I am the first born of three and I've always, until I hit my 30s, had a hard time relating to other people. I have a whole slew of issues that should have made me even more dysfunctional than I am but by the grace of God I am alive, have healthy kids, a great job, a home, the most wonderful husband a woman could ask for and best of all--I know The Lord. But I have found more reasons than I care to admit to hold a grudge or carry bitterness over the years.
I had somehow adopted this idea that holding a grudge hurts that other person. I have often denied carrying any bitterness whatsoever about some of the wrongs done to me over the years. But He wouldn't let me lie to myself or to Him for that matter. Months ago, He kicked the dirt off of my bitterness, basically telling me that the bitterness has to go if I want to continue to have a relationship with Him.
That was a rude awakening for me. It was hard realizing that I carried those things for so long, much less letting go of them. No wonder I felt so heavy all those years. Frankly I never fully grasped forgiveness until this occurrence. I never really understood the aspects of forgiveness or even why I it behooved me to forgive. I suppose I had a pretty good grip on my bitterness, which kept me from wanting to hear the truth.
That being said, I am relatively young in my spiritual growth so if you're farther along and full of bitterness , I'm calling "bologna" on you because I do not believe He will allow you to carry on a fulfilling relationship with Him while you tight-fistedly clench to bitterness from things that were done to you. If you're a mature Christian, He's worked with you a time or two on forgiveness. None of us are exempt.
A few reasons to forgive are:
- He commands us to. Mark 11:25: And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
- He forgave and continues to forgive each of us. (Not one of us are worthy.) Col 3:13: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
- It's critical for our Christian growth.
- We're not meant to carry the burden of unforgiveness. Unforgiveness weighs us down and makes us useless. It causes us to hurt in ways we never thought possible and ruins relationships.
- Forgiveness brings peace to the forgiver.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15It was quite significant for me when I realized that it was hypocritical for me to ask Him for forgiviness, yet withhold it from someone who I felt had wronged me. Who am I to judge or weigh the sins? Some key aspects about forgiveness are:
- It's a choice. Choose to forgive despite your "feelings' .
- Pray for His help. We can set our minds to things all day long but forgiveness cannot be done fully apart from Him. Mark 2:7
- It is ongoing. We might have to forgive over and over as long as the issue comes up in our minds. We face battles in our minds daily and this is just one of them.
- It's not the same as trust or reconciliation. Just because you forgive doesn't mean you have to trust them, or ever want them in your life again. (This was key for me.)
- It doesn't require anything on their part. Don't wait on them to apologize. You'll carry the baggage of unforgiveness while waiting and it's just not worth what it does to you.
You can always spot bitter people a mile away because they wear it. Bitterness becomes their attitude and their clothing and their decisions. They have no ability to love others as He commanded. Most of all, they have no peace and no joy.
As Christians, we're commanded to be the light of the world, the salt of the Earth and to have a joy that others see and want. Why let a little thing like unforgiveness keep us from that joy? Other people's wrongs should simply be their issues. We have to be careful to not let their weaknesses and issues hold us back from growing spiritually.