Forgiveness...Why it's Important

What it is...and what it's not

for·give·ness/fərˈgivnis/

Noun: The action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.


What is this thing called forgiveness? The definition seems so simple, but is it? Good questions. One thing I can tell you is that true forgiveness is very misunderstood. Having grown up in church, and knowing what the Bible says about forgiveness, I thought I had a firm grip on what it was. Looking back I can see that I was very selective in whom I forgave, and only did so when the offense wasn't serious. I used forgiveness as a weapon. I withheld it from those who asked to make them hurt, at the very least, as badly as they had hurt me. I also used it as a tool of manipulation; I will forgive you, if you do as I ask. I can hear the gasps already. You think I'm horrible. But unless you understand real forgiveness, you are also guilty. Sometimes it's so subtle, you often say it jokingly yet your goal is not to forgive-it is to get even.

"I don't feel like forgiving them," I've heard people say so many times. If we wait until we feel like forgiving, we never will. Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a conscious act. It is something we choose to do. And, in spite of the deceptively simple definition, it's hard. Forgiveness goes totally against our nature. It is not the normal reaction. The normal reaction is payback. Forgiveness is first and foremost an act of faith.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave. - Colossians 3:13

My story...

To the outside world I lived a pretty privileged life. I was smart, talented and could have pretty much anything I wanted. On the surface my life seemed almost perfect but scratch beneath the surface and you would find an almost unbearable amount of hurt and pain. Every day I lived with Jekyll and Hyde. My father was Jekyll, kind and loving, and my mother was Hyde, emotionally and physically abusive. I buried myself in school and my music and because of other people God placed in my life, I survived. I didn't have many friends because kids were envious and could be quite cruel. As an adult in corporate America, I had to deal with the glass ceiling. As a woman, climbing the ladder was rough and I was not without my share of battle scars. Over the years I went though a divorce and the death of my second husband. I would marry a third time and four children later would go through a second divorce. Two women who were supposed to be my best friends would end the friendships with no explanation. I would then become quite ill.

Several years ago I started attending a church that I liked very much. I was having a lot of problems financially, physically and emotionally and nothing seemed to help. In talking with the pastor, a lot of my past came out and he explained to me that I was harboring a lot of unforgiveness and it was having a very negative affect on me. I told him that I had forgiven them but he showed me that as I talked about those people and events in my life, I spoke with bitterness, anger and hate in my voice which meant I was speaking what was actually in my heart. For whatever is in our heart will come out of our mouths.

He explained to me that to forgive required a conscious decision on my part. I had to pray and consciously decide to forgive. The pastor then gave me an assignment. I had to take a sheet of paper and on it I had to write down the name of anyone and everyone who had ever hurt me, angered me or offended me in any way. I then had to one-by-one make a conscious decision to forgive them.

I'm not embarrassed to tell you that it took more than one page because it encompassed an entire lifetime. Then one-by-one I prayed and told God that I was making a conscious decision to forgive (and then I said the name). I even mentioned incidences where an offense had occurred but I didn't know the individual's name. It was a long process and sometimes I had to forgive more than once because the hurt was so deep. I shed many tears and it seemed like I was just wasting my time. Then something happened. My entire life completely changed. Joy returned to my life, my illness left and I was hired in my dream job of teaching choral music. Not only had I set my oppressors free, I had set myself free.

"Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you." - Corrie Ten Boom

The best medicine...

Is it wrong to want justice? No, but there is a very thin line between seeking justice and judging. It is far better to let God deal with injustices than to let them consume us. We are not equipped to harbor offenses; they eat us alive. If you think you have forgiveness mastered, look again. Some clues are illnesses doctors can't seem to treat or your life is just out of control. Yes, it may just be life, but it may also be unforgiveness taking you under. As we have received grace (undeserved favor) from God, we need to extend it to others. Instead of treating someone as he deserves to be treated, treat him with kindness. By giving an enemy a drink, we're not excusing his misdeeds, we're recognizing him, forgiving him, and loving him in spite of his sins-just as Christ did for us.

