Defining Forgiveness – Three Things That Forgiveness Is

Forgiveness is central to a life of faith but it’s often embarrassingly absent.

One of the biggest reasons people don’t forgive is because they misunderstand what forgiveness involves. We have too many layers of false information that scares us away from the idea. So today I want to help define forgiveness for us. Let’s start with something Jesus said about prayer…

…when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.  Mark 11:25

Forgiveness is the opposite of holding something against someone. It means to let go of the event that separates you from another person. It’s like something stands in between you and this person with their offense written all over it. Your relationship is now defined by what you hold against them. You continually point to it and remind your offender of what they’ve done. To forgive is to remove what stands between you and this other person.

Jesus tells us that if we insist on holding something between us and another person that there will also be something blocking our relationship with God as well. A sobering thought.

What Forgiveness Is

Let me give you three definitions for what it means to forgive:

  1. The first is giving up the right to get even. When someone offends us there is a natural need for justice. We want to balance the scales. We look for payback. We don’t want our offender to get away with something. But forgiveness says, No, I’m not going to get even. I’m not going to retaliate or teach them a lesson. I’m just going to trust that God will somehow make up for my loss.
  2. Second forgiveness is giving up the right to have your offender solve your problems. What I mean is some people will spend their entire life insisting that their mom or dad or ex-wife fully apologizes for what they did and makes everything right. That’s just not realistic. That probably won’t happen. And the problem with that is you’ll spend your life waiting for someone else to make you happy. Jesus taught us to pray…forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. That tells us that forgiveness cancels a debt. It eliminates it…takes it off the books.
  3. And that’s why thirdly forgiveness is letting go of the past and moving into the future. Forgiveness gives you your life back. It keeps you from walking backwards into the future focused on the hurt of your past. Isn’t that what we do? Instead of facing the future we sacrifice our future by looking backwards into our past, obsessing on an offense from long ago.  It’s like driving a car and fixating on the rear view mirror. You can only do that so long until you wreck the car.

Check back tomorrow when I’ll start to look at the five things that forgiveness is not. Learn more about forgiveness in STUCK.

Question: How has a past offense kept you from embracing your future? Leave your comment below and please consider “sharing the knowledge”.


15 thoughts on “Defining Forgiveness – Three Things That Forgiveness Is

  1. Pingback: Forgiveness Abused, Part One « Nesapfich WB

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  3. stephaniecbarrett

    Remy I am going to e-mail you something I wrote awhile ago on Forgiveness! It was when I was ghosting for someone else’s web site. I have permission to use this, your choice to allow me to repost in this conversation.

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  10. Bobbi G.

    Hmmm, much to consider here….What really jumped out at me is this: “insist on holding something”….where I have often felt left alone in teachings on forgiveness is that there can be a big space between initial anger over a wrong and the time it takes to actually work it all out. I have experienced times when I was deeply hurt and intensely angry but I, for the most part, wasn’t bent on holding onto those things. Reality did not allow for quick resolution to the situation, and time has shown that the relationship will continue to be broken. Forgiveness is only one step in the process of dealing with broken relationship. Sometimes unforgiveness can tempt me to not embrace the future as things had once been, but sometimes forgiveness demands that I embrace only what once was and find a new path for my future. The real question comes down to what I will be carrying with me when I find the new road to travel. One of the best gifts God ever gave me was the ability to be grateful to Him for the good things that I once shared with that person. I asked myself if those things were enough to be thankful for. When I could answer “yes” without wanting more than I already had, I felt free. Even if it is in the past, they were still gifts from God and meant for my good and His glory. Whatever that means in the present or future I strive to leave in His hands and claim the hope and promise that all things will work together for good!!

    1. F. Remy Diederich

      Thanks for this. Forgiveness is definitely a process and it is indeed part of a bigger process of restoring a broken relationship (if that can even happen). Forgiveness is often taught as “do it now” which denies your rightful anger at the offense and adds a ton of guilt if you aren’t ready to forgive. I think it’s fairs to say to God, “I am heading toward forgiveness but, right now, I’m feeling the anger.” To move to forgiveness without first feeling the anger is really denial and it will come back to bite you.
      As for thankfulness, I think that’s a great way to look at it. We tend to insist that what was or is MUST ALWAYS continue. The past tends to entitle us to the same future. But gratitude takes nothing for granted. And it allows you to celebrate what WAS even though it may no longer be now. Just because something doesn’t exist now in a relationship, it doesn’t negate what was. Thanks for you insights! Remy

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