I watch a lot of YouTube videos about woodturning, knife restoration, and other such crafting projects. Hey, some guys watch videos about women folding towels, so I think I’m doing okay. Yesterday, YouTube recommended I watch this video.
As I gave this video a quick glance, I misread it. I thought it said “Start Forgiving Today” rather that “Start Forging Today”. It is an easy mistake, I suppose; when I took a closer look of the video to double-check what I thought I saw, I realized there are only two letters’ difference between forging and forgiving.
It was also an easy mistake, though, because I’ve been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately. Forgiveness is mentioned many times in the Scriptures, of course, including the teachings of Jesus and the writings of Paul. I also encountered forgiveness in the Freedom Session 12-step program I walked through. And my wife and I recently attended a seminar on forgiveness put on by Forgiveness Ministries.
I’ve noticed, though, that I still have difficulty forgiving some people for some things. While I talk a lot about forgiveness, I still fail to forgive some people for the things they have done to me. Not only so, but I’ve noticed that other people not only fail to forgive but seemingly refuse to forgive. I have suggested forgiveness to quite a few people recently only for them to tell me that the people who have hurt them don’t deserve to be forgiven.
It was these realities that popped into my mind when I saw that video and misread it as “Start Forgiving Today”. Following those realities, a few truths about forgiveness also came to mind. I don’t know that there is any structure or cohesion to these truths; they may be rather scattered. But I want to share them with you anyway.
Forgiveness is for you, not for the person who sinned against you. I understand when people tell me that the ones who sinned against them don’t deserve to be forgiven (or haven’t repented or are dead or whatever). There is certainly some truths to that caveat. However, the greater truth is that forgiveness as Jesus and Paul command it is not intended so much to be a blessing to the other person (though it can be that) but a blessing for you. When you forgive, you heal. When you forgive, you stop hurting. When you forgive, you stop replaying that moment which caused you/is still causing you so much pain. So don’t do it for the other person. Do it for you.
Forgiveness of others allows us to understand God’s forgiveness of us. One of Jesus’ most notable teaching on forgiveness comes during the Model Prayer of Matthew 6. As you know, one of the petitions Jesus makes in this prayer is “Forgive us our trespasses (or debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us (or our debtors).” Jesus even takes this petition further in the verses following the Model Prayer:
I can’t say I understand everything Jesus is saying here (will God literally not forgive us/condemn us for not forgiving?). But I do wonder if one of the things Jesus might be saying is that forgiveness is the way or flow of God and we will thus never understand God/never fully appreciate our relationship with or how we relate to God if we don’t have that same way/flow, if we don’t forgive others as easily as He forgives us. It is that small word as that makes me think this (forgive as we forgive), and I think there is something to us.
Forgiveness is a practice. It is not something you feel as much as something you do. Sometimes it is something you must do over and over, every time you feel the anger of a transgression committed against you. One of the ways to do this practice is what I call “the forgiveness prayers”. I learned a prayer for forgiving others from Freedom Session and I learned another from Forgiveness Ministries. I combined them together, following the basic structure of the Forgiveness Ministries prayer but adding in some of the Freedom Session ideas.
In other words, I go through the six steps of the Forgiveness Ministries prayer but add in the Freedom Session ideas of releasing bitterness and thoughts of revenge and asking God to lead me away from my old ways of trying to protect my heart through anger. Sometimes this prayer works first time; I never feel any animosity toward others for their sins again. Other times this prayer must be prayed over and over, every time that animosity resurfaces. Whether it is one time or many, though, it is a disciple/practice with works.
That’s not a comprehensive discussion of forgiveness; I don’t think I’m qualified to give you that. But it is a few thoughts about forgiveness, and those thoughts are valid. These are reasons why we all need to start forgiving today.