Why is it so hard to forgive?

From our earliest experiences as children, we’ve been told how important it is to forgive. Verses such as Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 6:13 and Colossians 3:13 further highlight its importance to us believers. Being on my own journey to forgive, I’ve found the act of forgiveness easier said than done. But why? [and this is from my own personal experience]

  1. Forgiving feels like condoning.

Forgiveness feels the same as saying the hurtful action was okay or that it was insignificant. When we are emotionally wounded, there is a deep need to have our pain acknowledged and validated. Forgiving then feels like letting go too easily, or without the other person understanding the harm caused. It’s natural to want the other person to know how they hurt us, but it’s not always possible. I’ve had to unlearn and recognise that forgiving doesn’t condone wrongdoing, it disempowers it. The act of forgiving is less about the other person as it is about our own hearts.

  1. Confusing forgiveness with reconciliation.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same. By definition:

  • Forgiveness: deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment toward a person who has harmed you
  • Reconciliation: the restoration of friendly relations.

When we forgive, it doesn’t actually involve anyone else. It’s an individual process, where we release our grievance against the other person. This internal process focuses more on healing our heart rather than confronting the other person. Whereas reconciliation does involve the person because its focus is on the restoration of the relationship. For the longest time, I’ve confused the two and tried to do both simultaneously [forgiveness doesn’t have to be followed by reconciliation]. We have to focus on our own internal healing process before we can mend/fix relationships with others.

  1. Not fully experienced God’s forgiveness

“You cannot give true forgiveness until you know you have received true forgiveness” – Pastor Mike Todd

None of us have led perfect lives or never needed to be forgiven for something we said or did—we’re human and fall short of God’s glory. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, it reads “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. Jesus, the only sinless person to have ever lived, died on a cross to pay the penalty for all of humankind’s sin—and made it possible for anyone to be forgiven by God and reconciled to their Creator. Through Jesus we have been forgiven ultimately. Once we experience the true joy of being forgiven by God [for every wrongdoing], we find forgiving others so much easier. With God’s help, it is possible to forgive others [despite how deep the scars are]—while it is not an overnight fix, it will be worth it.

Lewis Smedes wrote: “To forgive is to set the prisoner free…and to discover that the prisoner was you.”

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