Road blocks to forgiveness

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"Why can't I forgive?" is a question on many people's minds. "I know that God wants me to, but I just can't find the strength to go through with it."

Forgiveness is not an easy task. I believe there are typically three main road blocks to forgiveness. The first is a lack of responsibility when it comes to owning up to our fallenness. If we are unable to see our own faults and mistakes, how can we possibly move toward forgiveness in our relationships? We must first be able to admit that we are not perfect and that we are capable of hurting our spouse.

Secondly, unresolved anger is a major hindrance to the healing power of forgiveness. If we refuse to let go of bitterness, rage, or hatred we are holding on to very destructive forces. These forces are in direct contrast to the power of forgiveness. The two forces cannot exist together. They are too different for there to be harmony between them.

Finally, many people have great misconceptions about what forgiveness is; and therefore struggle with forgiveness because they're on the wrong path. Delusions about forgiveness are dangerous because they are not the truth. The truth will always set us free, like forgiveness. But if we believe the lies about forgiveness then it is natural we would avoid it at all costs, especially in the light of real emotional pain.

What are the common erroneous beliefs about forgiveness? First, and most importantly, forgiveness is not forgetting. How many times have we heard someone say, "Forgive and forget!" This is next to impossible, barring serious brain injury of coarse. Luckily our brains are not wired to completely forget painful events in our past. Some people might think this was a cruel joke created by God, just to torment us for our sins. But amazingly it is God's blessing that allows us to remember saddening and hurtful experiences from our past. Kin Hubbard once wrote, "Nobody ever forgets where he buried a hatchet."

If we believe we can stuff away our hurts, we are only prolonging the inevitable. By stuffing our hurts deep down in our inner self we are simple waiting for the explosion to occur; like a volcano the intense heat and pressure from past hurts builds up, hoping for release, until it finally erupts. Watch out, these eruptions are extremely damaging to family and friends. The ashes or lava will cover everything in its path.

James 1:2-4 reads, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of you faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Trials and painful experiences are events that God can use in the maturation process of His people! Why would we want to forget?

In conclusion, William Meninger wrote (In "The Process of Forgiveness"):

Forgiveness, then, is not forgetting. It is not condoning or absolving. Neither is it pretending nor something done for the sake of the offender. It is not a thing we just do by a brutal act of the will. It does not entail a loss of identity, of special ness, or of face. It does not release the offenders from obligations they may or may not recognize. An understanding of these things will go a long way towards helping people enter into the forgiveness process.

2003 Smally Online. Used by permission.