I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness recently. It is probably one of the most complicated elements to human relationships. Forgiveness is not a human trait. As humans, who have an innate survival instinct. Forgiveness is the most foreign concept to that instinct. Our instincts lead us to thinking that says if something threatens our life, we threaten them back. If someone attacks us, we protect ourselves. The concept that if someone attacks us, threatens us, wounds us, or betrays us and we turn around and forgive them for it, is so obviously a divine character trait. It cannot come from human effort. Forgiveness is something we find only in God.
This concept is absolutely true when we are seeking to forgive someone who has hurt us. We find a way to connect to God and His divine source and power in order to offer forgiveness to others. It is a process that can take quite some time as God works in us and through us to heal the pain. God does not ask us to forgive others and not also heal us of the pain we experience. Forgiveness is similar to physical therapy for the soul. It takes time to build the strength and range of motion in relationships to forgive. God is good to heal our wounds and free us from the bitterness as we forgive others.
But, let’s go a bit deeper today and turn the mirror to face ourselves. What about the relationships that exist where we are in the wrong? What about those places where we need forgiveness? Think about those relationships where your mistakes have caused others pain. Maybe you are seeking to make it right or maybe you are avoiding it because it is so difficult.
I have a very important relationship where I have been in the wrong. I have made mistakes, said hurtful things, made hurtful choices, and damaged trust. I am working hard to change my behaviors, thinking, and attitudes that create the pain. I have recently been desiring forgiveness. I have a deep desire for this person to offer me forgiveness and give me a chance to make things right. I even spent a day really crying out to God to make a way for them to forgive me.
God works in mysterious ways. He answered my cries, but not exactly in the way I expected Him to. He reminded me of the Golden Rule. Yes, the same one we learned in elementary school! It was actually Jesus who originally spoke these words,
Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.
It took me a while to put the pieces together, but I saw it eventually. I need to create an environment of forgiveness in this relationship. Forgiveness is not a right that I am owed. It is certainly not something I deserve. In order for this person to have the space to begin forgiving me, I have to create an environment where they can. I have to create a space that is safe for them to bring their hurts, their frustrations, and their fears to me. I need to be an active listener, to understand and learn how they are feeling. I need to respect their pain and their feelings and validate them. As I learn to create a relational environment of forgiveness, it involves me rebuilding trust.
So, in essence, forgiveness involves some relational effort, regardless to which side of the forgiveness you are on, giving it or receiving it. It really is one of the most complicated elements to human relationships and yet vital to healthy relationships. We all need to give and receive forgiveness in relationships throughout our lifetime. How are you creating an environment of forgiveness in your relationships?