The Reason Christians Can Be Horrible at Forgiving

I had someone whom I refused to forgive for years. The odd thing was that I was sure I had forgiven them. I had prayed about the hurt they caused, told others I had let it go, and even made a point to build a relationship with them.

Even so,  although I didn’t realize it, I got a sense of identity from my status as their victim.  So I quietly held onto what they did to me.  As a result, I felt a low-grade sense of annoyance with the person when we talked.  I also found it easy to recall the various ways they had offended me over the years.  And I had a knack for bringing up the person’s flaws to other people.  But again, if you had asked, I would’ve said Jesus had forgiven me, and I had no right to withhold it from my offender.

In retrospect, it’s clear I wasn’t being real with myself.  I had legitimately gotten hurt, and rather than be honest with God about it, I refused to acknowledge it.  That is, instead of focusing on what was really going on inside, I focused on what a Christian was supposed to be like.

When well-meaning Christians say the right words and quote the right scriptures without dealing with their slow-boiling bitterness, their real feelings get buried under a facade.  And those real feelings don’t go away – they harden into an emotional plaque that suffocates the Holy Spirit’s work inside.

The next thing you know, they have an unpredictable, angry side or a weird insecure side – but they don’t understand it and don’t know how to deal with it, because they’ve spent years denying the source of it.  Shoot – while writing this, I realized there are a couple of slights I’ve been nursing for a while, but I didn’t recognize it as unforgiveness.

It’s time to get real with Jesus about the offenses of the past – time to tell Him what happened, how I felt about it then, and how I feel about it now.  Most importantly, it’s time to get real with Him about that bitter space I’ve reserved in my heart; to tell Him all about the toxic pleasure that comes with being the eternal victim.

The Word says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).  It’s time to let His Spirit loose inside our souls to free us from old burdens of unforgiveness that dishonor His sacrifice and poison our hearts.

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