A few years back, I was deeply hurt by someone’s careless actions. I did not know the motivation behind what this person did. I was extremely upset. For months I carried the weight of my anger and bitterness towards her. I considered approaching her and discussing my feelings. I rehearsed in my mind over and over how I would approach the conversation. Over a year later, I had resigned myself to never having the conversation and decided I needed to just let it go. Forget about it. It’s over.
As I drove to work one morning, the song “Forgiveness” by Matthew West came on. I had heard it dozens of times before, but that particular morning I finally truly heard and internalized the lyrics:
It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you
I thought to myself how much this bitterness had been affecting me, and the person that had hurt me likely had no idea how much I had been affected by her actions. I was accomplishing nothing positive by holding onto my anger and resentment. That morning as I listened I cried out to God, extending forgiveness and seeking God’s forgiveness for allowing myself to be so angry for so long.
A passage from Ephesians speaks to the subject:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
After I was able to forgive this person in my heart, I then made it a point to be even more loving towards her. I still haven’t disclosed to her my feelings about her actions, nor do I intend to. I no longer feel that I deserve an apology or need one to move on.
In a March 2015 message, Crossroads pastor Brian Tome discussed different levels of forgivers, including those that practice conditional forgiveness. He discussed that a level 3 forgiver extends forgiveness without having any type of remorse shown to him by the person who wronged him.
Having extended this type of forgiveness to the person that hurt me years ago, I realized just how important is is to be a level 3 forgiver. None of us should need an apology – whether half-hearted or sincere – in order to forgive. I’m so glad I was able to get to a place where I could extend level 3 forgiveness. It reminds me of the forgiveness that Christ extends to me every day.
Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive? Take some time to consider how not forgiving has negatively affected you. Recognize your need to release whatever feelings you’re holding onto. Extend sincere forgiveness to that person and allow your heart to heal. Pray for that person. Do something kind for her or her loved ones. Finally, make it a point to never again allow the weight of not forgiving to bring you down.