Months ago, I was having dinner with a close friend. I began opening up to her about some things I went through in my childhood. “Ohhhhh wow,” she exclaimed. “That makes so much sense! That’s why you’re so guarded.” Errrrr? Hold up! Me? Guarded?
I couldn’t believe my ears. I was guarded? Yes, I can be a private person and I have a small inner circle but she was a part of it! How could I be guarded?
We ended up talking for hours that night. And I listened to what she had to say. She explained that when you go through things, you develop walls. Those walls become unforgiveness and bitterness. And these things, although mental and emotional, can end up affecting you physically and causing ailments in the body.
Over the next week or so, I pondered on her words. Then, I prayed about it. And she was right.
Forgive vs. Forget
I thought I forgave people. I didn’t forget of course, but I forgave. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? How could I possibly have unforgiveness in my heart?
The truth is, forgiving and forgetting are synonymous. Now, wisdom says to distance yourself from people who are not moving in the same direction as you. Sure. But think about it from God’s perspective. What if every time he thought of you, he thought about all the shameful, sinful, disgusting, mean, hurtful, and critical things you’ve ever done? How might God deal with you or talk to you?
That’s how we are when we don’t forgive people. Yes, we smile in their faces. We talk to them on phone. We go places together. But in our hearts, we see them from the lens of offense. And from that lens, we can never truly love them. And what’s worse: we can never truly be free.
Why is this important? Because 9 times out of 10, the people that we have not forgiven, are the people we spend the most time with: mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, husband, wife, sister, brother, son, daughter, best friend, co-worker, boss, pastor, church friend, etc.
A few weeks after the conversation with my friend, I did an exercise that changed my life. I made a list of all the people that had hurt me and disappointed me in my life. I wrote their names down. Then I found a forgiveness prayer from www.crosswalk.com to use as a template. I edited it to incorporate three important scriptures on forgiveness (see below). I left blank spaces in the prayer so that I could insert each person’s name.
I said the forgiveness prayer out loud in my bedroom and inserted every single person’s name on my list (it was almost 70 people!). After I finished, I was free. I was free to love, free to live, free to forgive every offense, because I was reminded that God freely forgives me.
The only way we can continue in unforgiveness is if we look at ourselves as the standard. But the truth is, we are not the standard. God is the standard. If God forgives us through Jesus Christ, then we surely can forgive others.
I encourage you to reflect today. Are there people in your life that you haven’t forgiven? Are you holding a grudge against someone? Do you find it really hard to love certain family members or friends? If so, make a list of those people and try this forgiveness prayer. Share how it has blessed you in the comments below!
- Debbie Przybylski’s “Short Prayer to Forgive Others” www.crosswalk.com
- Mark 11:25 (NLT)”But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
- Colossians 3:13 (NLT)”Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
- Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”