Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matt 6:14-15
We all have experiences of being avoided, rejected, criticized, misunderstood, and mistreated at some point in our lives. We may easily feel disturbed and pained when we are treated like this. Forgiveness is the key.
However, what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is not giving up on right and wrong. It is not merely suppressing our feelings and forcing ourselves to say, “I forgive.” To me, forgiveness encompasses:
1. A willful decision: deciding to free myself from a prison of negative and harmful emotions. Every time we revisit the scene or dwell on what was done to us, we continue to lock ourselves and the other people involved in the prison of our soul. It does not help the situation. It does not hurt the one who hurt us. It only brings about burnout and spiritual imprisonment.
2. Strengthening ourselves: finding someone who can listen—someone who cares enough to encourage and comfort but not to spread gossip—so that we can find relief from our negative emotions. Additionally, deep in our hearts, we should be continually mindful of the blessings God has given us and remember occasions when others have been good to us. It will nurture our spirits, and forgiveness will then become a natural expression of our souls instead of a legalistic act.
3. Going one step forward: when there is an appropriate opportunity, take the initiative to approach those who have offended you. Treat them like normal people and be friendly to them. Let these new interactions gradually repair the old, broken relationship, and let the wound heal with time and new connections.
- Am I still imprisoned by unforgiveness? Against who?
- Am I willing to set myself free and set my enemy free?
- Am I going to allow God to strengthen me, in order to overcome my hurts and bitterness?
- If possible, am I willing to go the extra mile to rebuild the broken relationship?
Written by Irene Chang. Artwork by Jasmine Chan