The Bible makes it clear that if we do not forgive, God will not forgive us (Mark 11:26).
Why is it necessary to forgive? It is necessary because if we don't, we imprison ourselves. We cause ourselves to be stuck in a prison of bitterness, anger and self-righteous pride.
In the first few years of my school career, I was bullied by two girls that we will call Sheila and Sierra. They wanted what was mine and bullied me out of it. Every girl had to bow to them or reap the consequences. If we didn't do things their way, they made our life hell.
I resented them for the longest time, and every bully that came after them. However, I was more angry with myself. What was wrong with me that these girls didn't like me? I became self-conscious and introspective.
It became increasingly difficult for me to make friends. When I did, I found they wanted something from me. It was rare to find one who wanted to be my friend because they liked me. Usually the ones who did weren't socially acceptable. I did whatever I had to do to fit in.
As time went on, I built walls to protect myself from being hurt. The friends I did make I distanced myself from.
I resented the people who hurt me, and I couldn't seem to forgive them. No matter how much I tried to. No matter how much I wanted to.
Forgiveness is not a feeling. Instead it requires a choice. We choose to believe. We choose to have faith. We choose to love. We choose to forgive.
Most people are confused. They think that forgiveness is a feeling, but it is a decision we make that we are going to obey God and forgive. After we have made that decision, our feelings will eventually catch up with it. Though it will take time.
Soon after I rededicated my life to Christ, after a long stint away, I had a forgiveness ceremony.
What is that?
I sat on the loveseat across from our recliner. I asked God to remind me of all the people I needed to forgive. As He did, I wrote them down. One by one, I imagined that person in the recliner, and I told them all the reasons I was mad, angry or hurt by them. After I expressed it all, I chose to forgive them by faith. I then released that person and the pain into God's hands.
I repeated the process with everyone on the list. When feelings of anger or hurt came up later, and the devil would whisper, "You didn't really forgive them," in my ear. I took the opportunity to affirm my commitment to my decision by saying, "No, I already chose to forgive them by faith."
Many times the person will come back into my life, and I can't recall why I was upset with them. Only that I was.
Where our minds go, our bodies follow. Our minds will go in the direction of our decisions. In other words, every thing with God starts with a decision.
How did we make Jesus Lord of our lives? Through a decision. How did we decide to marry Fred over Tom? We made a decision. Everything in life is a series of decisions.
It is our job, as children of God, to make decisions that are in line with the Word of God. Not decisions based on our feelings or our experience, but decisions made on the living, active True Word of God--the most sure Word.
In addition to forgiving others, we should do a few other things too:
1. The Bible tells us to bless our enemies (Matthew 5:44) I know that is hard when We are upset with someone, but if we want to obey God's Word, we must bless our enemies.
What do I mean by bless? By bless, I mean to speak good things over them. The fathers in the Old Testament used to speak a blessing over their eldest child. They used to speak good things over their child's future.
How does this apply to us? We must learn to speak good things over our enemies. If we cannot think of anything nice to say about them, we should pray the Word of God. Try the prayers of Paul in Ephesians and Philippians.
2. Pray for those who do us wrong. The Bible instructs us to pray for those who use and mistreat us (Luke 6:28-29). Now how do we do that when we are angry with them? I have a list of people I pray for every day. Some of which I have issues with. I pray for their health, their minds, their areas of specific need, then I ask God to bless them, and I affirm my commitment to forgiving them by saying, "Lord, I forgive [insert person's name] by faith in the Name of Jesus." We don't have to follow my pattern, but we should make sure we put praying for our enemies into our daily routines.
3. Don't badmouth them. I know it is easy to go to our friends and relatives and give them a detailed description of how so-and-so did us wrong, but resist the urge. Rehearsing it, talking about it, only serves to keep us angry, to keep us upset, to keep us tied to that event. Vent it to God.
Yes, we must forgive those who trespass against us Forgiveness is not just for the other person. It frees us as well. To be like God, we must forgive. Period.
Annagail Lynes is a published author, pharmacy technician and starting her business as a life coach. Her work has been published in 21st Century, SeaLetter, Christian Home and School, You! and many more online and offline publications.
To learn more about her, go to facebook.com/coachannagail