I want to deal in this brief article about an aspect of one of life’s biggest enemies, unforgiveness. If you have attended any of my presentations on insurance ethics or hoarding disorder or personal restoration (and others) you know this is central to what was taught. In this article I want to narrow this down to false forgiveness which is, in affect, unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness breeds death; of relationships, of hope, of peace, of a clear conscience. Forgiveness brings life. When any of us are trapped in unforgiveness we set up a cycle of  downward destruction. I deal with this cycle in other teachings, but basically the pattern is that unforgiveness breeds bitterness and bitterness is methodically followed by seven bad actions. These seven bad actions are Refusal, Rejection, Resentment, Retaliation, Rage, Retribution and Removal. That is a downward trip you really do not want to take. And the only remedy is forgiveness.

We have all heard that we should forgive. Many of us have read in scripture that we are commanded to forgive. And, you have probably heard the saying that, “Forgiveness sets the prisoner free and when you forgive you discover that you were the prisoner.” That saying is true, but how many of us have intended to forgive and receive forgiveness and yet we are still captive? Sadly, how many of us are so wounded and pained by life’s circumstances that we absolutely have no capacity to forgive the offender? Too many, I am afraid. The number one reason, in my experience, that a person cannot forgive is that they have never experienced forgiveness. Many times it is because they only experienced false forgiveness that led them no where and left them empty, confused and hurting.

You can never change the heart of another person. Heck, we cannot change our own hearts without God’s help. I do not want to over simplify how to walk in real forgiveness and have a change of heart. But, let me give you several suggestions on how to do so.

  1. If the person who offended you knows what they did you should attempt, if possible, to let them know you forgive them directly in person, or via phone or mail. Not through an intermediary. Not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. Forgiveness is a choice. Do not be accusatory. If you have need to forgive yourself then look in a mirror and tell yourself that you forgive yourself.
  2. If someone does not know they offended you then you privately make a choice to forgive them. Before God verbally pronounce your forgiveness. This is very important.
  3. If you want a real radical change in your attitude then invest something of value into the offender’s life. This may turn your heart, and theirs, as well.
  4. If the person whom you need to forgive is no longer living then go through the same motion as if they were living as an act of your will and do it verbally. I have seen this bring immediate and lasting freedom.
  5. If you offended someone then as best you can tell them directly that you are sorry, that you were wrong and ask for their forgiveness. Their response is not important. Your act is.
  6. Forgiveness is an act, but it is also a process. If the feelings of hatred and anger return forgive them again, and again, and again.
  7. Finally, ask God to forgive you. Forgiveness is all about relationship, not religion. In fact, God has already forgiven you through Christ. Have you received what you have been given?