I think the deepest kind of pain ever had in my life is relational pain. There's a lot of hurt that we all experience in life. But there's something about relational pain that can hurt so deeply that it's really hard to let go.
Maybe you are in a relationship that is falling apart right now. And in that process, someone has hurt you in such a way that it feels like it would be impossible to ever rebound from that situation.
Maybe you were betrayed (a friend repeated a secret), abandoned (a spouse/parent left you), or trust was broken (there was an affair).
The truth is, at some point, we’re all going to be betrayed by someone that we thought we could trust. And the crippling reality for every one of us is…. if you don't do something with that hurt, it will assault you every single time it comes to your mind.
You see, what happens for a lot of us is that when we get hurt, generally, we spend the vast majority of our time talking about why we are justified in the anger that they feel towards the person that hurt us. I think that's pretty normal.
But if you don't move pst the hurt, something ugly settles in -- bitterness. And you can’t have freedom if there is still hatred and bitterness.
We all think, me included sometimes, that I can hold resentment against that person AND I’ll be able to go through the rest of my life and be healthy in all my other relationships. We think that we can isolate that bitterness and that anger and that unforgiveness to this one particular relationship. But it never works that way; that's not the way the bitterness that comes along with unforgiveness works. Eventually, it contaminates all of your relationships. It spreads far and wide and deep and it will impact everything that you love.
Which is why... Sometimes you don’t forgive people for their sake; you do it for your own freedom.
Now, in Matthew 18 24-30, Jesus gets right to what's at stake and why it is important for us to forgive other people
24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. 26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. 28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
Human nature is to retaliate. Human nature when someone hurts you you want them to pay. And here's the truth.
Forgiveness is it is never CHEAP.
When you get hurt and the hurt is real and it's deep you want the other person to hurt back. We want them to know the pain they've inflicted on us. And just like the servant in the story, someone has ran up a moral debt with you. And you know to the penny what they owe you and you want them to pay up. In fact, you dream of ways that they will pay. It is scary, at times, how dark our heart will go when we think of payback.
And right now, you are thinking, “I could forgive them, but I know what that means. It means I have to swallow the debt. I have to give up my right to see them hurt back. It means I have to pay the cost.” And the cost is not seeing them also hurt. The cost is not getting even. The cost is letting go.
3 Obstacles to Forgiveness
There is at least three obstacles to forgiveness, there is a lot more, but I’m going to give you the three most common things that come up for me when I'm just talking one on one with someone about forgiveness.
1. Forgiveness is not CONDONING
To forgive someone does not mean that you condone what they did. This is very important because some of you have been hurt in some very real, unjust ways. And forgiveness is not getting to a place where you just excuse what it is that they did to you. Justice needs to be sought at every turn.
When you forgive someone, you're not condoning it. Rather, you can say, “We both know that what you did was wrong. We both know that what you did was inexcusable. But because Christ has forgiven me, I'm going to forgive you.”
2. Forgiveness is not RECONCILING
I think a lot of people get kind of stuck on this one.
There's a huge difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. And I think the reality is, as you go through life, there are people that you need to forgive but it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to reconcile with them. Paul actually talked about this.
Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
I do not think that you can always reconcile with another person but I do think that you can still always forgive another person.
There might be some people in your life that you don't need to reconcile with. It's not healthy for you to reconcile with them.
When it comes to relationships, if the other person cannot be honest about the way that they hurt you, and they can not be honest about what it is they've done to you, or maybe they don't even see what they did to you was something that was wrong, you probably cannot reconcile the relationship.
Now, I think we should always seek reconciliation if possible, but sometimes it's just not going to happen.
3. Forgiveness is not FORGETTING
A lot of people get hung up on this. They think that if I'm going to forgive somebody it means I have to forget about what happened to me in the past. And since I can't forget it, it must mean that I can't forgive it. Not true.
Forgetting is a passive process where you hope that eventually your mind is going to forget about stuff that's happened in your past. It's going to just fade away. On the other hand, forgiving is an active process where you make a deliberate decision that you're going to forgive someone. You actively decide that you are not going to hurt them back in the way that they hurt you. And we have to forgive. Precisely because we can't forget.
Again, forgiveness is not an easy thing. This is tough. And there are certain people in my life who I thought I had forgiven, and then stuff comes back up and I have to forgive them again and again and again. I've learned forgiveness is not so much a decision as it is a process. It's kind of just a state of my heart.
If you don't forgive, you're going to be chained to your bitterness and your resentment and your anger. If you don't forgive, what joy you have in your life is going to slowly be choked out of you. If you don't forgive, that bitterness you have inside of you is eventually going to crowd out any compassion that you have left.
I know that it costs a lot to forgive. In fact the only thing I can think of that will cost you more than forgiving, is not forgiving. Because not forgiving will eventually cost you your heart.