Is there someone in your life that you know you need to forgive? Maybe they did something mean that hurt you deeply. Maybe they refuse to apologize. Maybe they continue to do things on purpose that they know will hurt you. It can be so hard to forgive someone when we grow bitter and angry at what they did to us.
But what do you do when you have to forgive someone for something important they didn’t do? I suppose the difficulty in forgiving is proportional to the importance of the thing they didn’t do. If they had intended to hurt us, we would likely feel bitter. But instead we feel unimportant. Our heart doesn’t get angry, it grows cold. We slip into feelings of indifference.
Personally I would rather deal with the heat of bitterness than the chill of indifference. Being wounded by someone who was mean feels like a flesh wound. But being wounded by someone who let me down feels like a cancer in my soul. I can confront someone who hurt me on purpose. But I feel like walking away from someone who doesn’t seem to care.
Having tragically lost our teenage son Elijah this past Fall, our family found ourselves sustained by an overwhelming outpouring of love and support. So many people blessed us in abundance. People we hadn’t seen in years showed up to care for us. Yet several who were among the most important to us failed to show up at all for us.
“You need to be forgiving,” I am told by friends and family. “Forgiving is the easy part,” I reply. I have found that the hard part is fighting feelings of indifference. Trying not to withhold my love. Loving when I don’t feel loved.
So here is what I’ve learned in dealing with this pain: The real purpose of forgiving is not to gain personal benefit but to give a generous blessing. The real value of forgiving is in improving the life of those who hurt us.
“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:24-25).
Words are easy. Withholding our love is easy. But indifference diminishes us. It is generosity that improves us. The act of giving actually heals us, especially when someone doesn’t understand how much they have hurt us. As Jesus said while dying on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34).
In simplest terms, forgiving is for giving.
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