Don't make the mistake of not forgiving because you don't want the other guy to be happy. Forgiveness is for you. It is for your spiritual and physical well-being. Yes, the other guy gets the benefit of being forgiven, too, but if you don't you will be the one to suffer. If we obey God's command to forgive, God promises to forgive us in return and, we get something very powerful as a result-freedom.

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Comments 26 comments

writer20 profile image

writer20 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

Hi Sylvia, forgiving can be difficult. One for instance is a nasty guy who just ignored me when working with him for daily 8 hours. Then I heard him talking about me, I flipped. I wrote a miserable story about him. One person that read said it's full of hate. I put it on hubpages for a short time and was asked to take it off. No,I haven't forgiven him and never will. Writing the story did I get most of the hate out of me.


Arlene V. Poma 5 years ago

"It is far better to let God deal with injustices than let them consume us." What a powerful statement and an overall excellent piece of writing. Thank you, Sylvia.


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 5 years ago from Southern California Author

writer20...you're going to have to let it go. Look back and you will see how that hate has had an effect on your life. And make no mistake, it has had an impact. You have to let it go. For you.


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 5 years ago from Southern California Author

Thank you Arlene! I've had a lot of practice at letting God avenge me. He's much, much better at it.


Terishere profile image

Terishere 5 years ago

Sylvia, very good hub! Forgiveness is so important. It's not for those who wronged us, but for ourselves.

To forgive, is to let go of the hate, anger and other negative feeling we may be feeling. We are not a prisoner anymore to those negative feelings if we forgive.

I voted up, useful and awesome!

Terri


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 5 years ago from Southern California Author

You are so right Terishere. What's sad is that so many people don't understand that and they keep themselves in bondage. Thanks for the votes!


marriednokids profile image

marriednokids 5 years ago from California

So true Sylvia, forgiveness is for you not the other person.


writeronline 5 years ago

Hi Sylvia, this is a powerful hub, with a powerful lesson.(One I still have trouble applying, twenty years after life-changing events that let me down and left me feeling angry and betrayed).

I know you love music, I hope that includes the Eagles, or more particularly, in this case Don Henley, because you’ll know his song ‘The Heart of The Matter’, which I’ve taken the liberty of quoting in part below, because it’s right on the money for your message here:

There are people in your life who've come and gone,

They let you down,

You know they hurt your pride,

You'd better put it all behind you, baby, 'cause life goes on,

You keep carryin' that anger,

It'll eat you inside, baby,

I've been tryin' to get down to the heart of the matter,

But my will gets weak,

And my thoughts seem to scatter,

But I think it's about forgiveness,

Forgiveness,

Even if, even if you don't love me, anymore

I've been tryin' to get down to the heart of the matter,

Because the flesh will get weak,

And the ashes will scatter,

So I'm thinkin' about forgiveness,

Forgiveness,

Even if, even if you don't love me, any more

.

I’ve also linked to a clip of the song (from the era, long hair and all we babyboomers did wrong, lol).

Be careful though, Sylvia, it WILL make you cry. :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPQdZwRI4GU


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 5 years ago from Southern California Author

Thank you writer! Yes, I know the song. Thanks for the link. The sad part is that people don't realize that forgiveness is not just about the big offenses or from specific people such as a friend, spouse, or family member. What about that cashier in the store who was rude to you and you're still telling the story two weeks later with the same anger and bitterness in your voice? Unforgiveness of that cashier will damage you just as much as a cheating spouse. Remember, it's the 'little foxes' that spoil the vine. There are no degrees of sin. Sin is sin is sin.


Husky1970 5 years ago

Sylvia's Thoughts, this hub is absolutely beautiful and one of the most sincere, well-written hubs I have read on hubpages. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story and for making us really, really think about what true forgiveness entails. So glad you have found such a wonderful place to be in your life. :)


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 5 years ago from Southern California Author

Hello Husky1970. Thank you so much for your kind words. I never mind telling stories about my life if I think they will help someone else.


