What does it say about unforgiveness in the Bible? The three-step process to forgiving someone, even if they aren’t sorry.
The First Sign Of Unforgiveness
You’re feeling it again. The voices around you sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Then comes the tightening in your chest… evidence of the volcano about to erupt – spewing its destruction over everyone within range.
You’ve had the conversation a thousand times before, but he’s done it again. The same thing he dismissed as “no big deal”, or worse – deflected to something you did.
You thought you had forgiven him!
Sister, it is so hard to forgive someone who doesn’t seem to want it and even more to forgive someone who just continues to dismiss the hurt it causes. It feels hopeless, I know.
And exhausting. That too. I can’t think of all the times I’ve said: “I forgive…”
Or even worse, all the times I know I’ve said, “I will never forgive…” Sure, I am a Christian. But I’m also human. And I can tend to let my emotions get the better of me. The thing I say most often? “Why should I forgive…? He isn’t even sorry!”
If you are a big-emotion-feeling woman like I am, you know what I mean.
What Does Forgiveness Mean?
The bitterness you cling so tightly to isn’t meant to be a security blanket. It’s meant to be a balloon. Fill it up and let it go. And it only comes with forgiveness. Why else would Jesus call for it? It’s in the Lord’s Prayer for crying out loud. It’s that important!
Recommended Post: The Model Prayer: What the Bible Says about How to Pray
The original Greek language used in the Lord’s prayer is ἀφίημι , which is aphiémi. According to Strong’s Concordance, it means “let go, release.”
There it is. Let. Go. I guess Elsa had it right. You remember that scene, don’t you? The once stuffy and trapped Queen Elsa decides to just “Let It Go,” lets down her hair, and creates an ice castle on top of a mountain. Basically, saying “Forget y’all. I’m done with you.”
Well, she had part of it right.
Saying “I forgive” isn’t enough. We must live it out. And we can choose to create an ice castle in the sky and say, “Forget y’all!”
But that isn’t what forgiveness is.
To forgive is to release. Be free. That’s where Elsa got it wrong. She didn’t really “Let it Go.” She just created her own prison. And just like Elsa, the prison that we place ourselves in will crumble around us.
The Physical Effects of Unforgiveness
Karen Swartz, M.D., the director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital discusses the physical effects of the chronic anger that comes with unforgiveness.
She says that the result of being “hurt and disappointed” takes a toll on our bodies. In fact, staying in a continual state of anger keeps our bodies in fight-or-flight mode, resulting in numerous changes to different bodily functions – like heart rate, blood pressure, and immune system. But forgiveness “calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”
It doesn’t just take a toll on our bodies. Unforgiveness takes a toll on our spirit – with eternal consequences.
What It All Boils Down To Is This
The Eternal Effects of Unforgiveness
Forgiving others is a requirement and a benefit, not a punishment.
In Ephesians 4:31 – 32, it states:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Just as we have been forgiven, we must also forgive. Matthew 6:14-15 (Just after the Lord’s prayer, by the way), Jesus tells us
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Do I have to actually forgive others? As in, the ones who don’t even care that they are hurting me (and my family). The ones who aren’t even sorry and will never apologize. It’s a requirement for being forgiven?
I’m terrible. I know.
Do you have that one person who it seems impossible to forgive? The one person who almost seems to get a crazy high from causing turmoil in your life?
Yep. Me, too. Hence the eye roll.
Learning to Forgive Is a Process
Forgiveness is not a one-and-done kind of thing. For you and me, sister, it is a continual progression. A proclamation. And many prayers. Asking God to allow me to see others the way He sees them and to break my heart for them as His heart breaks. My prayer is for my heart to be softened and learn to forgive. It’s so hard though.
We just don’t feel like doing it.
And I’ll be quite honest with you, sweet sister. I don’t do it because I want to or because I feel like it. I do it because I need to. And that’s why I created my Prayer for Forgiveness – Forgiving Others printable that I have printed and ready to go. Because we need a little help when we just aren’t feeling it, you know?
As we are forgiving others, we need to also place our hearts in a position of repentance. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19, NIV).
I love that last part though. “That times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
3 Steps to Forgiving Someone (Especially If They Aren’t Even Sorry… Jerks.)
Okay. So, that makes it sound so easy, doesn’t it? I chuckled as I typed that so feel free to laugh at the hilarity of it. But seriously. The act of forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice.
1. Place your heart in a position of repentance.
I know the word “repent” has such a negative connotation so let’s just put it this way. Feel so sorry about having an unforgiving heart that you want to actually get rid of it. It’s not the same as saying that you want to forgive the person who hurt you. It’s just saying that you set your heart in a place of not wanting to be an unforgiving jerk. (I aim that at myself as much as to you, sister.) Our unforgiveness keeps us separated from our loving, Heavenly Father. And repentance is necessary to bring us back in connection to Him.
Turn away from what you know to be wrong. That’s all! Easy, right? (I’m laughing, too). But we can do it!
Multiple times a day, if necessary. Make a proclamation of forgiveness. Yes, even for that one person who seems impossible to forgive. The one person who isn’t even sorry!
Pray that our Heavenly Father would show you His heart. Not just for you. But for the person you need to forgive.
Can I just be real with you here? I’ve struggled with this even while I was writing this post! I had this printable out because I was preparing it for YOU!
Turns out, I needed it for me, too.
I have prayed this prayer several times and it will need to be used plenty more, I’m sure. Praise God for making my heart tender every time I needed it.
And if you just can’t find the words because you’re so angry right now, go print it out for yourself. Keep it close during your quiet time and turn to it when that hard heart of unforgiveness tries to rear it’s ugly head. It’ll help you turn your focus to the One who really matters!