Forgiveness Or Unforgiveness?
“I am sorry, please forgive me.” “I forgive you.”
How successful are you in asking for forgiveness from someone you have wronged and in extending forgiveness to someone who has wronged you? Do you have the inner strength to extend forgiveness?
Whatever the circumstances surrounding the wrong, forgiveness is a process. Knowing what forgiveness “is,” as well as what forgiveness is “not” is helpful in the process.
“Basically to “forgive” is to make a conscious determination to not hold an offense over someone’s head for the rest of their lives.” states Dr. R.T. Kendall in his book, “Total Forgiveness.”
Forgiveness is the underpinning of many faiths; yet, even the person who professes no faith in anything will be confronted with “forgiving” either themselves or someone else multiple times during their lifetime. The alternative is “unforgiveness” which is living a life of fear, resentment, anger, rage, oppression, hatred, inner pain and health problems resulting in a joyless, unfulfilled and fruitless life.
Forgiveness is a “conscious determination.” Dr. Kendall states: “Total forgiveness is a choice. It is not a feeling — at least not at first — but rather it is an act of the will.” That is where the question of inner strength surfaces.
According to Dr. Kendall, forgiveness is NOT: 1. Approval of what they did; 2. Excusing what they did; 3. Justifying what they did. 4. Pardoning what they did; 5. Reconciliation; 6. Denying what they did; 7. Blindness to what happened; 8. Forgetting; 9. Refusing to take the wrong seriously; 10. Pretending we are not hurt.
These are the small offences of life, says Dr. Kendall. The daily occurrences that happen in the interactions of family, friends, co-workers, etc. What about the “big offences” of life? Dr. Kendall says, “We can still forgive and at the same time report a crime. Forgiveness doesn’t mean closing our eyes to those who will continue to harm others. Interesting that the author states we can still “forgive” the person who has caused a crime to either ourselves or to others….is that possible?
Have there been times in our lives when we have chosen NOT to forgive because in our minds it is a “noble unforgiveness.” Our attitude is one of refusing to forgive for the noble reason or cause…even though the offending person(s)….usually who we have never met and do not know….has been forgiven by those actually involved in the offence. “Noble unforgiveness” can be quite destructive to ourselves and definitely to others. Perhaps we noblely state: “I don’t know this person or the facts, but I will not forgive this person(s) of their offense and I will not forgive any others who HAVE forgiven the person(s) of the offense.” We begin to feel that “the cause” is greater than “the forgiveness.” Usually this attitude is less about the “person” and more about what has happened to someone we know or to ourselves personally. “I want someone punished for what happened to ME.”
We must realize the people who choose to exercise the “noble unforgiveness” have had something happen in the lives that gravitate them toward distrust, anger and hatred so that they feel fully justified in unforgiveness.
As Dr. Kendall stated, total forgiveness is a choice, an act of the will. Graciousness is a key component to forgiveness. “Graciousness is shown by what you DON’T say, even if what you could say would be true. Self-righteous people find it almost impossible to be gracious; they claim always to be after ‘the truth’, no matter what the cost. It is actually a demonstration of greater grace (graciousness) when we are fully aware of what occurred — and we still choose to forgive.”
What Forgiveness IS: 1. Being aware of what someone has done and still forgiving them; 2. Choosing to keep no record of wrongs; 3. Refusing to punish; 4. Not telling what they did; 5. Being merciful; 6. Graciousness; 7. It is an inner condition; 8. It is the absence of bitterness; 9. Forgiving God; 10. Forgiving ourselves.
These are not merely “points” to consider, but hard work to be implemented and continued. The hard work of forgiveness may last for years, so one can see that forgiveness takes commitment. The fact of the matter is that if one remains in the past, reliving the hurts and continually vengeful that justice was not served adequately, then one can not enjoy the “now.” Total forgiveness is less about the other person(s) and more about YOU, your now and your future and the quality of life.
“The consequences of an unforgiving spirit add up to one thing: the bitterness isn’t worth it.” states Dr. Kendall.. Why would any person deliberately choose to live a life of bitterness?!!
There is freedom in the forgiveness of ourselves and others. Consider the consequences if you DO forgive: “Release them, and you will be released,” Josif Tson.
From our hearts to yours
Excerpts taken from “Total Forgiveness” by R.T. Kendall, published 2007 by Charisma House Publishing