4 Reasons Why We Struggle to Forgive … and What You Can Do About It

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How to forgive
Forgiving is hard, isn’t it? No, it isn’t. It’s impossible. Unless you know how.

 

How to Forgive, Lesson #1

 

Forgiving others One of the most fundamental, yet misunderstood, dynamics of following Christ is the process of forgiving those who wrong us. Forgiveness is often characterized as a difficult choice achieved by a heroic struggle of the will. I would like to suggest to you that this is misleading. Forgiveness is not difficult. Forgiveness is impossible. Yet we are commanded to forgive. That’s why we need the supernatural grace of God. This course will show you how to find that grace.

 

View the video on YouTube here

 

Some disclaimers:

  1. I don’t want to be cavalier about this. This is a very serious and difficult challenge for all of us. Some of us have been hurt profoundly, and I don’t want to minimize the hurt you have experienced in any way. At the same time, I don’t want to leave you where you are if I have something that can take you where you could be.
  2. Forgiving is NOT naturally easy for me.
  3. I don’t enjoy getting into situations where I need to forgive any more than you do.
  4. You may have been hurt much more severely than I have been. I want to acknowledge that. But I believe what I have to share can help with any level of hurt you have sustained.

 

Here are four reasons we struggle to forgive:

#1 We believe forgiving hurts us and helps those who hurt us

Peter then asked, “Master, how many times should I forgive a brother who hurts me? Seven times?”
Jesus answered, “No, instead seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21 DCR
Peter is speaking from the viewpoint that most of us share: forgiving someone benefits the offender but taxes the offended.
The truth is quite different. Forgiving an offense empowers the offended. It is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11). Forgiving frees us from the kind of bitterness that saps away our energy and turns our whole world a muddy gray.
Yes, forgiving benefits the offender, but only because it forces the offender to deal directly with God. No longer are you and I standing between God and the offender. Now God can deal with that person and use all of His ingenuity to turn that life around.

Myth: To forgive someone, we give that person power
Reality: Forgiving others demonstrates our own power
Most of us instinctively think that we will empower the offender by forgiving. The opposite is true. When we forgive, we empower ourselves, because the offense no longer drains us of the energy required to keep our anger alive. In fact, if the enemy can inspire us to hate our neighbor, then he has won. This is why we turn all the debts owed to us over to Jesus. Then we can bless and not curse. (Romans 12:14)

 

Forgiveness is not meant to diminish you.
Rather, it demonstrates how the actions of others can no longer diminish you

 

You can only forgive others from a position of strength
Those who have hurt you can probably never pay back the debt they owe you; they don’t have the ability.
So how are you going to handle that?
It really depends on your ability to sustain the loss. For example, Bill Gates can forgive a $100,000 debt much more easily than I can.

Why do we need things in our lives to be fair? It is our own inner poverty makes us unable to be okay when someone wrongs us. When God reveals to us the inner wealth that is ours as followers of Jesus Christ, our perspectives change.
Our anger says, “You created an injustice. I (or someone I love) was treated unfairly. You need to pay for me to be okay.”
Forgiveness says, “I’m okay and whole without any payment or penance from you. And I don’t require God to do anything to you for me to be okay.”

As our own inner wealth increases, we are able to extend grace to those who don’t deserve it because we don’t NEED anything from them.

Myth: Anger protects me
Reality: Unresolved anger destroys us

Consider the example of Jesus. During His arrest and crucifixion, He was by far the strongest person in the scene at any given time. When I read the story of His arrest and crucifixion, I marvel at how strong He was, how centered and whole He was through the entire process. When men arrived to arrest Him, He healed Malchus, the servant of the high priest. When He hung on the cross, He said, “Father forgive them; they know not what they do.”

 

#2 We believe we can forgive by trying really hard

Just choose to forgive, right?
No, it doesn’t work that way.

Most of us don’t have the right tools to forgive. Would you cut down a tree with a pair of pliers or a chainsaw? Most people don’t know the tools needed to forgive others.

True forgiveness is both impossible…and effortless. It requires the grace of God. And that isn’t just religious language; God really does need to show up for us to gain the ability to truly forgive.

Myth: Forgiveness takes place when we declare the offender forgiven.
Reality: The words “I forgive you” in themselves are not a magic incantation.
They do not automatically result in forgiveness. Forgiveness is sometimes thought of as an act of the will, summoning the willpower to say those words aloud. True forgiveness goes much deeper than that. When true forgiveness takes place, the anger isn’t buried; it’s gone. Forgiveness takes place when God removes the anger from our hearts.
We Christians know we’re supposed to forgive, but until I learned the secrets of forgiving other people, I “forgave” the same people for the same offenses over and over and over again, yet could never escape the anger and resentment I felt toward them. Sitting in a chair and saying, “I forgive you,” does not guarantee forgiveness at all.
Hint: If you need to try to maintain the forgiveness, then true forgiveness did not take place.

