Forgiveness is the most difficult gift to give someone who you feel has wronged you. Forgiveness is a precious gift, why would you want to give it to someone who has hurt you?
I’ve had times when I struggled to forgive someone who hurt me. I would have a long debate with myself, my heart aching, and I would be crying because I hurt whether I forgive the person or not. In the end, God asks me to choose forgiveness.
Forgiveness was a gift I gave for peace.
This is the story I remember most clearly about making a conscious decision to forgive someone:
I was studying in London and lived with five housemates. Four of us shared a bedroom and the other two shared the other room. We established our household rules and got along quite well. They were not Christians but knew that I am serious about my relationship with God. We had mutual respect for each other.
Or at least I thought we did.
One day, I expressed my need to sleep early because I was volunteering at the church I was attending early in the morning. Coincidently, they had planned a night in socializing and drinking. It wasn’t a problem because they were staying in the living room area.
That night, even with my bedroom door closed I could hear them talking and laughing, so I decided to close the living room door. One of my housemates was offended but didn’t say anything.
As I laid in my bed, I could hear her making a fuss. I knew something was wrong. She didn’t open the doors I closed, but I feel the tension in the air. It wasn’t the time to confront her, she was already under the influence of alcohol. But that whole night I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t understand what had upset her.
I was fuming a little as well because I had expressed my need to sleep early; not only were they loud during the night but because she had the nerve to be mad at me when I tried to get the room as quiet as possible, and in the end I ended up not sleeping at all because of her.
Needless to say, the next morning was awkward in the apartment. I didn’t know if they were quiet because they agreed with the housemate who had an issue with me. I heard from one of them that the housemate who was upset thought I was judging them on their conduct, that I thought myself superior to them.
All of that was absurd. And I thought I made it clear to them that I do not judge them for what they do and that I think us all equal. Obviously, my actions were misinterpreted.
I ignored it all and went on my way to volunteer at the church.
I thought about the situation during my bus ride to the location. While I was bristling at how the situation turned out because of one little action and how she did not communicate what she felt to me, I also thought that I probably should have handled it in a different way.
Before I went to talk to her, I had already forgiven her for what I felt she had done wrong against me: openly expressing to everyone but me what got her so mad and keeping me awake at night. I was fearful to talk to her, and I was angry at her too. In forgiving her first before talking to her, I calmed my anger. I was fearful but knew we needed to talk to clear up the toxic air in the apartment.
I approached her in her room and apologized for how I made her feel, and I expressed to her again that I do not look down on her or anyone. I explained to her my intention in closing the door was solely for the purpose of getting a reduction in the noise coming to my bedroom.
She forgave me and was happy again.
I found out from my roommates later that that particular housemate expressed to them that she has a higher respect for me because I took the initiative and spoke to her regarding the situation.
I don’t think she ever apologized to me, but that’s okay. I already have peace in my heart for forgiving her.
The thing about forgiveness, and/or being in a situation where you were wronged or hurt, is that there are at least two parties involved and both parties share equal responsibility in the dispute. If you feel hurt or wronged, the other person most likely feels the same way too.
So, here’s what to do:
- Take time alone, think about the situation with a clear mind. Do not think solely that you are right, but view it from the other vantage point.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” – Mark 11:25, NIV
- Understand the other party’s response to how your words and action may have affected them.
- Find it in your heart to forgive them for what they did or had said, because they may not know what they’ve done to you either.
- Approach them later, after some time to calm down, express your sincere apology and your part in escalating the situation. Hopefully, they forgive you, but even if they do not, have peace in your heart knowing that you already have done what you can to be on good terms.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV
- Express your desire to come to a compromise. If no compromise can be achieved, maintain your forgiveness, and help the other party heal through Christ and you forgiving them.
“The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” – 2 Corinthians 2:6-8, NIV
- If the person doesn’t ask for forgiveness, do not tell them they did not apologize. Instead, share with them how you feel when they did what they did and hopefully they will realize their error and repent.
“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” – Luke 17:4, NIV
Why should you forgive someone who has wronged you without apologizing? If you want for an apology, it may never come and you’ll stew in your anger. Although forgiving someone can cause you some pain because they never knew the pain they’ve given you, it will still give you peace to move on. It is a gift both to yourself and the person that was against you.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15
God has given us the gift of forgiveness; He also wants us to forgive others. It is a precious gift because it means you will have to take on the pain you felt in that situation and bury it, but this precious gift will also save you from more situations like it.
“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” – Romans 4:7-8, NIV
How awesome it is to have God forgive us our sins simply if we forgive others their sins against us?! It’s not exactly a trade, because best practices are to go to God when you’ve sinned against Him and repent and surely, He will forgive you. I also think we should forgive others even if they do not repent because they refuse to acknowledge their wrongs against us; we have sins that are against God that we do not know about and I know God does not hold it against us. In the same way, we should forgive others.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:13, NIV
These are the steps that worked for me. What has worked for you in forgiving others?