Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. —Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
“I don’t believe that person is really sorry” and “Saying ‘I forgive you’ won’t take away the pain”—these are two reasons why people (even Christians and maybe you) are reluctant to forgive someone who has hurt them.
That first excuse is validated by the fact that our society—even our Christian community—has downgraded forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a Band-Aid for a wound; that wound has to be recognized for what it is, grieved over, and owned before forgiveness can be real, freeing, and lasting.
To minimize someone’s pain with a “Hey, I’m sorry, friend” and perhaps even a quick prayer—without truly acknowledging any wrongdoing and its very real consequences—is an offense in itself. You may never receive a genuine apology from the offender, but what do you gain by allowing your wound to fester?
As for the second concern above, I believe we can only really forgive when we acknowledge both the truth that we are wounded and the depth of that wound. It is tempting to slough pain away and deny that we have been hurt. It can be embarrassing to be wounded: we feel weak or out of control, so we ignore it.
We need to accept that we live in a world where pain is sometimes just part of the package. Once we humbly admit that we are wounded and allow ourselves to feel the pain, we can bring it to Christ for healing; only then can we begin the process of forgiveness. And, yes, it is a process.
Why is whether or not a person is genuinely sorry for hurting you irrelevant to the issue of forgiveness?
Why is it significant that forgiveness is a process?
A prayer for today: Just and holy God, you know that we human beings don’t always treat one another kindly, respectfully, or justly, and that truth makes it tough for me to want to forgive people who have hurt me. May my fear of being hurt be overshadowed by the truth that you’ll be with me even if I am hurt again. Help me, Lord, to do what is right even though it’s hard.