How many times should we forgive? Does our forgiveness benefit those who have done us wrong? Can we ever truly forgive and forget? These are questions one might ask when they are learning how to practice forgiveness.
To forgive another is to show them both grace and mercy. None of those are earned after a trespass. If someone steals something only to return it later, or tells a lie only to confess later, it does not undo the wrong. Unlike math, a positive of the same magnitude as a negative does not cancel out the negative.
Forgiveness does not undo a wrong, neither does it undo the hurt. It merely covers like a bandaid or an ointment. This does not mean a wound heals or disappears competely when it is covered with forgiveness. However, forgiveness can heal a victim, a trespasser, or both. It is a gift first given by God which can be regifted to one flawed human being from another.
Many of us have learned that to hurt (and hold a grudge) is human and to forgive is divine. As a result, we tend to embrace our human side and use it as our crutch to not forgive others. When we do this, however, we hurt ourselves by choosing to cling on to a spiritual porcupine that our transgressor gave us. Obviously we will keep getting pricked by the same event which we continuously replay in our minds.
Forgiving heals the victim. Often, letting go may feel like letting a perpetrator walk free without penalty. This is not the case. For every misdeed, there is judgement. This is part of God’s law. The first judge is the conscience which God created in order to hold us accountable to ourselves. Anyone who sins against another deals with the voice of righteousness inside them that reminds them of how wrong they were. They’ll have nightmares, they’ll be reminded, they’ll want to hide or run from their skeletons. Their trespasses will someday be discovered whether by a person or two, a small group, or the world. Then they will be judged by others and have to deal with how others perceive them. Ultimately, they will be judged by the chief arbiter, El Elyon, God Most High. So rest assured, forgiving them is always better for you…not them.
Forgiveness can heal the transgressor. When some realize the magnitude of their transgression, they may feel like scum, worse than refuse, and legitimately remorseful of their misdeed. But when they experience the mercy of being permitted to move on knowing the party they’ve wronged harbors no resentment toward them; and when they experience grace to have even obtained forgiveness, they find the healing they needed. Their sin may have been the result of a lack of love growing up, abuse, neglect…etc. Finding forgiveness may give them hope they never had.
Forgiveness can heal both. Resentment causes rifts. On an individual level, unforgiveness can end friendships, breed fear, hate, and tension among strangers. On a group or even societal level, the issue is magnified and the fear, hate, and tension can result in war and bloodshed.
So when you have held a grudge for too long, remember that forgiveness frees you from your misery. God knows that from time to time we will hurt and be hurt by others. Forgiveness is the grace that allows us to be more like Him and experience the ups and downs of life in the fullest way possible.