I did a short teaching on forgiveness on Sunday. (Click Here) It was short because it was the last point of a four point sermon on obstacles to finishing your spiritual race. (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
I didn’t put it last because it was the least important. In fact, it is probably the most important. Unforgiveness creates devastating results in your life, including giving access to the enemy to wreak havoc. Forgiveness is for you as much as it is for the one you are forgiving.
BUT, whenever I teach on forgiveness, I am always sensitive to the fact that many people have heard what it is, but not what it is NOT! Misunderstanding forgiveness can create its own obstacles for the person who is truly trying to forgive. Here are just three things that forgiveness is not.
1. Forgiveness is NOT forgetting.
To forget past hurts would take a lobotomy! When people believe that forgiving is forgetting they feel shame when memories surface, thinking they have failed in obeying God.
No, to “forget” means to “neglect.”
As it relates to forgiveness, to neglect means that you do not give the time and energy to the offense that it wants you to. When the memory comes up, you ignore it.
Now, the only way to be successful at this is to first do what Jesus told you to do which is to “forgive from the heart” (Matthew 18:35). This is the only way the emotional pain will be reduced enough to “neglect” the memories.
2. Forgiveness is NOT subjecting yourself to further disrespect.
If someone steals your wallet you can forgive them, but they need to prove to you over time through consistent behavior that they can be trusted again. So it is with any other situation where someone has hurt you. They need to show you through their behavior that they can be trusted again. In the meantime you must create and communicate healthy boundaries. (Depending on the offense and degree of pain, these boundaries will vary from complete removal from the situation to remaining in the situation but with new ground rules.)
3. Forgiveness is NOT minimizing what they have done to you.
No, actually it is the opposite. It is the fact that what they have done to you is so painful that you must release them into the hands of God so it doesn’t destroy you.
“Unforgiveness is the poison you drink hoping the other person will die.”
By releasing them you are getting off the judgment seat and giving it back to the only rightful Judge. The moment you do this the peace of God will flood your heart. You may also experience things such as physical healing, hearing God’s voice more clearly, finding the Bible exciting again, and relating to others with greater trust.
For more on creating healthy boundaries, read the book “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend.
For help with getting greater freedom through forgiveness, make an appointment with one of our GPC SOZO teams at firstname.lastname@example.org