“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you”. – Lewis B. Smedes
Without forgiveness, we are held captive by feelings of pain, anger, resentment, doubt, mistrust, and the list goes on. Every action is based on those feelings which eventually control our lives and slowly begin to change us. Unforgiveness builds walls around us which block out communication, trust, and love. It is impossible to break free of the cell we have constructed around ourselves until we find the strength and courage to forgive. Often relationships are damaged more extensively by the choice NOT to forgive than by the actual offense committed, because over time our perception of the situation becomes distorted and seems worse than it actually was.
We build walls to protect ourselves from being hurt again. Unfortunately, those walls not only stand between us and our offender, but walls are also being constructed between us and God. Mark 11:25 says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Before we can experience God’s mercy, we are required by Him to show mercy to others. If we choose not to forgive, we are truly held captive by our feelings and become isolated from Him. It may be difficult to hear his voice when reading scripture or to feel His presence in every day activities because we are so consumed by feelings caused by unforgiveness.
We aren’t quick to forgive because many times we want the offender to suffer for what they’ve done to us. We want them to earn our forgiveness. To prove they are worthy. We want to see a change in them before we allow our minds to forgive and our hearts to heal. But Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The phrase “bear with each other” indicates that it won’t be easy, yet we are expected to forgive because we have been forgiven.
Forgiveness is not a feeling, but an action. We may not FEEL like forgiving the other person, but its a step toward freedom from all the feelings that hold us back. Forgiveness is a choice that allows us to move on with our lives and no longer dwell on the pain we’ve endured. It is a powerful healing tool. The moment we choose to forgive, our hearts begin to heal and relationships begin to mend. Forgiveness of others allows us to be forgiven by God so that our relationship with Him can also be mended. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” (Matthew 6:14).
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act: it is an attitude.” It’s not something we do when we feel like it. According to scripture, it should be a characteristic of those who have been forgiven. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” (Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness is not easily found in the eyes of others, but can be found simply in the scars of Jesus Christ.