“Pay attention to yourselves! If you brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent, you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4). If I asked you what the hardest thing for a Christian to do is, what would you say? If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would say “to forgive certain things.” We all know it is incredibly hard to forgive someone we feel has truly hurt us. Because we struggle so much with that, we tend to do one of a few things. We bear a grudge and try anything and everything to “get back at them.” We will “circle our wagons” with anyone we think will take up arms with us and then try to get even. This is highly divisive because we involve people who were not aware of the conflict and create ill feelings that were not there previously.
Another thing we may do is to “put it behind us.” We do not want to confront the person or deal with the drama, or the hurt is so damaging that we push it back the farthest regions of our minds and try and forget it. Yet another thing we may do is become passive-aggressive. We pretend to be over it and force a smile when we see them, but we make snide remarks and disguise hurtful things we do to them whenever we can. But, whichever of the aforementioned you choose, you can be assured that the pain and anguish will return from time to time. It might be when you see the person, or it may be a trigger like something told to you that will resurface the incident in your mind. You will again feel the unforgiving hatred you carry for that person when this happens. You cannot hide hurt, you cannot ignore it, and you cannot act vengefully. It is devastating when we act in this manner, not usually to the perpetrator, but rather to us. That unforgiveness is like an anchor that weighs you down in an ocean of anger, and it will eventually drown all the joy out of your life.
The only way to move on from someone that has sinned against you is one of the hardest things to do – forgive them. And let’s be clear, I am not saying you necessarily have to restore your friendship, but I am saying that for your own sake, you should forgive them. And here is the most challenging part to hear if you have been hurt. Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” We see a similar thought given to us by the Apostle Paul in Eph. 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” To be forgiven, we need to forgive others. That is tough, but that is the reality of life as a Christian. You don’t have to “hang around” the perpetrator anymore, but for your own mental health and your “forever future,” you need to forgive them.
One last thing: forgiving someone does not mean they will not have to pay the price lawfully or spiritually if they are unrepentant, but that is not your concern. In a perfect world, the person will ask for your forgiveness and repent, but if it does not happen, you can still make your peace with the anguish you suffered because of their destructive behavior. Doing so frees you from the anchor of unforgiveness and moves you ever closer to an eternity with the Father in heaven.