What Is Forgiveness?
12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. —Colossians 3:12-14
Forgiveness is a decision. It's an act of will to release a person from the obligation that resulted when they injured you.
Unforgiveness sounds like this: You owe me! I'm going to make you pay by hating you, by slandering you, by returning in kind, by recruiting other people to my bitterness. I'm holding this over you!
Here's forgiveness: You don't owe me. I'm not trying to get even. I'm not looking for a chance to pay you back. God didn't make me that way. I choose to forgive.
You say, “James, I can forgive today, but I know by Thursday I'll have that thing back on my back again.” I understand that. Get this: forgiveness is a crisis and a process. The first thing you have to do is see your unforgiveness as sin. You have to acknowledge that God's not going to forgive you if you don't forgive others. You've got to have that crisis. You've got to stop explaining, defending, holding onto it, cherishing, and reviewing it. You've got to say, "I don't want this for my life."
The crisis means, "I choose to forgive. I'm letting it go." But the process means, when the painful matter comes into your mind again, you promise yourself to maintain the following process: "I won't bring it up to the person; I won't bring it up to other people;” and most hard by far, “I won't bring it up to myself anymore.”
Someone said to me, "James, I can't help myself. As soon as I see the person, Bam! My mind goes right to that thing." That's why forgiveness is a crisis and a process. In the crisis you decide, in the process you live it out.
Now, here's a key: When you fail in the process you have to return to the crisis. When you find yourself flashing back to unforgiveness, realize you failed in the process. You've got to return to the crisis. You've got to get before the Lord and say, “God, forgive me. I want to be a forgiving person and here I'm holding this again, Lord. Help me again. I commit afresh to let it go.”
Crisis/process. Over time you'll let it go and you'll be a lot happier because of it.
- How would I explain to someone the difference between crisis and process in forgiveness?
- Where’s the weak point in my defenses: trying to convince offenders; trying to marshal sympathy from others; or trying to internally keep the offense alive?
Father in heaven, first bring to mind the specific people I need to forgive. Help me to experience, not a crisis of reliving the pain but the crisis of realizing I must forgive. And then I’m depending on You to walk me through the process of forgiveness every day. Thank You for the assurance of Your amazing forgiveness that keeps me going! In Jesus’ name, Amen.