The_Idea_Gal 5 years ago

To experience deep hurt due to someone elses action is an injustice that sometimes takes a lifetime to resolve. It's been my experience that sometimes new culprits enter our lives and re-open old hurts. Other times, I've had to just distance myself from those who I know will not change, not because I cannot forgive, but because distance is what helps you heal. And if that's what it takes to get to forgiveness, then that's what needs to happen. And I too love that Don Henley song Heart of the Matter and the message of not carrying around anger that will eat you up inside. Wonderful hub and I wish you all the best!


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 5 years ago from Southern California Author

Thank you TIG! Forgiving doesn't mean that you have to stay around those who have caused you pain. Most of the time distance is what is required. Sometimes the one you are forgiving isn't even alive anymore. Forgiveness is not always easy or quick.


BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 5 years ago from New York

Forgiveness can be a bitter pill to swallow, for me too. I Really find it hard to forgive my first husband, no matter how hard I try. Great food for thought,great hub.


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 5 years ago from Southern California Author

Yes it can, Bobbi. It took me quite a why for me to forgive my ex. I spent a lot of time figuring out ways to dispose of him! LOL As it turned out, I ended up saving his life twice since. Go figure. Thanks for your support!


jami l. pereira 5 years ago

Voted up awesome and beautifully written , great hub!


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 5 years ago from Southern California Author

Thanks jami! Hugs!


Fiddleman profile image

Fiddleman 5 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

A wonderful story on forgiveness.


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 5 years ago from Southern California Author

Thank you Fiddleman!


Heather McMillan profile image

Heather McMillan 5 years ago from Hampton, VA

Such a great hub! I was put in a difficult position of forgivness when I found out my son was being sexually abused by my former oldest step-son. It was devastating because although the step-son was removed from the home, CPS was still talking to me as the mom and I was required to do right by him. At the same time my toddler was forever changed and the system never wanted to acknowledge what was done. I have seen this now teenager essentially be rewarded for what he has done. In the process my marriage fell apart and his father, well I could go on. I did however come to a point where I did forgive. Not when everyone else told me to though, but when I realized that I could no longer carry around the burden of anger. It was doing my son and I no good. Is it wrong what he did, yes. Is it unfair that the system let us down and has rewarded the perpertrator instead of punshing him, absolutly. Does being angry hurt him or do anything to him, nope it only does more damage to me and my child. So I forgave him so I could move on. Once I did so my son was able to stop living with so much fear. My forgiveness set us both free.


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 5 years ago from Southern California Author

Heather, I'm so sorry for what you and your son had to go through. We have such a flawed system, the victims suffer the most. Yes, forgiveness can only come in your time-when you're ready. It is not about forgetting or excusing the wrong as many people think. It is about releasing so that you will not longer be in bondage. And trust me-anger, bitterness and unforgiveness is bondage. I'm proud of you and I pray that you and your son will be richly blessed!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

I love this hub Sylvia - and I love you for writing it and sharing it. Forgiveness is never easy. But when we practice it, we then can feel peace. Thank you for your truthfulness and may you be blessed. Hugs :)


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 5 years ago from Southern California Author

Hi VC, I've missed you! What you say is so true; it IS the way to peace. Thanks for your comments! Hugs back. :D


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

Be careful, for you wrote "Instead of treating someone as he deserves to be treated, treat him with kindness." In thinking of how someone "deserves to be treated" there is a reaching of judgement, even if the course of treatment is not followed. Matthew 7:1 and onward seems to say that unless I can judge myself as being perfect, I am not entitled to judge another person. As for me, I can't imagine when that day would ever come, and in the meantime I have my own matters to attend to which don't allow time for taking on a role God has reserved for himself. Just trying to be as my Master was, is a lifetime task, and my progress on that is much too slow.


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 4 years ago from Southern California Author

We are to extend grace just as we are extended grace.


Italktotheweb profile image

Italktotheweb 2 years ago from The United States of America

Forgiveness is something for which the other person must ask. So many times, I have seen people try to manipulate Christians with the concept of forgiveness, to make them think that they are automatically required to forgive, even when the injustices against the individual are still be perpetrated.

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