For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14-15 (AMP)
I would first like to say, I know from experience that forgiveness is a process. Dependent upon the relationship to the offender and the depth of the hurt, forgiveness could very well look and feel like grief. For example, divorce is an offense that causes a deep wound and is sometimes compared to grieving the death of a loved one. Whatever the offense, we walk out our forgiveness by faith – one day at a time.
My desire is that we get a better understanding of how the enemy of our souls uses offenses to paralyze us, and that we understand that forgiveness is the weapon that we use to disarm him and move forward with our lives. So, how do we know if we have truly forgiven? We are going to look at a few examples of what forgiveness looks like and what forgiveness does not look like.
If we still feel the need to rehearse the offense in the ear of any and every person that will listen, we have not truly forgiven. What we are doing is looking to be heard and vindicated. We have not finished telling our “side” of the story, and we have not finished pointing out the wrongs of the offender. When we have truly forgiven, we simply do not feel the need to continue to tell the story because we have moved on.
Furthermore, when we can look at the offense and see the lesson in it instead of the pain it caused, we have truly forgiven. This goes hand-in-hand with looking at the situation honestly and owning our part in it. I know that we say that we were blindsided, but if we were really honest with ourselves, we can admit that there were some red flags about the offender and about ourselves that we ignored. Looking at the offense honestly helps us to identify our weaknesses and vulnerabilities; thus, we can make the necessary adjustments in our lives.
Another detector of forgiveness is when we are able to look at our offender without our faces twisting or our stomachs churning – meaning there is no negative emotional reaction. Oftentimes, when we are going through the process of forgiving an offender, we “say,” I forgive them or I have forgiven them, but if we are still feeling negatively in their presence or at the mention of their name, we need to reexamine if we have truly forgiven. Again, prayer is the best way to regulate our emotions, so that we can get on and stay on the path of forgiveness.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43-44 (NIV)
Next: Freedom & Favor From Forgiveness