When is the last time you were deeply hurt by someone close to you? What was your response to the hurt? Perhaps you wanted to retaliate and seek revenge in some way. Or perhaps you took no action whatsoever and instead harbor bitterness and resentment in your heart. Do you carry your hurt with you to this day?
You do great damage to yourself when you choose to have an unforgiving spirit. The root of unforgivness is a bitter root that takes hold in your heart, and then spreads a poison that chokes out every godly trait there. A friend of mine puts it this way; walking in unforgiveness is like drinking poison expecting the other person to die.
The truth is that we choose to be unforgiving, and it is a deliberate mindset that imprisons us. We harbor the illusion that some one else has caused our misery, but in reality, we choose to accept this bondage. We willingly walk into the jail cell of unforgiveness, imprisoning ourselves in a destructive form of self-punishment. What most people do not realize is that just as freely as they walked into this prison they can freely walk out.
In Ephesians 4:31-32 Paul writes, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Forgiveness is the willingness to give up your resentment toward someone who has wronged you, regardless of how serious or painful that wrong might have been. It means that you will not only give up resentment, but also give up your plans for retaliation. You must “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice”.
5 Steps to Forgiveness
Forgiveness is more than just saying some words; it must come from the heart. The forgiving heart chooses to be kind and compassionate to those who have hurt you. Here are 5 steps you can take to forgive:
Assume responsibility for your own decisions and actions. Acknowledge your sin and confess it to God. Lay your bitterness, anger, and hurt at the foot of the cross and refuse to retrieve it.
Pray that God will cleanse your heart. In Psalm 51:10, King David prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Ask God to give you a forgiving heart, then you should begin praying for the other person. Ask God to show you where they may be hurting and ask His blessing upon their life.
3. Seek Forgiveness
If your bitterness and anger has caused you to injure the other person, you should go to them and ask their forgiveness. When you humble yourself and seek forgiveness in this manner, you create an atmosphere of reconciliation.
You can live out God’s grace by choosing to serve those who have hurt you. Ask God to show you something you can do on the behalf of that person. Choose to serve instead of resent. As you begin to walk through the steps of forgiveness, your feelings toward the other person will change. You will be aware that all resentment is gone, and you will genuinely feel concern for his or her welfare. Show your forgiveness by encouraging their relationship with Jesus.
5. Trust in God
It is difficult to turn the other cheek when someone has injured us or our loved ones, but that is exactly what Jesus wants from us. We need to trust that God is sovereign and just, and that in time He will right all wrongs. We need to remove ourselves as judge and simply let go of all resentment. In time everyone will stand before God’s judgment, therefore we need not be an earthly judge to those around us.
In Matthew 18:22, Jesus teaches us that we must forgive “seventy times seven,” which means we must always forgive. Paul, too, writes that we should bear with one another and forgive one another because, in the same way, God has forgiven us. Therefore, through the power of Jesus Christ and His forgiveness, we can all walk in His grace and be freed from the prison of unforgiveness.