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Three truths about forgiveness

Over the years, I’ve discovered there are topics people enjoy reading or hearing about. Grace, joy, love – we like them. But other topics, well, let’s just say people don’t get nearly as enthusiastic about.

I’ve learned, though, we have to cover the tough areas too – especially if we want to grow in our faith.

Thus today’s topic: forgiveness. We all like to receive forgiveness, but giving it can be a greater challenge.

Here’s the thing: forgiveness isn’t optional for us as believers. It’s a gift we’ve received, and it’s one we’re expected to give.

Even when it’s hard. Even when the offender isn’t sorry. Even when we don’t want to. Even when it takes doing it again and again, day after day.

The thing is, the gift of forgiveness was extended to us before we were sorry and even when we were going to need it again and again.

The one who made the way for our forgiveness walked a path far more difficult than any path we will ever walk, and in those quiet moments in the garden, He longed for another way.

“For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.” —Matthew 6:14-15 CSB

This one’s hard, y’all. So often the people who hurt us the most are the people closest to us – and for some insane reason, they are the hardest for us to forgive.

I don’t know why. I wish I did. But I know it’s true.

I have had a few really hard relationships in my life – people who hurt me deeply and never seemed to recognize the sorrow they’d caused. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about forgiveness.

First, it’s really important to decide to forgive before anything happens. This is especially true in family situations. When Scott and I married, I made a choice that I was going to love his family as if they were my own. That includes forgiving – whether they acknowledge the offense, whether they’re sorry for the hurt, and even when I’m about 99 percent sure it’s going to happen again.

If we wait until we’re hurting to decide if we’re willing to forgive, it’s a much harder choice. But when we decide, long before we’re ever hurt, that we will forgive, it’s no longer an emotion-based choice but Spirit-led obedience.

Second, forgiveness is rarely one and done. In fact, I’m learning it’s almost never that simple. Those hurts keep finding their way back into our hearts and minds, and every single time we have to decide to forgive again. It’s that whole “seventy times seven” thing, right?

Third, forgiveness is never based on the offender’s remorse but always rooted in the offended’s redemption. We forgive because we’ve been forgiven. Period. The truth is, no one has ever sinned against me more than I’ve sinned against God. And because I’ve received His forgiveness, I can’t refuse to forgive someone else.

Is forgiveness hard for you? You’re not alone. In fact, in more than 20 years of ministering to women, I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t struggled with forgiveness at some point.

The thing is, when we don’t forgive, it becomes a barrier for us in developing other relationships. Forgiveness opens our hearts to healing and paves the way for us continue to build connection and community.

But even more, practicing forgiveness of others should open our eyes to our own need for forgiveness – and the generous way God has extended His mercy and grace to us.