I’ve learned many things in 2018 that I wanted to learn, but I never wanted to learn them this way. One of the most difficult yet important things I’ve learned this year is this truth: My response is my responsibility.
What’s the significance of this principle?
It helps us guard against a victim mentality. Regardless of what happens to me, it’s my responsibility to choose to be the victor instead of the victim. Given the circumstances and challenges of 2018 for my family and me, I want to focus on one specific application of this principle today…
Forgiveness is a topic that’s largely misunderstood. Initially, it’s a subject we don’t want to hear about because we want revenge, not forgiveness. We avoid the topic because we’re tired of hearing people say, “Forgive and forget.” Maybe you’ve had one of these thoughts:
“I’m hurt too bad to forget.”
“That feels so trite and insensitive.”
“If you truly knew the depth of my pain, you wouldn’t be able to forget, either.”
How do we overcome these obstacles to forgiveness?
My response is my responsibility. Think of it this way: Regardless of what happens to us, it’s our responsibility to respond with faith, hope, and love. Since the greatest of these is love, it’s our responsibility to respond by being patient instead of impatient, and by being kind instead of unkind.
Here’s another example that probably reflects the most difficult verse in the entire bible to trust and obey: “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9, NASB, emphasis added).
Who wants to return an insult with a blessing? Are you kidding me?! I want to return an insult with a greater insult. How many times have you driven home from a conflict and replayed it over and over in your mind, wishing you’d been able to come back with a better insult? We don’t replay the conversation thinking about a better blessing.
How do you respond when you’ve been wronged? We typically respond in the wrong way instead of the right way. And although the wrong way might feel better initially, it doesn’t lead to healing. Trust me when I tell you this: Unforgiveness and revenge have never healed anyone.
Here are some of the most important truths I’ve learned about forgiveness this year…
1. Forgiveness is about going first (Matthew 5:23-24).
- If you’ve done something wrong, you should take the first step.
- If the other person has done something wrong, you should still take the first step.
2. Please don’t say, “Forgive and forget.”
- Forgiveness doesn’t change the past; forgiveness changes how you remember the past.
- Forgiveness enables you to remember the past from a place of healing instead of a place of hurt.
3. Forgiveness is the decision to not seek revenge.
- When I forgive you, I give up the right to hurt you back.
- When I forgive you, I give up the quest to get even.
- Unforgiveness says, “You owe, you pay.”
- Forgiveness says, “You owe, I pay.”
4. Forgiveness is a new way of seeing and feeling.
- You choose to believe the best instead of the worst.
- You choose to rediscover the humanity of the one who hurt you.
5. Forgiveness is costly.
- The only thing that costs more than forgiveness is unforgiveness.
- Unforgiveness costs you your heart.
- Anger is costly.
- Bitterness is more costly.
- Resentment is even more costly.
- Revenge is the most costly.
So, why does God want us to forgive?
- Because He has forgiven us.
- Because forgiveness frees us from hate.
- Because forgiveness begins the healing process.
- Because forgiveness begins the unity process.
- Because forgiveness makes reconciliation a possibility.
Who do you need to give the gift of forgiveness to during this Christmas season? It’s easy for you to find reasons to withhold forgiveness, or to simply delay it. What’s one of my favorite sayings? “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” Go ahead and make the decision to go first and be a giver of forgiveness.
What would happen this Christmas if you found the most creative ways to be a giver of forgiveness without expecting anything in return? That’s key. People don’t have to respond in order for forgiveness to work for you.
One more thing: You might need to forgive a loved one who has passed away. Write them a letter and read it to God and a close friend. I promise you, God and your loved one will forgive and free you.