All of us get offended every now and then, especially when the people that matter to us do something that hurts, insults, or puts us in a very tight spot. Nevertheless, the Bible tells us that we should forgive those who offend us. It's for our own good.
However, no matter how much we try to obey the word of God in the area of forgiveness, we can't help but admit the fact that it's really difficult to forgive people who offended us. Why is this?
To all who struggle with bitterness and releasing forgiveness to an offender, here's an encouragement for you: you can do it because God has forgiven you in Christ.
Not a religious thing
True forgiveness is really difficult to release. Many of us who say we've already "forgiven" our offenders actually haven't forgiven them. Let me explain.
I've heard of and talked to various Christians who've been offended at some point in their lives. They said they've "put the past behind," but obviously their actions say the opposite: they get angry or have some sort of negative reaction whenever their offender is within sight.
Others aren't faring so well either. They say they have released the offense, but can't get over it. They keep rehearsing the offense and the hurtful event whenever they get the chance. Some do this to present themselves like victims, and so vindicate themselves.
You see, friends, a religious mindset will merely repress the offense, not deal with it. Because of this, bitterness grows unnoticed, and a cynical and hardened heart will be its fruit. Don't allow that to happen to you (see Hebrews 12:15).
What is forgiveness anyway? Why is it so hard to do?
Real forgiveness is like taking the cork off from a wine bottle. Before anyone can smell the fragrant wine and taste it, one has to insert a corkscrew and pull the cork out, or at least grip the cork hard and twist it off the bottle.
Such is forgiveness. We have to see the offense with clarity and own it. This is the reason why it's difficult to forgive at times.
Humans have this natural tendency to avoid pain. We'd rather run away from it, or fight the one who brings it to us. Our anger or dismay blurs our sight, rendering us unable to see the offense with clarity.
What makes forgiving harder is that fact that it doesn't end with seeing the offense for what it is. We've got to own the offense. We've got to admit our hurt and see our part in the hurting. We've got to acknowledge the truth that maybe, we allowed the hurt to happen.
When we are able to see the offense clearly and admit the fact that we're hurt, only then can we proceed to the hardest part of all: choosing to forgive. Here's where we put the corkscrew into the cork, and pull it.
You see, friends, many of us don't want to release forgiveness because the idea of being a victim appeals to us. We want others to share our pain, to shower us with attention and love, to extend a helping hand to us. We also want others to see how bad our offenders are, and how strong we are for being able to go through such hurt.
We don't even want to admit this self-pity party we often go through.
And of course, when we only think of ourselves as the victim we can hide behind that without having to consider whether we maybe did something to hurt the other party too.
Friends, we've got to release the hurt, our offender, and the often hidden feelings of vindictiveness and self-pity.
How to release true forgiveness
The Lord Jesus perfectly showed real forgiveness to all of us. He was the one who got punished for our sins, the one who was rejected for our transgressions, and the one who experienced the pain that we deserved. Still, He forgave:
"Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."" (Luke 23:34)
He knew everyone will abandon Him, but He forgave. He knew He was innocent, but He forgave. He knew He had the armies of heaven at His beck and call if He wanted to take revenge and slay all men, but He forgave.
Jesus knew He could retaliate, but He didn't. He forgave us for all that we have done. He gave us grace, and His grace meant life for us.
Friends, let's all look at the face of Christ. We did not deserve His love and forgiveness, but He forgives us when we repent (see 1 John 1:9). Let's forgive those who offend us, too (see Matthew 18:21-35).