Forgive – to stop feeling anger or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake.
Forgiveness is an issue that many people struggle with, not to mention Christians. We have a hard time getting over wrongs and slights. Some of us carry it around for years and we are very proud of the grudges we hold. We carry them around like a badge of honor. Not realizing that we are drinking poison and expecting someone else to die! Most times, we carry the badge alone.
You see, more times than we can count, the other person has moved on. We boast about cutting people off because of what they have done to us. We boast about who we don’t talk to, whose phone calls we ignore, those we wish bad fortune on. Yes, unforgiveness can run deep and get ugly.
For some of us, the disagreement is so old, we can’t even remember why we fell out with the person in the first place! I would even say that most of us miss the person we are angry with but our EGO wouldn’t allow us to make the first step. We feel as if we are giving in. We feel as if, once again, we have to be the bigger person and that is not fair. We feel hurt and we don’t know what to do with it. We have been betrayed by those who profess to love us and that cuts deep.
Betrayed by our best friend, over looked for a promotion, cheated on by a spouse, someone else has taken your place, hated on when you’ve gone above and beyond for someone, parents weren’t there for you, and someone you trusted threw your secrets back at you…..the list can go on and on. We can get to the place of unforgiveness from many roads.
Some of us have done some things and we have a hard time forgiving ourselves. We even have a hard time receiving forgiveness from others. We feel that somehow we are at someone’s mercy. You see, if you don’t give it well, you don’t receive it well. This works the same for love and a whole lot of other emotions, if we don’t give it well we don’t receive it well.
Love keeps no record of wrongs…
Some of us have learned to live with it and mask it well. We are waiting for that apology, which in all honesty, might NEVER come. They wronged you and they have never owned it and apologized. They have wronged you and now they live in another state or country and appear to be prospering. They wronged you and now they are dead and you are imprisoned by this hurt. What do you do? I pray to shed some words of light.
Late one night I was flipping through channels and I came across an older preacher by the name of RT. Kendall. He challenged everyone to see if they truly have forgiven by following some steps. He based it off of the story of Joseph which spanned from Genesis chapters 37-50. I just need to give a quick rundown of the story so we could understand the steps….
If you remember, Joseph had eleven brothers. He had a dream that he was going to be great and his family was going to bow down to him. He was the favorite of his father and his father had made him a coat of many colors. His brothers were jealous of him and one day decided that they were going to kill him. His oldest brother persuaded them not to kill him, so they threw him into a pit and subsequently sold him into Egyptian slavery. They then took his coat, tore it up, killed an animal, and spilled its blood on the coat. They then went to their father, Jacob, presented the coat to him and told him Joseph was dead.
Meanwhile Joseph ended up serving in Potiphar’s house in Egypt. His talents made room for him and he held on to the dream that God had shown him. He was accused of rape, thrown in prison unjustly, and forgotten about. But he ended up interpreting dreams and coming out of prison to be second in command to Pharaoh. Pharaoh had a dream and Joseph interpreted the dream. He told Pharaoh that a seven year famine was coming over all the land and they needed to harvest the crops, build store houses and store up the crops so that when the famine hit they would have enough.
Now Joseph’s brothers were in Canaan and they were struck by the famine as well. When their father heard that there was food in Egypt, he sent his sons to get food. However, Joseph recognized his brothers and wept when he saw them. He ended up disclosing himself to them, providing for them, and moving all of them and their father to live with him in Egypt. They escaped the famine because Joseph was in place…
This is one of my favorite stories, because it is such a powerful example to us on so many levels…..let’s look at the steps. Funnel your own situation through these steps to see if you truly one who forgives….
Step 1 ~ Don’t tell anyone what they did.
Most times as soon as someone hurts us we get on the phone and tell everybody what they did. We are justified, we want them to be the villain and we don’t want anyone else to like them. We say we left it up to God because ‘vengeance is mine says the Lord’. Yes we know what the Word of God says and we say it, but telling is our way of getting revenge on the side. It feels good to tell it…..to let everyone know how wrong the other person was. How would we like it if God told EVERYTHING that we have done! Now it is okay to tell someone for therapeutic reasons, but that must be someone you trust and someone who wouldn’t tell it to anyone else.
Joseph never told what his brothers did to him. When he finally met his brothers, he knew who they were before they knew who he was, and he sent everyone out of the room so he could greet them.
