Forgiveness is one of the defining characteristics of Christianity, both that we can receive forgiveness and that we must of-fer it. Let’s dispel some misconceptions about forgiveness, to indicate why we NEED to offer forgiveness, and to indicate what we need to do to offer forgiveness.
First misconception. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean saying that what they did didn’t matter, it does mean saying it’s “al-right”, and it’s doesn’t mean making excuses for them. When the Lord Jesus hung on the Cross, as the Gospels record, He offered His forgiveness to His murderers. He didn’t ignore their crime: they’re were committing the greatest evil in human history: they were rejecting and killing God. Yet, He freely chose to forgive them.
Second misconception. Forgiveness is not a feeling, rather, it is a decision. I must choose, in my will, to forgive the person who has hurt me, long before my emotions have caught up with that. I may still feel anger, but forgiveness is a choice, not an emotion. I must CHOOSE to forgive.
Third misconception. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Sometimes I must forgive my brother or sister even though there is no realistic chance of us coming to harmony and talking to each other happily. Yet, my decision towards him or her ought to be one of forgiveness.
Fourth misconception. Forgiveness is rarely over in an instant, rather, it is often a long process involving many stages. Of-ten I must renew my decision to forgive daily. I must, repeatedly, look at the evil that has been done to me and at the person who has done it, and say, yet again, “I choose to forgive”. But why? If it’s so hard, WHY must I forgive? Well, most importantly, because Jesus commands it. He commands it so emphatically that He says we will not be forgiven ourselves unless we forgive others. ~ Fr. Paul Dobson