Why Do We Need to Forgive
In previous chapters, I talked about forgiveness. I think sometimes people feel like forgiveness is only for the offender. Anyone who’s ever been forgiven knows it’s a great feeling, but forgiveness isn’t just for the transgressor.
For a long time, I had a lot of trouble with forgiveness. I didn’t want to let go of what my biological father had done. I didn’t want to let go of things that were done to me. I really felt like if I were to forgive them, it would have made it like it had never happened. Forgiving these things would mean I was ok with what was done.
I’m not so sure of that anymore. What I know though is that I needed to let go. I held on to anger and bitterness, and that doesn’t do anything to anyone but me. That anger, that resentment, builds up. It calcifies on a heart and makes it hard. It made me hard. It made me unreasonable and uncompromising. When people agreed with me, they found me a wonderful ally because I would fight tooth and nail. However, when people were in opposition, I was inconsiderate, unloving, and unkind.
I did it wrong. A lot in my life, for my whole life, I did everything the wrong way. I withheld forgiveness for reasons I’d believe anyone would support me for having, but all that ultimately did was corrupt my heart. Even now, I have a tough time letting go of offenses. I have a tough time forgiving even though I know I’m every bit as guilty as the next human being.
Withholding forgiveness doesn’t do anything to hurt the offender. But what it did to me was deprive me of a heart unburied by resentment.
We’re instructed to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice (Ephesians 4:31).
This instruction makes us more like Christ, who died for all of our sins, but it’s for our benefit. It empties our hearts of things that poison and corrupt.
Bitterness takes root in a person and only causes that person trouble (Hebrews 12:15).
I didn’t know what it was doing to me when I was younger. I was just an angry kid who grew up to be a grumpy man. Even now, I’m argumentative and bossy. I don’t think I’m the most overbearing man in history. I don’t think I’m more obstinate than anyone. However, I’ve come to realize that the bitterness I held on account of truly wrong things only bred myself into being a bitter person.
I trained my body and heart to be unforgiving and resentful. But if we as humans only practice withholding forgiveness and embracing anger, we only become more a part of the problem. I go back to that young, angry kid, and I wish I could tell him:
I wish I could tell him you’re not forgiving him for his sake, though it is kind to him. You’re forgiving him so that you can have peace in your own heart. Your forgiveness isn’t justification for the wrong that was done. Your forgiveness doesn’t mean it wasn’t wrong; it means that even though it was wrong, your heart holds onto peace. You’re heart chooses love and peace over resentment and bitterness.
I’m not saying there isn’t true injustice in the world. Obviously this world is surrounded in injustice. This nation is opening its eyes to the injustices it’s practiced for 244 years. But there are some who are embracing the outrage and resentment, and as a human, I can understand and sympathize. But I look at my sons, and I look at the students I teach, and I feel it’s a far better lesson to teach love and kindness. I feel it’s much more beneficial to work on one’s own heart.
We should seek and pray for justice. We should redress our grievances. Yet even as we cry out for justice, let us do it out of love for those who deserve it rather than against the offenders who commit atrocities.
I mention that because of the times we’re in, but I still understand I don’t really know the first thing about persecution or injustice
What I do know is what it feels like to be wronged in a horrible way. I know what it is to hate someone.
But I grew to pass that hatred into myself. Hatred breeds hatred. Anger breeds anger. The only cure for evil is good (Romans 12:21). The only cure for hate is love.
In this chapter, I’m not speaking on the behalf of transgressors. I’m imploring those who were like me to let love rule your hearts. I know what it is to despise a person. But that anger brought me nothing but pain. I know what it is to be angry, but that anger brought me nothing but scorn.
Don’t choose my path. It’s long and dark, and it’s so hard to turn back from. By the grace of God, I have seen the light. I want to type that I’ve found a heart of love, and I am more forgiving and patient, but I have so far to go. I don’t want this in my heart. I don’t want this thorn in my side, and I would save anyone that pain.
For our panel: What can someone do when they realize they have so much resentment in their heart? How does one find it in their heart to forgive something that was truly terrible (abuse, assault, murder)? What are some other benefits of letting go of anger? Why is it so hard to let go of anger? What Bible verses can one turn to for help in these matters?