“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and then hoping the other person dies.” –Saint Augustine
Forgiveness is one of the most difficult and most misunderstood concepts in all of life. Refusal to do it can create a toxic root of bitterness in our hearts. A lack of forgiveness can wreck marriages, families, careers and most every other aspect of life, but embracing grace in its true form can bring freedom and healing.
This past weekend at our POM Communication Conference, we spoke in great depth on the communication skill of forgiveness. Not only receiving but granting it as well. It is evident that so many of us struggle with the concept of Biblical Forgiveness, both extending as well as receiving.
Kerry and I would like to share 4 basic principles that we like to put into place on this journey of forgiveness.
To live a life of grace and forgiveness, do the following:
When you’ve blown it, own it!
We live in a world that loves to deflect accountability and assign blame somewhere else. We’d like to believe we’re always either the hero or the victim in every situation, but sometimes, we’re the bad guys! Never admitting fault doesn’t make you look strong; it makes you look foolish. Be willing to swallow your pride, confess your offense, and humbly seek forgiveness.
“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Proverbs 28:13
Recognize the difference between forgiveness and trust.
Some people reject forgiveness, because they wrongly believe it’s the same thing as trust and since they don’t trust the person, they assume they can’t forgive the person. Forgiveness can’t be earned, only given (that’s called grace). Trust, however, can’t be given, only earned (that’s called “Common Sense!”).
Follow the example of the world’s only perfect Forgiver.
The more you learn from Jesus, the more naturally forgiveness will flow. He is the embodiment of love and grace. We still live with the natural consequences of our decisions, but ultimately, the penalty of our sins was paid for by Him on the cross. Don’t beat yourself or others up for offenses that Jesus has literally taken a beating to forgive.
Give as much forgiveness as you’d like to receive.
We all want grace when we’ve messed up, but we’ve got to realize that grace flows both ways with equal measure. If you want to receive forgiveness, you must also offer forgiveness.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15
Think of it this way- We are not called to “wait” for that person to come and ask for forgiveness. No, we must actively forgive in the moment.
Better example yet, God sent His Son into a world that hated Him. If God had waited for the world to be “worthy” to receive Him, His Son would never have come.
In closing, Forgiveness is so unnatural an act that it takes practice to perfect it. In fact, it is rarely the case that we are able to forgive “one time” and the matter is settled, more often than not, we must relinquish our bitterness a dozen or so times, continually choosing to release the offender from our judgment.
So, today, what do you choose?
Joe & Kerry