Sometimes when people talk about this—okay, often—I let it go. It flies through my head and right back out. I forgive people! I don’t hold grudges! But on closer inspection, that’s just not true. Just because I have the ability to be reasonably kind to someone who has “wronged” me, doesn’t mean that I’ve really let it go, that I’ve truly forgiven.
A conversation with a friend who was talking about trying to forgive her dad the other day made me take a second look at my unforgiveness. Does this word apply to me? Do I not let things go like I think I do? Have I not forgiven those who have hurt me in the past? I firmly believe that unforgiveness can take its toll on the body, just like anxiety (another control issue) can.
It's not only the big things (like someone stealing something or someone you trusted hurt you), it is also the small things (someone who stands you up, or someone who said something that hurt your feelings).
In Matthew 18: 22-35, Jesus tells Peter that he has to forgive to infinity and beyond. “No, dude, you can’t just forgive once, twice, three times. You must always forgive.” (My translation.) In fact, Jesus lays it on the line and reminds us all how serious it is. He tells the story of a servant who begged his king to forgive him and let his debt go. The king took pity on him. But THEN the king found out that the servant turned around and refused to show someone else mercy. So the King THOROUGHLY punished the servant. Jesus says, “This is how God will treat you if you don’t totally forgive from your heart.”
God commands us to forgive. But he also understands the cost and the pain that goes with it. But with forgiveness, comes the healing that you need to be whole.
I pray that I (and whoever is reading this) can let go of whatever I am still holding on to. I don't ever want unforgiveness to eat at me. I used to know a person that would say, “Don’t let those people live rent-free in your head.” Translation: "Don’t give those people permission to remain in your head and poison your mind, your thoughts, your health, and your walk with God."