Step 2 ~ Don’t let them be afraid of you.
When we don’t forgive, we want the other person to be a little afraid of what our next action would be. We want to stay a little mad so that they can remember why we’re mad and as a result remember what they did. This is very manipulative and we really need to check that.
Joseph could have had his brothers killed and rightly so. But he didn’t remind them of this and even when he sent the other Egyptians out of the room, this was significant because if they found out what his brothers had done to him, they probably would have wanted them killed.
Step 3 ~ Don’t even let them feel guilty.
We love to rub it in. We let them know every chance we get, that it’s their fault we’re in this situation. If they didn’t do what they did, we wouldn’t be here. It sounds like this “If you didn’t do X, Y and Z, I wouldn’t be acting like this”.
Obviously Joseph didn’t do this. He remained focus on God and he realized that God turned it all around and caused him to be in place for the famine. Let me say this. This is an area of significant struggle especially when there is infidelity in a marriage or in relationships. It’s hard to see that any good can come out of someone cheating on you and having an affair. It is hard. But God is the one who restores the trust. You are His and this is His fight. This is what caused Joseph to be so focused. He held on to his God.
Step 4 ~ Let them save face (protect their ego)
Don’t make them relive it. Allow the other person to wipe the slate clean and not have to deal with telling a bunch of other people.
Joseph never told their father what his brothers had done. He told his brothers to go and tell their father that he was alive. He didn’t make them tell Jacob what they had done years ago. You know how we love to bring up what people did, years after. And we even tell it to people who would have no other way of knowing. This often taints the way people look at that individual and we never allow them to have a clean slate. Once again these are underhand ways to get revenge.
Step 5 ~ Protect them from their darkest secret.
Most times people already feel bad for what they did. Allow them to see that somehow this will work out for the good.
Joseph took the blame off of his brothers. He told them that God sent him to Egypt. If God hadn’t sent him, then no one would have been able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream so that they could have stored up food for the famine. So they thing that they meant for evil, God turned it around to be good for all of them. Even though the brothers knew what they did, Joseph tried to ease them from the burden.
Step 6 ~ Accept this as a life sentence.
We might forgive right now, but we have to understand that this is for life. Three months from now or two years from now, the enemy will bring that thing up in your mind and you will have to forgive all over again. Thoughts of distrust and unease will arise and anger will come up but forgiveness is a life sentence and it has to be applied forever. This is a big one because when things are good we are good, but when things are tight or uncomfortable we tend to bring it back up and blame the other person for the way we feel. It is a life sentence. Every time the memory comes up, we have to forgive!!
Thirteen years after Joseph meets his brothers and his father again, his father dies. His brothers thought that now dad was dead, Joseph was going to retaliate. But Joseph had forgiven them and nothing could change that.
Step 7 ~ Bless them.
If we can’t do this, we haven’t forgiven. In spite of what someone has done to us, can we pray and ask God to bless them? I mean a sincere prayer for God to bless them for real. Or do we feel better when we see them struggle? A lot of times we want to see God punish them, not bless them.
Joseph asked God to bless his brothers.
When I first heard these steps, I knew immediately that I was guilty of Step 1. I had to work on that. Step 1 makes our egos feel better. Which step is yours?
I heard TD Jakes say that unforgiveness is not natural. Animals don’t fall out with each other, children are not unforgiving. Unforgivenss is a learned behavior, if you can learn it you can unlearn it. Sometimes we think that holding on to things is for our protection, but unforgiveness does not protect us from future hurts. It really limits us from future opportunities. It is a hindrance and sometimes God doesn’t release things to us because we can’t release and let go of what hinders us. God will restore the trust. The best thing he said was ” We use energy that can be used to light up our destiny to light up our history”. Well said.
Let it go, I know that this is easier said that done, but the Lord’s Prayer said ‘forgive me as I forgive those who do wrong against me’. Forgive me AS I forgive. We have to forgive to be forgiven. Think about all the things we have done against God and all the things we need forgiveness for. Let’s ask God to help us in this area. This is for you. This has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you. It is truly the gift you give yourself.
Quick Prayer ~ Lord, please heal my hurt and pain. Remove the anger and resentment and replace it with Your peace and love. In Jesus name, Amen.