Myth: We need to try hard to forgive
Reality: We don’t have the ability to forgive—apart from Christ
If, somehow, stole $100,000 from me and you couldn’t pay—it would wipe me out to cancel the debt.
A man on death row was being interviewed. He said, “I can’t give back the life I took. Even when you execute me, my life cannot pay the debt I owe.”
In the same way, the evil done to us is so great that the perpetrators cannot afford to make restitution, and we cannot afford to forgive.
Yet we must forgive. What do we do?
We bring those debts to Jesus. Only Jesus can restore what was stolen from us. When we let go, He mends and heals what was broken and restores what was taken. Only He can take the hate from us and replace it with love. Christianity is impossible. That’s why we have a Savior.
In this course we’ll discuss HOW to get the grace you need to forgive. There are specific steps you can take, steps that most people don’t know about.

 

#3 We believe forgiving others invites abusers back into our lives

Myth: Forgiving an offender removes protective boundaries.
Reality: Forgiveness is not reconciliation.

  • Forgiving others does NOT turn you into a doormat
  • When you forgive an offense, you’re NOT giving the offender the right to abuse you again.
  • Forgiving others does NOT remove protective boundaries.
  • Forgiveness is NOT reconciliation.
  • Reconciliation is based on mutual trust.
  • The other person needs to change for you to be reconciled. The other person does not need to change for you to forgive.

 

#4 We believe forgiving others means we condone or minimize what they did wrong

Myth: If we forgive, we are condoning sin
Reality: Forgiveness is not about rationalizing or minimizing the offense.
Telling ourselves that “it wasn’t really that bad” or “he didn’t really mean to…” or “she was under a lot of pressure when she…” does not resolve the anger or result in forgiveness. The offense is what it is. Forgiveness is not the same as condoning someone’s behavior. Sin is sin. The Bible says, “Woe to those who call evil good.” (Isaiah 5:20) Forgiveness is not denial (“It didn’t really hurt.”) or minimizing (“I’m sure he had a good reason for raping me.”).

Forgiving someone doesn’t make the offense okay.
Forgiving others is not being “soft on sin.”
It doesn’t cancel the need to prosecute crimes. The government has a different role in God’s Kingdom than we do. The government’s role is to administer justice and to protect its citizens from danger and harm. Our role is to be children of God.

 

Questions

  1. Why is it necessary to forgive from a position of strength?
  2. Why is God’s grace necessary for us to forgive?
  3. What is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation?
  4. How is true forgiveness different than condoning evil?
  5. What techniques have you used to forgive others? How well have they worked for you?

 

What to expect in this course

4 Reasons Why We Struggle to Forgive … and What You Can Do About It (Lesson #1)
Jesus commands us to forgive. Medical science confirms forgiving others makes us healthier and stronger. But it is so hard to do. Especially when we believe these lies about what happens when we forgive.

Why forgiving others is one of the best things you can do for yourself (Lesson #2)
While it may seem like forgiving others diminishes you, the exact opposite is true. Here’s how forgiving others makes you stronger and healthier both emotionally and spiritually.

Why forgiving others does NOT open the door to abuse (Lesson #3)
Forgiving others does NOT turn you into a doormat. It does NOT invite or excuse abuse. Explore the important differences between forgiving and reconciliation.

Anger shows up as a friend, stays as an enemy (Lesson #4)
Yes, anger does have its place. But, like dynamite in the wrong hands, it can quickly become dangerous. In this lesson, we explore how and why anger is different than most negative emotions, and why it’s so important to know what to do with our anger.

Forgive with your eyes wide open: Why forgiveness has nothing to do with denial (Lesson #5)
“It wasn’t that bad.” “I’m not really that angry.” Sometimes what may sound pious and godly actually gets in the way of forgiving from our hearts.

Why blanket forgiveness seldom works (Lesson #6)
Can you forgive Uncle George in ten minutes if he abused you for ten years? Probably not. But here’s what you can do instead.

Understanding how your mind works reveals why we need to change our approach to forgiving others (Lesson #7)
The vast majority of people don’t understand this simple concept, but once it makes sense, then you can easily see why most approaches to forgiving others simply will not work. Thankfully, God has a much better alternative for us.

The key to moving forward is resolving the past (Lesson #8)
You can try to forget the past, but the past doesn’t forget you—until you deal with it.

The trade-up approach to forgiving others (Lesson #9)
This step-by-step approach puts together everything we’ve learned, and leverages the supernatural power of God to change our hearts.

The under-anger approach to forgiving others (Lesson #10)
Here’s an alternative approach that works better for some people or some situations. Again, we find a way to access God’s grace, so he can do the supernatural work in our lives that only He can do.

