HOW TO FORGIVE
Hi, thank you for joining me today. I’m Debbie Wallace, and this is Girl Church.
Today we’re gonna talk about FORGIVING OTHERS. Yes,… forgiving others for what they have done against us. Now, I know that you need to hear this. You know how I know? Because I need to hear this. This is something that’s common to everybody because we’ve all had occasion to forgive. Haven’t we?
You know I had a young lady call me a while back, and she said, “Debbie, I really want to forgive this person.” She told me what was going on, and she said “It’s still going on, and I want to forgive them, but I don’t know how.” She said, “I just don’t think I can. I don’t know how.”
Today we’re gonna talk about how to get beyond that. Because I think that’s the case with most of us. We have trouble forgiving. And you know, forgiving can be one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do.
I think it’s particularly hard to forgive people because you don’t always understand why they did what they did. You know, when we can’t get closure on it. They didn’t say they were sorry. And sometimes they don’t think they were wrong. They may have every reason in the world why they should carry on they way they do. And we don’t understand why they did that. So when we can’t get closure on it, it’s hard to just move on past. It’s kinda like an impasse in our life.
But there is a way to forgive. God gives us some instruction in His Word. And we’re gonna talk about that first. I’m gonna give you two reasons WHY YOU SHOULD FORGIVE. And then I’m gonna give you seven real quick points about HOW TO FORGIVE. I promise you, if you’re having trouble forgiving someone, or you’re stuck in un-forgiveness and it’s just eating your lunch, I promise you, what we’re gonna talk about today will help you.
Let’s go to…
Matthew 6:14-15 — For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses.
Well, ouch! That just kinda stings a little bit, doesn’t it? I mean, that’s pretty plain. God is saying, “I’m gonna forgive you of your sins.” You know, 1 John 1:9 — If you confess your sins before God He’s faithful and just to forgive us of all sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But this is giving us an addendum to that. God says, “If you don’t forgive others, I’m not gonna be able to forgive you.” And there’s really no wiggle room in this scripture, is there?
So that’s the first reason that we need to forgive. And I can tell you, forgiveness is not an option. We have to forgive because we need forgiveness. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I need God’s forgiveness in my life. Pretty much every day. I mean, all the time I’ve got something going on in my head, or an attitude, or I start thinking about something, or say something that I wish I hadn’t said. Yes! I’ve got to have God’s forgiveness. Because I want to move on with my life, and I want His blessing. I don’t want anything between me and God. So that’s #1: We’ve gotta forgive if we want to receive forgiveness.
#1 WHY — God commands it.
#2 WHY — Unforgiveness is like poison.
The second reason is because un-forgiveness is like poison to your soul. Did you know that? Un-forgiveness will poison your soul. It will make you a bitter, angry old woman quick. Have you ever known anybody that was just sour to be around? You don’t like spending time with them. They’re critical, they’re angry all the time, everything makes them mad. Chances are they’re dealing with un-forgiveness. They’re harboring some old un-forgiveness in there. And this is the thing about that…The other person, the person that hurt you, they’re just carrying on their life like everything’s fine. It’s not hurting them if you don’t forgive them. So if you think that un-forgiveness is going to punish them, think again. It doesn’t work like that. You can be laying awake at night, not getting your sleep, and you can be thinking about it all the time, pondering on it, and how you’re gonna get ‘em back, and all you’re gonna get is angry and mad. And frustrated. And you’re gonna get tired. Because you’re not getting your sleep at night. It’s not gonna hurt them at all. They’re gonna sleep like a baby. So why is it hurting? It’s hurting you. Someone said that not forgiving others is like drinking poison and expecting it to harm your enemy. Well, the only person it’s gonna hurt is you. So be your own best friend and forgive them.
Let’s talk about HOW TO FORGIVE. I’m going to give you seven things to remember that will help you to get past that “I don’t know how to forgive. I don’t feel like I can forgive.”
