“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Lewis B. Smedes
Un-forgiveness is a state of resentment, bitterness, hatred, hostility, anger, fear, and stress toward an individual who has caused harm, or done wrong to us or another.
Over the years, I have counseled with many people who struggle with depression, anxiety, marital problems, and other significant challenges. Often, I have witnessed that unforgiveness is a major factor in preventing emotional healing.
Do you find yourself in a condition where it is difficult or seemingly impossible to forgive? Whatever the situation that has triggered this, know that forgiveness sets you free to move on with your life. Unforgiveness is like holding on to a weight. The longer you try to carry it, the more overwhelming and exhausting it becomes. At the end of this journey of resentment, the burden we carry can bring our lives to an emotional or spiritual place of darkness.
The first step to achieving forgiveness, is to acknowledge the hurt and pain that has led to resentment, bitterness, or anger. Consider the 10 item inventory below, to assess if unforgiveness is a problem in your life. Simply answer yes to the following questions that apply to you:
- My life has been adversely impacted by someone who has had serious personal problems.
- I have had a willingness to work out interpersonal tensions, yet it has not borne fruit.
- The person who wronged me knew he or she was doing wrong, but persisted anyway.
- In spite of my attempts to be reasonable, I have been faced with stubbornness or repeated wrongs.
- I feel that my good nature was clearly taken advantage of.
- My sense of trust or loyalty ultimately worked to my disadvantage.
- My desire for a fair and pleasing relationship was not matched with similar commitment or enthusiasm.
- As I look back upon the wrong behavior of another person toward me, I realize it was propelled by selfish or controlling motives.
- The misdeeds of the other person toward me could have been altered but were not.
- I have felt as if I was being treated as an inferior person.
(Inventory excerpt from Carter & Minirth, 1997)
How many items applied to you? If you were able to say yes to five or more of the above statements, there is a possibility that you carry unresolved hurt or pain from a previous event.
In Matthew 18:21 -22, the disciple Peter asks Jesus, “… Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'” By saying seventy times seven, Jesus meant that we should forgive as many times as we have opportunity to do so.
Next week in part II of “Achieving Forgiveness,” we will discuss the biblical principle of forgiveness taught by Jesus. It is my hope that if you have a need to forgive someone in your life, it became apparent as you reflected upon the information above.
If you or someone you know struggles with unforgiveness, know that there is help available. It starts with the truth that we must strive to forgive whenever there is opportunity.
Carter, L., & Minirth, F. (1997). The choosing to forgive workbook. United States: Thomas Nelson