Forgiveness Is Tricky


Forgiveness is tricky. It’s understudied and doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Because Jesus was so generous with His forgiveness, we underestimate how hard it can be to make it stick in real life.

Have you ever shocked yourself with how you reacted to someone? Like, “Where did that come from?” Or you find yourself rehearsing the conversation you’re going to have about that “thing” that hacks you. You have the conversation but the “thing’s” still there. If it’s your wife, you’re still watching . . . waiting for her to do it again. Or you just can’t stop thinking about that person who did something that hurt you. It won’t go away no matter how hard you try to forget. It owns you.

Forgiveness is tricky. It’s understudied and doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

Because Jesus was so generous with His forgiveness, we underestimate how hard it can be to make it stick in real life. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” God forgave us instantly and thoroughly – “once and for all” – at the Cross. We pray this phrase in the Lord’s prayer out of gratitude for what He did and as a reminder that we have no right to withhold forgiveness because He doesn’t withhold it from us. The problem comes with us being as real and thorough in our forgiveness as He is in his.

I’m reading a great little book by a new friend, Mark Riggins. It’s called Stuck and it’s about how to forgive. Like really forgive. Here’s the 6 “forgiveness behaviors” Mark shares in the book:

  1. Stop telling your story as a victim – write out the narrative you’re telling yourself about the other person and what happened. Read the words you write; they’ll help as you examine your heart.
  2. Assess your hurt – What was done to you? How were you affected? What changed as a result?
  3. Value your offender – God values them. You must press yourself to do the same, no matter how you feel. Remember what Jesus said from the Cross, “they know not what they do.” Remind yourself, “Hey, they’re only human.”
  4. Intercede for your offender – “You mean pray for my enemy?” Yep, that’s what Jesus did and told us to do, too. It’ll soften your heart; prayer also draws God in.
  5. Own your part – When you think about your narrative, there’s almost always some little stuff that could/should come back your way. Owning it will change your perspective about your offender.
  6. Release their debt – When someone “wrongs” you, they owe you. Release the debt. “I’m letting you go.” In reality, you’re setting yourself free when you do this.

Mark talks about creating a “forgiveness memory” . . . something to mark the date, time, place or circumstance so you’ll never forget it. I vividly remember forgiving someone where I-285 crosses the Chattahoochee River. When I forgave my dad, I wrote everything he ever did (or didn’t do) onto a piece of paper and threw the paper in a trash can and said “I forgive you” out loud as I shot the wadded-up paper into the basket. It’s a forgiveness memory I still have today . . . 32 years later.

They say what’s down in the well comes up in the bucket. Unforgiveness will eat you up from the inside out. Clean out your well. Grab a copy of Stuck and dig deeper into Mark’s insight on forgiving.

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