#1 — Forgiveness is not a feeling. And this is important. As a matter of fact, it’s probably #1. And I think that feelings is the thing that hangs us up on forgiveness. Because we feel like as long as we’re still angry, as long as we’re still frustrated, and as long as we have that feeling of indignation — “I can’t believe they did that to me!” Those feelings… We think that as long as we feel those we can’t forgive. It’s like we assume that our feelings are a barrier between us and forgiveness. But that’s just what the devil wants you to think. Because he doesn’t want you to get beyond it. I can tell you now, feelings have nothing to do with forgiveness. You can forgive another person when you are brokenhearted, when you’re angry with them, you’re frustrated, when you’re indignant, when you’re mad, and you really just want to punch them. You can forgive them even then. You know why?…
#2 — Forgiveness is a decision. It is a decision. Forgiveness is about you, it’s not about them. Forgiveness does not require anything of the offender. They don’t have to say they’re sorry. They don’t have to say they’ll never do it again. They don’t have to make vain promises. They don’t have to do anything. They don’t even have to make restitution. You can forgive a person because this is your life, and this is not about them.
Mother Teresa has a delightful poem called “Do It Anyway.” And in this poem she talks about how other people in your life may not respond the way you want them to. It starts out with… “People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.” And she goes on to say, “If you’re kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.” And then she goes on to say in the very last line — I love this — it says, “In the final analysis, it’s between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
Ladies, let me just assure you. Forgiveness is between you and God. It does not have anything to do with the person that harmed you, the person that hurt you, the person that broke your heart, the person that offended you. It didn’t have anything to do with them. God will deal with them. He will deal with them. You let Him deal with them. Their business is their business, their life is their business. It’s not for you to decide what kind of life they’re gonna live. Now you may be worried about them. And actually the Word says to pray for your enemies. So I would say, pray for them. But you can’t make decisions for other people. You may not understand the decisions they make. But forgiveness is about you, it has nothing to do with anybody else.
#3 — Forgiveness is not saying they were right. Now, I really like this. Because a lot of times we think that if we forgive somebody we’re saying, “Okay, well, I give.” No. It doesn’t mean that. It doesn’t mean that the person that wronged you was right in what they did. So if you’re thinking along those lines, please get beyond that. That’s very small thinking — that if I forgive somebody I’m gonna be saying that they win, or I lose. Listen, when you forgive others, you’re the winner.
#4 — Forgiveness mean you won’t make them pay for what they did. When you forgive somebody, really, you let them off the hook. It means that you won’t have any future expectations of them in this matter. Now, that doesn’t mean if there was some legal activity going on, and there were some legal repercussions, that you would not cooperate with authorities and tell the truth. You should do that. And sometimes in the case of a divorce there is a divorce settlement, there’s alimony or child support — that’s fair. But as far as just personal vendetta against somebody, you have to let that go.
#5 — Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you lose. Now this is similar to what we talked about just a minute ago. When you forgive you’re the real winner, we said that. But life does not always turn out the way you want it to. Does it? I can tell you I’ve had some deep disappointments. I’ve wondered at times, how did a nice girl like me get in a place like this? Have you ever thought that? Because people will disappoint us. Life turns out differently than we think. But the way you handle that situation — the way you handle your disappointments, the way you handle your upsets, your heartaches and your offenses — has a lot to do with where you end up in life. It has a lot to do with who you will be, and who you will become. You know, I’ve always said that if something costs me… if it costs me heartache, if it costs me money, if it costs me time, if it costs me disappointment… I’m gonna get something out of it. I’m gonna learn something from that situation. I’m not gonna let this thing happen without learning something from it. That’s called LEARNING FROM YOUR MISTAKES. And sometimes people offend us in our lives because WE made a mistake. Maybe you married the wrong person, have you ever thought about that? So when that happens, you do have to forgive the other person for being wrong — but you have to learn from it too. It doesn’t mean that forgiving the other person is a loss. It’s not a loss. You have to forgive the other person. It does not mean that you lose.
