Much has been written about forgiveness. It is scary and difficult, yet necessary and liberating if we are to be our healthy best. It seems very common and easy to hate, to resent, to withhold favor from another because of past wrongs, especially when some past wrongs feel “unforgivable.” We know that it is healthy to forgive, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Have you ever thought about hate, resentment, bitterness, or withholding favor being a heavy burden that YOU carry around? As you read these 4 ways that forgiveness is hard, I hope you will find encouragement to really forgive. Note: I get regular emails from Dr. Raymond Force who writes and counsels on relationships. Below are his words on this important topic.
There are a number of reasons as to why forgiveness is hard, especially when it comes to marriage. Here are five reasons that should help to shed a little more light on why we tend to struggle with forgiveness.
Forgiveness Defies Logic
Logic says that if you hurt me, then I am going to hurt you back. Or, if you have harmed me, then you will never have an opportunity to do that again.
Forgiveness, on the other hand, says if you hurt me, then I will love you. If you have harmed me, then I will take the risk of loving you again even though you may not love me back.
Forgiveness Goes Against Our Natural Bent
I am the father of seven children. Believe you me when I say that human beings must be taught to forgive those that have harmed them.
In Romans 3, Paul gives God’s description of mankind. It is not a pretty picture, and it accentuates the fact that peace-making is not something that comes natural for us.
In Romans 3:17, Paul, in reference to man, says, “And the way of peace have they not known:”. In short, he is stating that we do not naturally have very good conflict resolution skills. And, if you need proof of that, just sign your child up for Little League baseball. You will quickly see that what God said about us in Romans 3 is more than accurate.
Forgiveness Makes Us Feel As If We Are Appearing Weak To Others
Though forgiveness makes us feel like others are looking upon us as weak-minded, I believe the opposite is true. In fact, I have found that I always maintain a sense of influence and even power when I possess a spirit of forgiveness. I also find that people are quite mesmerized when they see a truly forgiving spirit, and they usually end up respecting the forgiver all the more.
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.“
I love the expression used in verse 20. Paul tells us that when we love those that despise us, we heap coals of fire upon their head. I have always taken that to mean that as we show love toward those that have harmed us, they will often feel a fire of shame and remorse burning within themselves. In my book, that’s not exhibiting weakness as much as procuring strength.
Forgiveness Requires Risk
When Jesus taught that we are to turn the other cheek in Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29, I believe he was teaching us that love requires risk. In other words, there is always a certain risk that we take when loving others in that, when we love, we put ourselves in a position to be disappointed, taken for granted, or rejected.
When others harm us, the temptation is to pull back so as to guard ourselves from any further pain or disappointment. Though protection is especially necessary in an abusive relationship (Matthew 7:6), in more normative situations, Christ commands us to react differently. According to His teachings, our duty is to turn the other cheek by loving someone even if it means that they could hurt us once more. This is always the difficult obstacle to overcome when contemplating forgiveness. So how can we forgive like that, and why should we? Stay tuned. We’ll address that in a separate article.