What does it say about unforgiveness in the Bible? The three-step process to forgiving someone, even if they aren’t sorry.
The First Sign Of Unforgiveness
You’re feeling it again. The voices around you sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Then comes the tightening in your chest… evidence of the volcano about to erupt – spewing its destruction over everyone within range.
You’ve had the conversation a thousand times before, but he’s done it again. The same thing he dismissed as “no big deal”, or worse – deflected to something you did.
You thought you had forgiven him!
Sister, it is so hard to forgive someone who doesn’t seem to want it and even more to forgive someone who continues to dismiss the hurt it causes. It feels hopeless, I know.
I can’t think of all the times I’ve said: “I forgive…” Or even worse, all the times I know I’ve said, “I will never forgive…” Sure, I am a Christian. But I’m also human. And I can tend to let my emotions get the better of me. The thing I say most often? “Why should I forgive…? He isn’t even sorry!”
If you are a big-emotion-feeling woman like me, you know what I mean.
What Does Forgiveness Mean?
The bitterness you cling so tightly to isn’t meant to be a security blanket. It’s meant to be a balloon. Fill it up and let it go. And it only comes with forgiveness. Why else would Jesus call for it? It’s in the Lord’s Prayer for crying out loud.
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There it is. Let. Go. I guess Elsa had it right. You remember that scene, don’t you? The once stuffy and trapped Queen Elsa decides to just “Let It Go,” lets down her hair, and creates an ice castle on top of a mountain. Basically, saying “Forget y’all. I’m done with you.”
Well, she had part of it right.
Saying “I forgive” isn’t enough. We must live it out. And we can choose to create an ice castle in the sky and say, “Forget y’all!”
But that isn’t what forgiveness is.
To forgive is to release. Be free. That’s where Elsa got it wrong. She didn’t really “Let it Go.” She created her own prison. And like Elsa, the prison we place ourselves in will crumble around us.
The Physical Effects of Unforgiveness
Karen Swartz, M.D., the director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital discusses the physical effects of the chronic anger unforgiveness brings.
She says the result of being “hurt and disappointed” takes a toll on our bodies. But forgiveness “calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”
Unforgiveness also takes a toll on our spirit.
The Eternal Effects of Unforgiveness
In Ephesians 4:31 – 32, it states:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
As we have been forgiven, we must also forgive. Matthew 6:14-15 (Right after the Lord’s prayer, by the way), Jesus tells us:
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.
Do I have to actually forgive others? As in, the ones who don’t even care about hurting me (and my family). The ones who aren’t even sorry and will never apologize.
I’m terrible. I know.
Do you have a person who is impossible to forgive? Someone who seems to get a crazy high from causing turmoil in your life?
Yep. Me, too. Hence the eye roll.
Learning to Forgive Is a Process
Forgiveness is not a one-and-done kind of thing. It is a continual process. It takes a declaration and many prayers: mostly for my heart to be softened and learn to forgive.
It’s so hard though.
We don’t feel like doing it.
And I’ll be quite honest with you. I don’t do it because I want to or because I feel like it. I do it because I need to.
As we are forgiving others, we need to also place our hearts in a position of repentance. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19, NIV).
I love the last part. “That times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
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3 Steps to Forgiving Someone (Especially If They Aren’t really Sorry)
The act of forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice. So how do we forgive?
1. Place your heart in a position of repentance.
“Repent” has such a negative connotation so let’s put it this way. Feel so sorry about having an unforgiving heart that you want to actually get rid of it. It’s not the same as saying you want to forgive the person who hurt you. It’s saying your connection with our Heavenly Father is more important because unforgiveness keeps us separated from our loving, Heavenly Father.
And repentance is necessary to bring us back in connection to Him.
Turn away from what you know to be wrong. Easy, right? (I’m laughing, too). But we can do it!
Multiple times a day, if necessary. Make a proclamation of forgiveness. Yes, even for the one person who seems impossible to forgive. The one person who isn’t even sorry!
Pray our Heavenly Father would show you His heart. Not only for you. But, for the person you need to forgive.
Can I be real with you here? I’ve struggled with this even while writing this post! I had my “Prayer for an Unforgiving Heart” printed out because I was preparing it for YOU!
Turns out, I needed it for me, too.
I have prayed this prayer several times and it will need to be used plenty more, I’m sure. Praise God for making my heart tender every time I needed it.
And if you can’t find the words because you’re so angry right now, get it below for yourself. Keep it close during your quiet time and turn to it when your heart of unforgiveness tries to rear its ugly head. It’ll help you turn your focus to the One who really matters!