#6 — Forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation. Now there are times when reconciliation is not desirable or even wise. It’s an individual matter that’s gonna have to be addressed on a personal basis. I really can’t give you specifics on it. I will say this, that reconciliation differs from forgiveness in that reconciliation requires something from both parties. And forgiveness, it doesn’t. The offending party can be off the hook, they can be continuing in their behavior, maybe they’ve never said they’re sorry and not even looking back. You can still forgive that person. But reconciliation means that both parties have to be involved. You do have to forgive them, and they have to give you a genuine apology, and they have to make a turnaround in their behavior. Now sometimes people aren’t willing to do that. A lot of times people just want you to take them back without them saying they’re sorry. I’m just gonna give you a warning about that. Anybody that does that is apt to offend again. So you need to be smart about your life. And, like we said in the last point, learn from your heartaches. Learn from your mistakes so that you won’t set yourself up for another one. But reconciliation requires a change of behavior on the behalf of the offender. Sometimes reconciliation — it’s great when it happens — but sometimes it won’t happen. It could be that that party has offended so many times that trust is broken, and reconciliation isn’t possible. But even if reconciliation does not happen, you still have to forgive.
#7 — Forgiveness does not mean that you forget about what happened. Now, I know you’ve heard the term “forgive and forget.” This is a commonly used phrase, and it’s usually attributed to biblical teaching, but believe me, it’s not in the Bible. “Forgive and forget” is not in there. The Bible just says that you should forgive, it doesn’t say about forgetting. However, it will be greatly to your advantage if you can get beyond it in the sense that you “forget about it.” Of course, we don’t have the ability — and we wouldn’t even want to have the ability — to remove a memory from our brains. But we can live our lives without bringing it up all the time. And especially if there has been a reconciliation, you need to do that. If you are in a reconciliation, you don’t need to keep bringing it up and feeding that person a bite of that every time you want to. It’s just not wise, and it’s not what forgiveness is about.
Ladies, thank you for joining me today. I hope that this lesson has helped you. I really looked forward to sharing this with you, because I feel like a lot of people want to forgive. They really just don’t know how to do it. But when you see that there is a way to do it, and there is a path to forgiveness, that it really gives you strength and hope, “You know, I can do this.” You know, God would not tell us to forgive others if we were not able to do it. He wouldn’t give us such a strong command — and He does give us a strong command, doesn’t He? This command to forgive other people, it’s powerful, it’s strong, and it’s clear. God is not wavering on this point. “If you want your forgiveness from Me, you’ve got to forgive others.” So I think we need to remind ourselves that God is just, and He would not command that of us if we were not able.
But again, it’s not about your feelings. God is not a God that puts a lot of stock in feelings. If you’ve read any of the stories in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, God never said, “Noah, go build that ark if you feel like it.” And He never said, “Jonah, go minister to Nineveh if you feel like it.” “Mary, would you like to have a baby out of wedlock? You’re gonna be ridiculed, and people are going to point their finger at you, and you’re gonna have lots of whispers behind your back, all of your life — but as long as you feel like it… How do you feel about that?” See, God doesn’t do that. He isn’t overly concerned with feelings. I’m not saying that He doesn’t care about our feelings, but feelings are not part of our decisions. And forgiveness is just that. It’s a decision.
And just let it go. When you forgive, just rest in the Lord. Let God love on you. Jesus said, “My burden is light.” He wants you to give Him your burdens. God loves you, He loves you very, very much. Just rest in Him, and don’t worry about what the other people are doing. Let God handle them. You don’t have to understand why they do what they do. As a matter of fact, if you ever figure it out, please give me a call and let me know, because I’d surely like to be in on that. But there’s no need to worry about it, God’s got ya. Listen, you’re first on His mind today. Thank you for joining me. I look forward to seeing you next week.