Someone recently told me that this Sunday is International Forgiveness Day, which was started by the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance. As a Christian, I am taught to forgive so forgiveness is usually something I need to do every day of my life, but I liked the notion of this particular day.
Part of the Lord’s Prayer reminds us to “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant shows us that we will be treated with unforgiveness if we do not forgive our brothers and sisters. Forgiveness is provided to us – low, sinful creatures we are – by God himself, so who are we to not forgive one another?
But I’ve heard misconceptions about forgiveness. In fact, our pastor gives a wonderful sermon on what it means to forgive and how to accomplish it even in the hardest of circumstances. One thing he points out is this: forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetfulness. It also doesn’t mean reconciliation.
What if that person you need to forgive has passed on or moved away? Do you think because you can’t speak to them or “get out your feelings” that you can’t forgive them? Not so. Forgiveness is a change within your own heart that mainly helps YOU, not the other person. You can choose to say, “I forgive them” and let that indiscretion go from your heart. It doesn’t mean you don’t forget what has happened, but your heart does not need to continue to grieve for that situation. You can move on.
But, guess what? That other person might not have any idea you’ve forgiven them! They might not even know they need forgiveness!! But you can still choose to forgive and move on for your own sanity and well-being.
What about forgiving yourself? I think it’s all too common in our day and age to beat ourselves up more than we do others. We put unreasonable expectations on ourselves and then berate ourselves for “failing”. If you are busy with your day and your kids have to eat hot dogs – forgive yourself! It’s still nourishment and they still love you. Were you unable to call your parents today? Forgive yourself! They will understand. Did you eat that donut (or several) today and “ruined” your diet? Forgive yourself and start again tomorrow. It’s okay. We’re not infallible.
Forgiveness is not an easy thing, but it’s a worthwhile thing and something we are told time and time again in the Bible to strive for. So this Sunday let’s all set aside a moment or two to cleanse our hearts and offer forgiveness to someone in our lives.
Need help forgiving? Here are a few good articles to get you started: