Forgiveness – from The Century Dictionary.
- noun The act of forgiving; the act of granting pardon, as for a wrong, offense, or sin; remission of an obligation, debt, or penalty; pardon.
Forgiveness should feel like a simple thing. It should be an act that we are all capable of demonstrating. But that is not always the case.
It is a fact that humans do things that are wrong. Sometimes those wrong things are done accidentally; but, sometimes they are actually done intentionally – knowing full well that it is wrong and that it will, or could, hurt someone else. If we are on the receiving end of that wrong we are put into the position of having a decision to make. We can hold onto the hurt or let it go by forgiving the person that wounded us. But, forgiveness is not always an easy thing to give, depending on how deeply we were wounded by the other persons wrong against us.
There are so many examples in the Bible of people being treated very badly yet forgiving those that inflicted the pain. The prime example, of course, is when Jesus is hanging on the cross after having been tortured. People are standing around staring at him while the soldiers taunt Him and gamble among themselves for His clothing, yet “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:34a NLT)
We need to know that Jesus dying on that cross was God’s way of forgiving each and every human of every sin committed, from the beginning of time until the end of time. God loved us so much that He had mercy on us and sent us a Savior that relieves us of the penalties of our sins – so that instead of spending eternity in hell we can spend eternity in the heavenly realm with Him.
“For You, O Lord, are good, and ready to forgive [our sins, sending them away, completely letting them go forever and ever]; And abundant in lovingkindness and overflowing in mercy to all those who call upon You.” Psalm 86:5 (AMP)
Since God loves us that much and since Jesus willingly paid the ultimate price for us, then we should strive hard every day to forgive anything done to us – real or perceived – by extending that same mercy to others.
“Don’t be angry with each other, but forgive each other. If you feel someone has wronged you, forgive them. Forgive others because the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (ERV)
Those words should be plenty enough reason for us to grant forgiveness. But there are other reasons that we should strive toward putting it behind us. Unforgiveness causes all kinds of other issues affecting us mentally and physically. I read an article titled “The Effects of Forgiveness and Resentment on the Heart” written by Everett Worthington, Jr., Professor of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University. I quote a portion of that article below:
The Negative Effects of Unforgiveness
“Holding grudges and self-condemnation are not good for us. And this has been shown by numerous psychological scientists who have produced and reviewed much research. The results are clear. Unforgiveness, resentment, holding grudges, and bitterness are not good for our physical health. Neither is self-condemnation. Those sources of stress put people at risk for cardiovascular diseases and events (like strokes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, etc.). These emotional states can also compromise and dysregulate (i.e., impair) our immune systems resulting in lack of ability to fight off physical diseases of many types. And they elevate cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is good in responding to immediate stressors, but when it stays high—as it does when we are chronically unforgiving or self-condemning—then it affects virtually every physical system in our bodies. This includes shrinking our brains, affecting digestion, sexual drive and performance, circulation, and immune system.
Resentment and chronic self-condemnation often lead to rumination—replaying those old memories over like B-grade zombie movies in the late-late show of the mind. Rumination is related to many types of psychological problems: depression, anxiety, stress-related problems, anger control, and psychosomatic problems.
And these negative emotional stressors wreak havoc on relationships. Blaming others and finding faults can set couples, families, friends, or work relationships into a downward spiral of blame and resentment. And frequent self-blame and complaint can tire relationship partners and exhaust caregivers.
Finally, holding onto bitterness, resentment, and self-condemnation have severe effects in our religious and spiritual lives. Anger at God has a distancing effect, sending people who have dwelt comfortably as Christians for years into times of angry or lonely wandering. In a recent meta-analysis, our team of researchers found religion to be highly related to forgiveness of others but not so much to forgiveness of self. Spirituality, understood as a personal, close relationship to God (and other things like nature, humans, or transcendent experiences), was more closely related to self-forgiveness but less to forgiving others. The Lord wants us to forgive and not to hold resentment, grudges, and unforgiveness—toward others or toward ourselves. And He is always there, eager to work in us when we ask for forgiveness, and the help to forgive others.”
So, what it all boils down to is this – by demonstrating forgiveness, first and most importantly we will be following the examples of God the Father and His Son Jesus. We need to extend mercy to others for causing us any kind of pain; and, the result will be that we will be in right standing with God and our fellow man, plus we will have the benefit of a healthier mind and body.
Written by Karran Martin – November 26, 2022