. One of my favorites is the book of Ephesians.
The person that abused you IS NOT the enemy.
That person may be in jail, prison, or maybe they were never punished for what they did to you. Let me briefly remind you to look back up at what forgiveness is NOT. The person(s) who abused you were yielding to the enemy of our souls, the Devil. It was paramount, in my ability to forgive those who hurt me, to realize that the people who hurt me were deceived by the Devil just as I was before I knew Jesus. What? You say that they were a Christian when they abused you? That does make it harder in our minds, doesn’t it? However, God’s word remains the same.
“Forgiveness is not a feeling – it’s a decision we make because we want to do what’s right before God. It’s a quality decision that won’t be easy and it may take time to get through the process, depending on the severity of the offense.” –Joyce Meyer
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,”Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
Forgiveness helps us stop being the victim. We take back control of our life when we quit blaming other people.
You don’t have to wait for an apology to forgive.
Unforgiveness can be addicting and an automatic response.
I was ministering at a recovery house one evening and the Lord showed me an analogy of our thought patterns being like a wash or stream in a desert. My husband and I have a wash behind our house. It doesn’t always have water running in it. But during monsoon, it can flow like a fast running river. The wash behind us is fairly deep and you can tell it’s been there a long time. Year after year the water takes the same path down to lower ground and to empty into a larger wash or river. It would take quite a bit to reroute the water because it is a well-established route.
Our minds tend to have built-in routes or ruts of thinking. We emotionally react to something and then our minds are trained to take a certain route, ending up in the same place each time. If that rut for you has been back to bitterness, unforgiveness, pain and depression, then it is time to start building up a new route for your brain to take. We know the end of that route is not healthy for us. We choose to think godly thoughts and establish a new route for our mind to take.
We can create habitual thinking that is based on Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Now take each one of those descriptions of what we’re to think on and write a statement out.
- I will think on the truth that says I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me! (Romans 8:37)
- Father God, your word says your ways are higher than my ways and your thoughts than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9), then your word says that I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Therefore I have the ability to have noble thoughts. My thoughts take the high road from this day forward!
- For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; They are preserved forever (Psalm 37:28). You are a just God and therefore I can put my complete trust in you with all of my heart and lean not on my own understanding. I acknowledge you in all of my thoughts, my ways, and my life and you direct my path (Proverbs 3:5). GOD WILL HELP YOU DIRECT THE PATHS IN YOUR MIND TOO! You just need to ask Him. He will direct you to His word, the Bible.
Keep going, these were just a few examples.
Forgiveness is a choice we make…it is NOT A FEELING. You may not FEEL like you’ve forgiven initially but the more you control the streams of your thoughts, the more you will build a habit of forgiveness instead of the habit of being a victim. It is a process; stay the course.
WE FORGIVE BY FAITH
- Ask for God’s help
- We confess with our mouth and believe with our heart.
- It takes some time to reprogram ourselves to be quick to forgive.
- Like anything worthy, it takes some time to build the habit of processing forgiveness quickly to guard our own hearts.