Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about forgiveness. A lot of thinking.
When someone wrongs you, it's human nature to be hurt, angry, even vindictive. We all feel that way. Some of us work through those feelings faster than others. Some people forgive more easily than others.
Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.I get it. We are all sinners. Who are we to judge a sinner, when none of us are without sin?
The Bible says it over and over:
Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Luke 6:37 Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.I will be the first to admit that I've made my share of mistakes in my life, and would never claim to be without sin. I also will be the first to admit that I have a soft-hearted, forgiving nature. I try to see the best in people. If I make a mistake, I own up to it and apologize. And if I apologize, I sincerely mean it. 'I'm sorry' means I really am sorry..
Six months ago, I made a decision. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, and it caused more emotional upheaval for me and my family than I can even describe. Someone I was very close to had been doing something wrong - something illegal - and I was the one to discover it. It caused me a huge amount of distress because I loved and trusted this person. Not only were laws broken, but my friendship was abused and taken advantage of - for a long time. Years.
It made my heart hurt, because my doing the right thing brought hurt down on other people, including my own family. I lost a close friend. My daughter lost her best friend. I lost other people in my life that I thought were my friends. These people have found it easy to forgive, claiming they won't turn their back on a friend for making a "mistake".
A mistake. Yelling at someone is a mistake. Writing on the wall with a Sharpie is a mistake. Running over a mailbox is a mistake. Getting a speeding ticket is a mistake. Deceiving the people closest to you, day after day, month after month, and taking from the very ones you proclaim to love... that's not a mistake.
Have I forgiven? Can I forgive? That's what I'm struggling with.
Just as the Bible talks a lot about the need for forgiveness by the person who was wronged, it also talks about the need to repent by the wrong-doer.
Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.The definition of "repent" is to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right. The need for forgiveness can be a burden, if the offender hasn't repented.
The crimes that were committed, the lies that were told.... this person has been doing this same thing their whole adult life. They've been caught - and punished - repeatedly, and yet they still choose to go down this path again and again. It's not a "mistake" when you wrong people the same way over and over again. It's a choice. And it's hard to forgive when they show no remorse.
Repenting, to me, would mean expressing how sorry you are for what you did. It would mean reaching out to those who were hurt. It would mean doing everything you could to make things right. In my opinion, someone who continues spreading lies and manipulating the very people they call 'friend' is not repentant. This person has never once reached out to the "victims", not even my daughter who was practically a part of their family. They have never once tried to make things right. They are portraying themselves as a victim instead, and that is about the furthest you can get from repenting.
Dealing with the fallout of someone else's actions every day and knowing they are trying to muddy an issue that is completely black and white makes it hard to forgive. Looking into my little girl's eyes and knowing someone who said they loved her doesn't care about the hurt she feels... that makes it hard to forgive. Being the subject of gossip and condemned for choosing the right path, not the easy path... that makes it hard for me to forgive.
According to Wikipedia:
Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).
“Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.” ~ Billy Graham