What I wish I had known about forgiving others

By Annie Garman

I never thought I had an issue with forgiveness. I mean, in my sheltered life, I’ve never been abused or victimized. My husband has always been faithful to me. In general, I hadn’t suffered grave offenses warranting major forgiveness.

However, the small things have tripped me up the most. A harsh tone. An unkind word. An unappreciative action. I’ve realized I can easily be hurt by those closest to me. And when left unchecked, this hurt can lead to bitterness and anger and a downward spiral and…well…I think you get the picture.

So, apparently, I DO have a forgiveness issue. I really thought I was off the hook with this one!

I wish I would have recognized that problem earlier in my life and taken more time to meditate on the following truths:

Literally everything about this world is broken.
I forget this, a lot. I’m SURPRISED when I’m treated less than perfectly, instead of understanding that bumps and bruises comes with living in this world. As believers, we’re not entitled to a painless path. We need to actually expect that every day someone will say or do something that might sting. When we’re expecting it, then we can prepare our hearts for how we’ll react.

I’m equally as sinful as the person who hurt me.
I think this truth is a game-changer. At the foot of the cross, we have all equally offended God with our sin. Sure, some sins have harsher consequences than others, but ultimately our sins separate us from God just as far as the next person. We are all sinners in need of a Savior.

We need to understand and act upon the thought that, “there is nothing good in ME, either.” This recognition will breed humility necessary for forgiveness.

I need to be obsessed with my own sin issues, not the sins of others.
When we are focused on the offenses of others to the point we can’t see our own wickedness, we are majoring on the wrong thing. Matthew 7 reminds us that we should focus on examining our OWN hearts and repenting of OUR sinful actions before we focus on the “speck in our brother’s eye.” Only when we remove the log of our own sins are we able to see clear enough.

Isn’t that an interesting thought to camp out on? When we have sin in our own heart, our vision isdistorted. The sins of others are magnified, and our own sin is minimized.We need to deal with our own sinfirst.

Here are some questions to ask yourself honestly: Have I loved perfectly? As in, have I been perfectly patient and kind? Or have I been arrogant, rude, self-seeking, easily provoked, irritable and arrogant? A good way to answer these questions is to constantly examine our OWN hearts with the measuring stick of I Corinthians 13.

Forgiveness is an act of worship and obedience to God.
As believers, we are recipients of God’s forgiveness. We are to receive His forgiveness and extend it generously. His Word is full of commands to forgive (Matt. 6:9-14; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Failing to forgive is failing to love God like He’s asked (I John 4:20). That may sound harsh, however, we should never toleratecoddling this sly and dangerous sin.

Remember that offenses will happen because all of creation is GROANING under sin (Romans 8). But if we are humbled by our own sins, we cultivate good ground where forgiveness can take root.

This is not easy; and it’s actually not just hard but impossible to do in our own strength.

I hope and pray God’s Spirit fills you and empowers you for this supernatural task, so that relationships may be reconciled for His name.

So, what have you learned about forgiveness?

Published July 11, 2016

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Annie Garman

Annie and her husband Colby live in Northern Virginia where Colby serves as the teaching pastor of Pillar Church. Before their church ministry days, they served for two years as IMB missionaries in Iceland. Annie spends her days taking care of her four daughters, writing and ministering at her local church. She shares about motherhood, mayhem, and the meaning of life from a place of transparency at anniebgarman.com.