How do you know if you've truly forgiven someone?
Any time I find myself in an antagonistic relationship with someone else, I eventually realize that I am only arguing my point of view... with myself. My mind runs through all kinds of self-justifying scenarios to prove I'm right, but all I'm really doing is increasing my stress and ruining my beauty sleep.
At some point I recognize the need to forgive, so I go through the motions. I do what I think constitutes forgiveness, but a few minutes later I wonder, If I just forgave them, why am I still arguing with myself in my mind?
Sound familiar? How many nights have you lain in bed arguing with "someone else" – really, your own conscience – about what's happened or how you should respond?
As you're arguing with yourself, those homely children of your unforgiveness develop scenarios and rehearse hypothetical responses. They position your heart to express itself in a way that honors resentment, retaliation, anger, and hate instead of forgiveness and grace.
The only way you'll really know if you've forgiven someone is when the children of unforgiveness have moved out of your mind. You'll know they are gone when your thoughts become reflexively respectful and honoring to yourself and to others.
It will take time, but if we consistently honor our divinely endowed ability to express the forgiveness we have received from God, we'll experience freedom from the bondage and the lies that unforgiveness spouts.
Is there someone you want an apology from? That apology may never come. But if you have a forgiving heart, you'll be able to survive and thrive in the face of pain.
Do you need to apologize to someone for something you've said or done? Do you need to apologize to yourself for what you've allowed yourself to believe or how you've mistreated others out of your own pain?
While Jesus was hanging on the cross, He said, "Father forgive them – they don't know what they're doing."
Think about that for a moment. Jesus was wrongly accused and had been crucified. Yet He chose to forgive His perpetrators. His radically loving heart lies at the heart of what lies at the heart of Christianity. Jesus lived His entire life in an attitude of continual forgiveness, and calls His followers to do the same: "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses" (Mark 11:26).
The real decision isn't who and when we forgive but whether we'll choose to be like Jesus by choosing to have a forgiving heart.
In reality, those who attempt to oppress and insult you simply reveal their own fear and weakness, expressing cowardice rather than courage. Your forgiveness reminds them of how they were intended to love and honor you and others.
Miles McPherson appears on LIFE TODAY this Thursday. This is an excerpt from The Third Option by Miles McPherson. Copyright ©2018 by Miles McPherson. Published by Howard Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Used by permission.