Last week, I talked about why forgiveness is essential in any type of relationship. Please check out that article for a little background on how I view forgiveness, so the rest of this article isn't super confusing for you.
Short summary: when people apologize to you, you have to tell them that you forgive them, otherwise your relationship will never be the same.
But this is a multi-step process. It starts with one person apologizing, continues with the second person forgiving the first, and finishes with the second person's vocalization of that forgiveness. What happens when the first person never apologizes?
What happens when the first person doesn't seem to be sorry at all?
What happens when the first person moves on with their life and very clearly doesn't care about how their actions affected you?
Last week I said that if you don't forgive someone, your "grudge or anger will sit inside of you and fester until it becomes a little bomb just waiting to explode. All of that toxicity will completely undermine your relationship with that person and it will fall apart, either peacefully or cataclysmically." This is still true, even if the person isn't sorry. You still have to forgive them, if only for your own sake. You don't need that toxicity building up inside of you.
In fact, you might never tell this person that you've forgiven them. Maybe this person hurt you a long time ago and they aren't even in your life anymore. Maybe whatever they did caused such a falling out that your relationship is over completely. In any case, you still have to forgive them in order to achieve inner peace.
This is so difficult. I know.
A little while ago, I had a little moment of clarity after I saw this tweet:
Learn to forgive. Don't hold on to unnecessary weight. Doesn't mean you have to be around that person, it just means it's not on you anymore
— Phillip Phillips (@Phillips) January 8, 2017
When I read this tweet, I realized that I have some anger toward certain people, and it has been sitting in my heart for quite some time. I think I was waiting for these people to show that they were sorry for what they'd done, but since it looks like that's not happening anytime soon, the anger and hurt was continuing to weigh me down.
So I realized that I have to forgive these people as soon as possible. Flush that negativity out of my being. Easier said than done, though.
I had a serious internal debate at this point. I hated the idea of forgiving people who I felt didn't do anything to deserve forgiveness (but that's a whole different debate). I didn't want to go through the part of forgiveness that requires swallowing my pride. I like my pride, thank you very much. I didn't want to spend my time purging my negative emotions when these people hadn't even taken the time to reflect on how their actions made me feel. It didn't feel fair somehow.
I'd be lying if I said I have it all figured out, that I've forgiven these individuals, and that I'm ready to move on. To tell you the truth, I'm not even close. I'm hurt and angry about the various things that these people have done to me. I am bitter and resentful, but at least I'm aware of it. I am working on it. I know I need to forgive, if only for my own mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.