Friday Counseling Issues: Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not a feeling, an emotion.  If we wait to forgive until we feel forgiveness, we may never get around to it at all. Forgiveness is a choice, an act of the will; it is following what we are clearly commanded to do by Jesus Himself. It is what we do in order to be forgiven by God.  It is what we do to avoid self-pity, bitterness, and depression.

I had a conversation with someone this week who believes that you cannot forgive someone who does not sincerely repent; who does not ASK for forgiveness.   I’m still thinking about what she said because I don’t agree with her but so far have not been able to penetrate her conviction.

If she is correct, then anyone who has ever hurt us, but who never acknowledges their behavior or seeks forgiveness, is still hurting us every time the memory arises.  We are burdened to carry unforgiveness toward those who have hurt us and died without seeking forgiveness. I do not believe God intended for us to carry such negativity, never forgiving until the offender comes to seek forgiveness. The closest I came to giving her pause to think differently was to point out that Jesus, from the cross, said, “Father, forgive them. . . . .” when none of His tormenters had sought forgiveness.

I think perhaps we need to review the definition of forgiveness:  It is simply giving up one’s right to demand justice.  Clearing the debt.  Purging it out of the books, as if it had never existed; requiring  no payment whatsoever.

And it is a choice we make based not on warm fuzzy feelings, but on a clear understanding of God’s Word. Matthew 6: 14-15 are crystal clear about the importance of our learning to forgive others in order to receive forgiveness from God.

Choose to forgive.  Do it purposefully and prayerfully.  Doing so does NOT mean you must continue to accept poor treatment; it does free you from anger, self-pity, bitterness, and depression.


9 thoughts on “Friday Counseling Issues: Forgiveness

  1. I wrote about forgiveness recently too. I do try to pray for those I can’t forgive, to try and forgive. I believe my resentment will be lifted. It usually is! But still, it can be a challenge. And I feel I am faking it!


    1. The post today is one in a series. There are six or seven others, and I’m not done yet. Forgiveness is a difficult issue for all of us, I think. If you can think of forgiveness as simply giving up your right to demand justice, maybe it will help you. Believe me, justice WILL be done when those who have hurt us stand before God. I would not want to be in their shoes. And again, it’s not a feeling. It’s a deliberate choice. Tune in next Friday–forgiveness is a process, not an event.


  2. Kim L

    To believe that forgiveness doesn’t work unless the other one repents is incredibly damaging. Your friend is right in that the whole forgiveness process encompasses the other person acknowledging that they have done wrong. But that’s not her job, to make them repent, it is God’s and that other person has to agree to participate in the process. Ours is to truly forgive and to not allow that person’s evil works to have anymore power over our hearts, souls or minds.

    For instance, I worked with someone who was incredibly selfish and would make the nastiest & hurtful remarks. At one point, I was awake all night long & filled with anger about her evil-doing. I realized how happy she would be to know that she’d had that affect on me and how excited she would be about this. And I realized that I needed to forgive her, protect myself against her, cease caring for her (shake the dust off my feet, in other words), and I did that by surrendering her, her evil, everything to God, and forgave her. In fact, I prayed for her. Only God gave me that strength to do this.

    There’s no way on earth she would ever have been able to acknowledge how much wrong she was doing or how selfish her behavior tended to be, so there was no way she would ever have been able to ask for my forgiveness. I was happy to lay that burden down, and let it rest in God’s hands.

    I think of one of the prophets who waited up on the hillside for God to smite a certain city. God forgave them instead. That prophet was not happy about it at all… he was not ready to forgive and I am reasonably sure that nobody in that town asked him for forgiveness. That’s about as close as I can get (today) to a Biblical support for the act of forgiving, even if the person has not asked for forgiveness.


    1. You have stated very well what I’ve always believed about forgiveness–that is, always SINCE I understood its importance! Im thinking there may be a matter of semantics here, really, but I do want to have the correct biblical view on the issue.

      Thanks so much for your input, Kim.


  3. tellthetruth1

    I’m reminded of Romans 12:19 after reading this. Nobody would wish God’s vengeance on anyone, for we all know what that means. I’ve seen unforgiveness destroy people. Best to follow the law of Christ. Love covers all things, after all.

    Good page 🙂


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