Forgiving is something everyone struggles with. I know I’ve battled with it for most of my life. As a child I was told over and over that it was the Christian thing to forgive and forget. I never could quite do that with some of the larger offenses I’ve faced. And I always felt guilty for that. Like I wasn’t trying enough. Like I wasn’t being a good Christian. Like I was failing at some moral requirement.
Yesterday my preacher took that concept head on. And lifted that guilt off my shoulders. He told us what forgiveness was not. And then told us what it was.
“Forgiveness is giving up the right to seek retribution.”
I love that. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting what someone did to you or said to you. It is about letting go of what you feel like you need to do to get back at them.
“Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart.”
That was the one that really hit home for me. I had always felt that to forgive and forget I had to someone accept that the hurt done to me was okay and excusable. I understand now that I don’t have to forget it. I don’t have to rationalize what they did and make it okay. I just have to forgive it and let it go. Forgiveness is more for me and my heart than it is for the person who hurt me.
So today I’m forgiving some old hurts. To that girl whose lies cost me several friendships – I forgive you. To the family member who said those cruel things – I forgive you. To the woman who used her advice to chip away at my dreams – I forgive you. To the people who have thought poorly about me without really knowing me – I forgive you.
I’m sure that none of these people think they were in the wrong. I’m sure that they don’t think their words and actions were hurtful. I’m sure they don’t think they need to say sorry or seek forgiveness. But they’re forgiven just the same. Because holding on to how they hurt me only allows them to keep hurting me. I won’t forget the hurt. But I will forgive it. And let it go.