Making Sense of the Attitude of Forgiveness

If I’m a student of grief, I’m also a student of conflict, and whilst understanding of grief leads to acceptance, understanding of conflict leads to forgiveness. This is the premise:

When you forgive you let go of what you cannot control.

Let me be frank. I’ve wandered two quite unique journeys of reconciling myself to peace, in making matters right in my own mind and heart, through forgiveness.

Incredibly I found complete peace when the most significant person in my world ended our relationship. Almost immediately I could see where I’d messed up in that relationship. I owned my contribution. Forgiveness was easy because I took the log out of my own eye.

But there is another path I’ve had to walk, where I felt abused, and there has been no effort from others involved to reconcile matters, despite our efforts. A completely different path for someone who has experienced the ease of letting go by letting God have His way. I can tell you that this ease of letting go was as real as could be, yet it was nothing about me being in my power – all God’s power, because that’s how God works – through our letting go.

So, with the experience of forgiving a betrayal about as deep as anyone could be betrayed, contrasted with experiences of not being free to let other situations go, I have prayed long and desperately to understand something more of the riches of God in the grace He gives and the grace He takes away.

Suddenly I’ve come to an understanding that in experiencing both kinds of hearts – soft and hard – God has shown me both the depths of His grace to enable us to let go and the extent of our sin to resist His movement of softening our hearts. I know both intimately. Both states of heart have been important experiences. I thank Him for both.

God has allowed both and has invited me to compare them in the light of His grace.

What He’s allowed me to see is compelling.

Until we’ve not been able to forgive, we’ve not come to the place where we’re desperate enough to give forgiveness another try. Until it’s been impossible to forgive someone who abused us or betrayed us, we don’t dig deeply enough into the mysteries of the heart’s rebellion in unforgiveness. We remain in self-protection mode. But we also remain locked out of the freedom Jesus seeks for us to have and knows we need. A freedom from the perpetrator, so they may no longer do us any harm.

In those difficult situations where letting go seems impossible, we’re given the opportunity to develop an attitude of forgiveness, acknowledging forgiveness is classically a two-way process requiring protagonists to give and receive forgiveness.

It helps in our developing this attitude of forgiveness when we acknowledge it makes logical sense to let go that which we cannot control. To let go of that over which we have no control. It makes no sense to continue to hold that which can only be bad and that which can never be good for us.

When you forgive you let go of what you cannot control.

While we prepare for ourselves a heart ready to forgive we have another opportunity: to prepare our hearts for what God is doing in the mix of what was a troubled relationship.

God brings us all to account. Even if we’ve experienced the worst kind of abuse and our offender is the worst kind of sociopath, we have equivalence in our relationship with God. The Lord calls us all to account. We must be ready for ours with a clear conscience for what that might entail. And pity them if they refuse their own readiness!

You have control over how God will judge you.

Sometimes God wants us to be tough on a person for their own good; it’s the loving thing. We can be tough in kind ways. We can be firm in gentle ways. We can hold our ground in ways that is inoffensive. We can prepare to meet the offender in the grace they withheld from us. We can rise above the standard of their sinfulness. We do not need to trust them if they’re not trustworthy. We can make things right.

When you forgive you do what God wants, by doing what is within your control.

When you act in grace, you forgive by action.

When you forgive you exhibit God’s power to love a person, not according to what they deserve, but according to the victorious holy standard of God.

For, in forgiving a person of their sin against Deity you let yourself off the hook of God’s judgment, while there they remain, standing in the Dock.

The only way they can make it right with God is if they make it right with you.

When you forgive you do what God wants, and you get out of His way and let Him do what He will do.

These kinds of things demonstrate an attitude of forgiveness acknowledging in faith that God catches up with every sinner this side of eternity or the other.