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Learning to Forgive

At one time or another, we have all felt the sting of being physically or emotionally hurt by someone else. It may have been one of those simple, daily occurrences where someone wrongfully yelled at you, or inadvertently said or did something hurtful without thinking. Or maybe you’ve experienced a deeper pain such as someone close to you who has lied to you or lied about you to others. Possibly it was a spouse who had an affair or mistreated you in some way. Maybe it was someone who didn’t really care about you, they just used you to get what they wanted. Unfortunately, it happens to all of us.

Why does this happen? Because we live in a fallen world that is full of sin. Others sin against us and cause us pain and heartache that at times we wonder how we can even bear, much less forgive. And dare I say, we also sin against others, causing them to feel the same sting of being hurt or betrayed.

I knew what the Lord was doing. He was telling me, it’s time. It’s time to deal with this, it’s time to forgive. And of course, He was right.

When we mess up, we want people to be understanding and forgive us. We give some kind of excuse as to why we said or did what we did and we hope they will have mercy on us. When we give in to our sinful nature and sin against God, we pray for His forgiveness and are thankful that His Word promises that He will blot out every transgression.

Hard to Forgive

However, we when feel the deep pain and anger of being hurt ourselves, we find just how difficult it can be to forgive someone who has hurt us or someone who isn't sorry for what they did. We feel that the circumstances are different, that we are justified in some way to not forgive, or that the pain is so deep, God would understand if we didn’t forgive this one thing.

This is how I felt about my dad who I didn’t want to forgive. There have been so many other things that I had forgiven him for, but this one cut me to the core. It was just something that he said and it wasn’t even about me, but maybe that’s why it bothered me so much.

It was about my brother who had spent his life trying to please my dad and to make him proud but never seemed to quite measure up. My brother had a degree from IT Tech, a good job, took care of his family. He unselfishly gave back to the ATV community where he lived by working with state and local officials to provide more places to ride and to host events for riders. So much so, that when he passed away from cancer at the age of 44, there were plaques and tributes given for his dedication and service to others.

And yet, even after his death, my father would still, at times, put him down and say derogatory things about him. How could a father be that way to his child? It was one of these comments that I just could not let go of and would not forgive him for. I had seen the hurt this caused my brother too many times and it broke my heart to think that even now, my dad could not be proud of his son.

Holding On To The Pain

Since I don’t see or talk to my dad very often, once I got over the initial pain and anger, it was easy to just push this to the back of my mind and not deal with the thought of forgiveness. I did in fact try to rationalize that the Lord would understand if I held on to just this one thing. And you can bet that Satan was right there helping to feed the lie. But what is the truth?

When others hurt us, Jesus calls us to forgive others the way He has forgiven us. “

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

If you notice, there are no parameters here for not forgiving someone who has hurt you, even if they are not sorry for what they did. It doesn’t say, forgive them if they deserve it, or if the hurt isn’t too bad, or if you think they have truly repented and won’t do it again. No, it says to forgive them the way Christ forgives you which is this;

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) So in a nutshell, Christ forgives ALL our sins, no matter how hurtful they are, and we are to do the same for others.

God's Truth

From time to time, the Lord would remind me of this truth and cause me to think about the unforgiveness that was in my heart. I would basically respond with, Yes Lord, but I’m not ready to forgive yet. And to the back of my mind, it would go. This was happening more frequently and then there came the day. The day my dad said he wanted to stay with me for a few days while he looked at property here in Texas where I live. I knew what the Lord was doing. He was telling me, it’s time. It’s time to deal with this, it’s time to forgive. And of course, He was right.

Another truth the Lord reminded me of was this; “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15 ) It always bothered me to think about this because it made me realize that I was doing something that was driving a wedge between me and God. In the end, the thought of disobeying and disappointing my Heavenly Father hurt more than the pain my earthly father had caused.

Begin With Prayer

So I began praying and asking for prayer. That the Lord would soften my heart, help me to let go of the pain, and help me to forgive. I also started praying for my dad. Not that I wasn’t before but I became a bit more intentional about praying for his salvation.

God is faithful and He answered my prayers. Not for salvation yet, we’re still praying for that. But while my father was here, I was able to let go of the anger and hurt and accept him for who he is. A lost sinner without the love of Jesus in his heart. When my dad went to leave, there was no hug or kiss for his daughter, only a word of goodbye at the door.

My first thought was; I know the man doesn’t know how to show love and if this is what he wants, maybe I’ll just leave it at that. But I couldn’t. I know that God had truly helped me to forgive him because I couldn’t let him leave without giving him a hug and kiss goodbye. Without being an example of the love that Jesus has for his lost soul.

How to forgive someone who isn't sorry.

The Lord also tells us in His Word how to begin the process of forgiving in Matthew 5:44. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”

It all starts with prayer. As we begin to pray for those who have hurt us, the Lord shows us how He sees this person and how they may be lost or have suffered hurt themselves in the past. As we ask the Lord to help us to forgive, we open the door for Him to heal the hurt and anger that is in our hearts. He helps us to learn to forgive others with the same grace and mercy He has shown us. He will even help us to overcome our fears, so we can begin to trust this person, who has hurt us so deeply, once again. Believe it or not, with the Lord’s help, you will begin to have compassion and empathy for them as you view them through the Father’s eyes.

Faith Lived Out

  • Who is it that you need to forgive? Give this some real thought, as sometimes we harbor unforgiveness without realizing it because we don’t see this person much anymore or maybe not at all, yet the hurt is still there.

  • Spend time in prayer, asking the Father to help open your heart to healing and forgiveness.

  • Begin to pray for the person who has hurt you. That you can see them how God sees them.

  • Find a way to show them the love of Jesus. It may be a simple hug, maybe a note, or some other act of kindness. They don’t even have to know what it’s really for, but you and God will know and that’s all that matters.

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