Questions? Stay with us; your questions will probably be answered. If not, there’s a link to our Facebook group in the last four lessons.


Is there a course fee? Here’s how this course works. You take the first six lessons for free. At that point you decide if this is bringing value to you. I’ll suggest a course fee at that point. You are free to pay more or less depending on your situation. If you’re truly destitute, pay nothing. It’s all okay. There’s no pressure. Nobody’s judging you. Nobody’s looking over your shoulder to see what you’re going to do. I don’t want money to prevent you from getting the benefit from this course.

 

NEXT: Why forgiving others is one of the best things you can do for yourself (Lesson #2)
While it may seem like forgiving others diminishes you, the exact opposite is true. Here’s how forgiving others makes you stronger and healthier both emotionally and spiritually.

Explore these related resources…

Spiritual Self Defense
My Spiritual Self Defense course will show you how to use the Christian faith to defend yourself from anxiety, anger, addiction, and all kinds of bullies.
I owe most of my understanding of forgiveness to the writings of Ed Smith. This is his latest book on the subject.
Understanding Your Christian Faith
New to Christianity? Rethinking your faith? Understanding Your Christian Faith will show you how to experience God in a deep and meaningful way.

 

Questions? Stay with us; your questions will probably be answered. If not, there’s a link to our Facebook group in the last four lessons.

 

Scriptures for further study

Forgiving others commanded or referenced
(From the Lord’s prayer) And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:12, 14-15 NIV)

 

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[a] [a] Greek everyone who is indebted to us (Luke 11:4a NIV)

 

Jesus said, “Contain quarrels. If a Christian does something to harm you, go to him privately and resolve the problem. He may listen, apologize and make it right. If that happens, you have a friend. But if he won’t listen, take along one or two others because these witnesses can bring clarity to the situation. If he still refuses to listen, then bring it up to the church. If he won’t listen to the church, then he’s made himself like an outsider, and you’ll need to treat him as such.

“Understand the truth: Your connection with Me gives you incredible power. When your purposes are aligned with Mine, you can open and close doors in the unseen spiritual world just as you do in your every day life. When two or three of you pray, desiring My name to be advanced, I’m standing right beside you.”

Peter then asked, “Master, how many times should I forgive a brother who hurts me? Seven times?”

Jesus answered, “No, instead seventy times seven.

“It’s like this: A king wanted to settle debts with people who owed him money. One of his subjects owed him well over $400 million (375 tons of silver or even gold). He couldn’t pay; so the king proposed liquidating the man’s estate and then selling him, his wife and his children as slaves. The debtor fell to the ground pleading, ‘Give me time. Give me time. I’ll find a way to pay it all back.’ The king had compassion on this man and decided to cancel the debt. Then the man who had his debt canceled found someone who owed him money, about four months wages. He grabbed him by the throat and said, ‘Where’s my money?’ The man fell to the ground and begged him, ‘Give me time. Please give me time and I’ll pay it all.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him thrown into debtors’ prison to be kept until the debt was paid. When the other subjects witnessed this, they went and told the king everything. The king had the man summoned. He said, ‘You evil man! I canceled your debt when you pleaded with me. Why didn’t you have compassion on the man who owed you money?’ Then the king handed the man over to be tortured in prison until every bit of his debt was paid. This is how My Father in heaven will treat you if you don’t forgive your fellow Christian from your heart.” Matthew 18:15-35 DCR

 

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (Mark 11:25 NIV)

 

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37 NIV)

 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)

 

Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 2 Corinthians 2:7-10 NIV (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 for context)

 

Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. (Luke 17:4 NIV)

 

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9 NLT

 

If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. (John 20:23 NIV)

 

Jesus’ example
Jesus healed one of the men who arrests Him
And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. (Luke 22:50-51 NIV) (See also Matthew 26:51-54, Mark 14:47, John 18:10-11)

 

Jesus forgave from the cross
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[a] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. [a] Some early manuscripts do not have this sentence. (Luke 23:34 NIV)

 

Anger
Sure, you will get angry. Everybody does. But don’t let your anger turn into sin. Release it to God before the day ends. (Ephesians 4:26 DCR)

 

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11 NIV)

 

[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV)

 

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20 NIV)

 

[Jesus said,] But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” (Matthew 5:22 NLT)

 

Sometimes God does NOT forgive
Sometimes prophets ask God NOT to forgive people. Examples: Isaiah 2:8-9, Jeremiah 18:23. And sometimes God chooses not to forgive. Examples: Hosea 1:6, Matthew 12:32

 

Yet God wants all to repent

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)

 

And our enemy is not human
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)

 

Blood atonement and forgiveness
This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28 NIV)

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22 NIV)


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