I’ve heard it said that failing to forgive is like you drinking rat poison and waiting for the other person to die.
Yet, it can be so very hard to forgive. Why? Because of the misbelief that forgiving someone for what THEY have DONE to US, let’s them off the hook and excuses their behavior without them having to pay for it.
Forgiveness never pardons bad behavior, but it sets US free from the associated negative feelings that are so detrimental to our health and wellbeing.
The following is one of the best articles I have ever read on forgiveness. Written by Dr James Richards, a well known author and theologian, it not only gives insight into why its so important to forgive but how we go about forgiving when it so hard to do so. It’s long but oh, so worth the time taken to read it.
“Of all the words Jesus ever spoke these may be the most challenging and possibly the most openly rejected among His followers: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. (Luke 6:27-29)
In this 21st Century individualistic society the need to “one up” everyone is nothing more than a foolish impression of empty strength that seeks to hide insecurity and rejection. The wisdom of overlooking an insult is lost to a culture of low self worth. A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. (Prov. 12:16, NIV)
To follow Jesus’ teaching concerning our enemies is illogical to the carnal mind. To the foolish it is judged to be weakness. Yet the secret power of blessing is a missing ingredient in a society that is drowning in offense and pain!
Reactionary thinking leads to retaliation, retaliation leads to escalation, escalation leads to total destruction. The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts. (Prov. 17:14) The problem with conflict is you never know where it will end. Will it end in harsh words, the loss of a friend, or road rage that costs someone his or her life? While the wrong reaction to insult may not always lead to the loss of physical life, a wrong reaction alwaysleads to emotional death and destruction.
The greatest fallacy about mercy, love, and forgiveness is that it is some type ofkindness for the other person. We somehow think that we are giving them a “free pass” for their unkindness toward us. Forgiveness by no means frees a person from restitution. (Matt 5:25-26) Mercy is not an approval of their action. Blessing someone who seeks your demise is not an attempt to be friends. All of these are responses that insure the offense cannot destroy your life!
In Luke 17:3 Jesus said, So watch yourselves. If your brother sins… So why should I have to watch myself when someone sins against me? The person who has been wronged can so easily justify ungodly reactions; after all, we are the innocent party. Justified sin is still sin, and sin -even justified sin – still brings death and destruction.
It is alright to be angry, just don’t get into sin. It is alright to rebuke with the intention ofrestoration. But to simply act out of hurt never leads to restoration. Besides the straight-forwardness of this practical application, the wisdom of communication tells us not to attempt correction with an angry person, one who won’t listen, or a mocker. Prov 29:9 says, If a wise man has an argument with a foolish man, the fool only rages or laughs, and there is no rest. (AMP)
The loss of peace even when you’re right, or the escalation of conflict even when you’ve been offended, is never worth what it costs. Many people destroy their health, lose their fortunes, and sacrifice their dreams on the altar of self-justified un-forgiveness! While holding tightly to the hurt that dissolves their life like acid eating through layers of flesh down to the bone, they insist their pain to be the work of the one who offended them! The wisdom of Jesus’ words provides the only means to the ultimate win-win scenario! But even if the other person never benefits from your kindness, you do – and the benefits are immediate!
Forgive literally means to send away! When Jesus says to forgive an offense He is telling you the only way to send away the pain. To send away the pain you must send away the offense. When we don’t send away an offense we are left only the option ofholding onto it and the pain associated with it!
But sending the offense away is only the first half of one of the most incredible spiritualsecrets of all time. How can I send away an offense that is so alive to me that it consumes my every thought and emotion? This is the secret power of blessing! The moment I begin to speak blessings I find the window of opportunity, the moment ofclarity, the lifting of oppression that affords me the freedom to forgive (send away) the offense and the pain!
This is something that must be experienced to even make sense. I have found thissecret to be one of the most powerful and freeing tools that I use more frequently than almost any other for staying in peace. This has taken me from rage to compassion and from wrath to peace more times than I can count!
To bless is to speak favorably toward or about someone or something. To curse is to speak negatively or destructively about or toward someone or something. Jesus simply said of the fig tree, No one eat of you again. He didn’t proclaim some mystical, exorbitant incantation. No! He simple spoke a negative. When we bless God we simply speak favorably of Him. It doesn’t require ritualistic demonstration. It is just words, words that can potentially produce life and death!
While blessing and cursing are so simple and done without thought, they are deceptively powerful. Proverbs probably says it best. A man’s [moral] self shall be filled with the fruit of his mouth; and with the consequence of his words he must be satisfied [whether good or evil]. 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life.] (Prov 18:20-21, AMP)
Blessing and cursing are actually forms of prophesying. We are speaking the end or outcome we believe and expect! Too often we seek God to bless a situation then we curse it with the negative prophesies that emerge from our fears and frustrations.
When we bless others, speak well over them, speak a good end for them, we create the potential for a miracle in them and a miracle in ourselves. When we bless those who offend us, we open the door to freedom from the pain of the offense. In that small opening, fueled by an action that Jesus said would be so God-like, we suspend thepower of offense. In that momentary gap of suspended emotions we have the opportunity to send away the offense and its pain.
People always ask,”But how do you do it?” We always suspect something to be harder than it is. I know this sounds too simple, but I first speak a blessing on those who have offended me. Then, the moment I feel the relief, I simply say, “I send away the offense and pain.” I then allow myself to feel it leave. Then I express gratitude to my heavenly Father!
When we refuse to bless there is no escape from the pain of offense. It becomes a rot that eats away at our joy and peace. In those times of negative emotions our immune function is limited, creating the opportunity for sickness and disease. The negative emotions give rise to an acidic imbalance that is a breeding ground for nearly every imaginable illness! We then mistakenly think this is the product of the offense. We grow even bitterer at the person we blame for destroying our life.
But the culprit is not the offender. This is why Jesus warned us to watch out for ourselves when offense came and to send it away seven times seventy each and every day if need be! Blessing and cursing, even when focused on someone else, then becomes a way of life that we unintentionally focus on ourselves and our loved ones.
James says it like this, For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:6-10) We train the tongue, and then we put our minds in auto-pilot with little awareness that what we once spewed onto others is now polluting our own pool!
Verses 11 and 12 go on to say, Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. Once our spring yields salt water it become corrupted and all who drink from it are poisoned whether friend, family, or enemy!
Those who make blessing a way of life discover a new power and confidence in their words. The operation of faith is, after all, closely related to your confidence that your words will come to pass. In the midst of Job’s complaining, blame shifting, and personal irresponsibility God said to him, If you will acquaint yourself with God, receive instruction, be at peace, and return to the Almighty (Job 22: 20-23) then, You shall also decide and decree a thing, and it shall be established for you; and the light [of God’s favor] shall shine upon your ways. (Job 22:28, AMP)
When we return to God’s ways of blessing and not cursing we create the future we have decided upon. We live in peace, prosperity, and joy. But we must remember that life and death are in the power of our tongue. God has set life and death before us through the power of blessing and cursing. It is up to us to choose life and to create the blessing by the words of our mouth.”