“I can’t forgive him, he’s not sorry for what he did.” was the response from Stacy when she was asked how she felt about forgiving her former spouse. She went on to explain that she thought that, just as in order to receive forgiveness from God for our sins we must be truly sorry, the person we must forgive must be equally sorry to be eligible for forgiveness. Right idea, wrong application. We must be sorry for our sins in order to be forgiven. However, forgiving someone else for their transgression is our decision, not theirs.
When we forgive someone, we benefit from the forgiveness, not the other person. They may never be aware that we have forgiven them. It doesn’t matter. Their ultimate forgiveness is between them and God. Forgiving someone is essential to our healing because it is an intentional letting go of all the hurt, anger, and injustice committed by the other person. While we would be justified in holding this person hostage to their transgression, our decision to let it all go is a great act of mercy that sets us free. Letting go of our “right” to retribution, frees us from our own self-induced bondage to the pain from the past. If we don’t let go, it saps the life out of us as we drag around this heavy burden. We get stuck in our past by reliving it everyday. And, like a wound that we keep pulling the scab off of, we never heal. The most loving act we can do for ourselves is to forgive those that have hurt us. Only then can we heal and be truly free to live and love.
Then Peter came up and said to Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. – Matthew 18:21-22