by Tricia Niesche
Christ calls us to forgive. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Turn the other cheek. How many times? Seven times seventy?
Forgiveness isn’t easy. Sometimes it is almost impossible. But forgiveness is more for the forgiver than the one being forgiven. If you don’t grant forgiveness, you are left with hurt or anger that has nowhere to go. It pains the soul, over and over. Hurt or anger can become a controlling factor in your life.
When someone you love or trust causes hurt or anger, it is hard to forgive. Trust is broken. You wonder what the next encounter will be like?
My grandmother used to say, “Fake it till you make it.” If you behave as though you have forgiven the person, then it’s easier to forgive. (A lot of prayer helps, too!)
Pain and anger can fester
Now, why is forgiveness so important for the one doing the forgiving? Without it, pain or anger continues to fester. It colors almost all decision making because it is still sitting there.
It affects relationships with the person or people responsible for the pain. Avoidance and suspicion creep in. And if the person is someone with whom you must interact regularly, that relationship is almost impossible.
Consider divorced parents who must still co-parent their children. Forgiveness should be part of the equation for effective parenting. It isn’t about the parents anymore; it is all about the kids.
Forgiveness can happen whether the one to be forgiven knows about it or not. Sometimes she might not see a need to be forgiven. That makes it more difficult, but not impossible.
Words and actions matter
It would be nice if everyone who caused hurt or pain saw the result of their words or actions. That they don’t recognize their responsibility is often one of the reasons that the pain is so deep. They don’t take ownership. But, if one can forgive, the healing can begin.
Forgiveness is not a once and done event. Sometimes I need to forgive many times, but that’s okay. The desire to be able to forgive brings us closer to forgiveness every time. Trust God to change your heart and give you the strength to let go and let God. That is God’s will for us all.
Tricia Niesche is president of the Saint Paul Area Synodical Women’s Organization. This article first ran in the winter 2018-2019 issue of the SWO’s newsletter, Bridges. Maybe a graditude journal would help you as you try to forgive. Download our free resource on journaling here.