How To Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt You Intentionally
Principles to remember when an offender does not seek forgiveness.
Forgiving someone who has hurt you is one of the enormous challenges that all men face in their journey. It is especially challenging when the offender cannot admit their wrong and initiate a process of forgiveness. Just recall a moment someone accused you of something that wasn't true, and recollect how it impacted your reputation, relationships, and maybe your livelihood. Sometimes in life, there is pain inflicted from these moments that result in long-term suffering that cannot be retracted. This is because some malicious intent produces consequences, which even when acknowledged, cannot be withdrawn and cause lingering pain. Many people experience events like these, and they are painful and can create deep bitterness especially when you know the offender deserves a measure of justice and not a hall pass of forgiveness.
So why forgive? Why forgive, when you feel it's not justified or invited?
Jesus answered [Peter], “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:22
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Some commands of Jesus go against the grain of perceived human justice, and this is one. Jesus' response to his student Peter, on the matter of forgiveness, goes against popular reasoning. For Christians, two truths drive our need to forgive. Truth one is that Jesus forgave you of all your flagrant sin, selfishness, actions, words, attitudes, and even all the evil intentions that others may not know. Truth two is that just as he was willing to forgive you, you are commanded to forgive others. Colossians 3:13 says, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Jesus was willing to die for those who were undeserving of his forgiveness. How much more do you need to be willing to forgive others. With this in mind here are two principles Jesus is encouraging in Matthew 18:22.
Principle One | Forgiveness is a repeated process.
I have often wondered why Jesus said we should forgive seventy times seven times. This, of course, is a hyperbole (or exaggeration), and he suggests this mathematical equation around some famous biblical numbers that convey eternal completeness. I think Jesus intends to draw your attention to the ongoing process of complete forgiveness and away from the boundaries for discontinuing your forgiveness. You've probably been in this moment of decision with some offender in your life. That one moment where you have to decide, do you continue to forgive or do you discontinue your forgiveness. Godly forgiveness requires a repeated choice (seventy times seven) of living in ongoing remission with another person. Jesus acknowledges that forgiveness is the method for doing this and it will be hard, costly, and will sometimes take longer than you think. Sometimes you will need to forgive repeatedly, not until they understand their injustice, but until the bitterness of your heart subsides and you can have a normalized connection with the person who has injured you. This subjects the soul to God and allows his Spirit to do its work in us.
Principle Two | Forgiveness is for you, not just the offender.
Fundamentally sometimes you will forgive more for yourself than for the offender. Here is a quote from my friend T.J. Addington's book When Life Comes Undone:
"The only way out of the bitterness, the hold that the pain has on our lives, and the anger we feel toward those who hurt us is to choose to forgive them. Not for their sake but for our own sake. I don't pretend it is easy, nor is it quick. But once we have made the decision and practice forgiveness, as the memories come back the hold of that pain lessons, and we are no longer hostage to those who hurt us."
I believe he is spot on. Forgiveness liberates you from the bondage that an offense has over your heart and releases you from a prison of bitterness. The fact remains that you don't have control over what people do or did to you. To control you will try the path of limiting your forgiveness, but you cannot control over what they did or gain control by choosing to limit your forgiveness. Unforgiveness only builds a prison around you. Forgiveness, on the other hand, breaks the bondage of the limits of their evil intentions and helps us to overcome the suffering and ongoing pain of these consequences.
Why not live in freedom, and not bondage today? Forgive and release not only them but yourself.
To control you will try the path of limiting your forgiveness, but you cannot control over what they did or gain control by choosing to limit your forgiveness.
Vince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 13 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.