To Forgive or not forgive?

 

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Abigail, Bethany, and Anna August 2011

 

Relationships…you can’t get away from them and you wouldn’t want to if you could…in most cases. But what about those hard cases that take way more emotional energy than the personal benefits received?

I have often wondered why some people make me feel like an angel while others make me feel like the devil himself. I am the same person.  Sometimes I feel the horns begin to poke out of my head while around some people.  Just when I begin to think I might be a decent person,  I’m appalled at my impatience, the anger that so quickly and easily arises, and the sarcasm that would love to leap from my tongue. Isn’t it strange? I hope I’m not alone here, but at the same time, I sincerely hope I am.

I have spent hours, days, months, and sometimes years pondering the mysteries of some of my relationships and why they are so complicated. I’ve tried to dig down to the root of this problem for much longer than I’d like to admit.  It is humbling that I haven’t been able to come up with better answers more quickly.

Although I have some answers, I’ve concluded that the reason this is so complex is because there are a lot of variables. God’s creativity in the thousands of different personalities is mind boggling to me.  A person’s environment can vary tremendously and who can say what effect that has on us. Then you must consider past hurts and offenses, emotional childhood scars of others and the more obvious components of pride, selfishness, manipulation and control factors.

I’ve read several books over the years trying to understand this phenomenon. The world advises us to write people off when  they are making life too inconvenient.  They are baggage we don’t need when life is tough enough on the best of days. Have you been tempted to end relationships like this? I have. Have you had “friends” that just want to use you as a sounding board to vent their problems and never care to make changes to improve their relationships, much less ask you how you are doing? I have. And I’m sure I’ve been guilty of acting just as selfishly with others.

As Christians do we even have the option of giving up on people?  And what exactly does that even mean? I believe it is refusing to forgive them. When I’ve been tempted to write someone off it was because I felt like they had just gone too far in offending me or it had happened one too many times. In essence, I just did not want to forgive them.

In Matthew 18:21-22 Peter asked Jesus how many times must he forgive a brother that offended him. Peter thought seven times should be enough. (I can SO relate!) But Jesus came back with an answer I’m sure Peter didn’t like. Jesus said 490 times! I think the point Jesus was making that we should forgive every time and not keep a record of them. (I Corinthians 13 talks about not keeping a record of offenses.)

This is one of those tough commandments of Jesus where the rubber really meets the road in life. It separates the believers from the Christ followers. It helps us realize how serious we are about living out our faith.

When you read these passages of Scripture you will notice is doesn’t mention if the offender asks for forgiveness or is repentant.   Does that matter?  Well, it sure makes a huge difference if you are the one being offended! How many times would you gladly forgive if the person would humbly come to you, apologize for his actions, and ask forgiveness? That makes a HUGE difference! But we all know people who rarely if ever do that.  And some are so prideful and self-centered they never think they are at fault.  But as believers, we need to forgive them anyway and let God take care of correcting them.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine;  I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee. (Proverbs 20:22)

To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time:  for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. (Deuteronomy 32:35)

But before we get too excited about God punishing them for offending us, let’s remind ourselves of what Proverbs 24:17,18.

Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.

Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 5:46 and 47 that if they just love those who love them, they aren’t any better than the tax collectors of the day. If we are Christ followers, our relationships should be better than the average ones in our society.

And if none of these can persuade or motivate us to forgive when we’ve been offended, Jesus seals the deal in Matthew 6:14, 15.

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

We can’t control what others say and do or how they respond to our apologies.  And we won’t have to give an account for them.  But we can control our responses and we will stand before God one day and give an account of our actions and responses.  That is a sobering thought and one that should motivate us to live by the book…God’s book, the Holy Bible.

Sometimes I think it is wise to put some distance between ourselves and people who habitually sin against others in their words and actions. However, for myself, the problem has never been abuse as much as my own pride and unwillingness to forgive. I Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us what real love looks like.

Love…

  •  suffers long with people
  • is kind
  • is patient
  • doesn’t brag
  • isn’t arrogant
  • isn’t rude
  • isn’t selfish
  • isn’t easily provoked
  • thinks the best of others
  • isn’t happy about sin
  • rejoices in the truth
  • bears all things
  • believes all things
  • hopes all things
  • endures all things
  • it never fails

I’d like to hear your thoughts  on this blog. When you write a comment, it will ask for your email address so I can approve it. I will be watching my email closely to do that so your comments will appear.

I hope you have a blessed day and that your relationships blossom!

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

P.S.  Here are a few books that have helped me…

Living Successfully with Screwed-Up People by Elizabeth B. Brown

People Can’t Drive You Crazy if You Don’t Give Them the Keys by Mike Bechtle

 

 

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10 thoughts on “To Forgive or not forgive?

  1. Gaye this is so true! We have to forgive because JESUS forgives us daily! Sometimes you have to love from a distance! I know, I’m doing this with a family member & it’s killing me! Sometimes we have to show tough love! Thank you for your post! I love you!

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    • Thank you Mary. You are easy to love! I know you are praying for that loved family member. They have to be affected by Jesus shining through you even if it isn’t obvious to you. I love you sweet friend.

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  2. May I also recommend a book? It is called, ” Can’t we kill them and tell God they died.” I know it may be a strange title but it is full of joy and how to find humor with difficult people including ones you can’t get away from, like family members!

    Like

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