When They Don't Deserve Forgiveness

When I was little, I was bullied--a lot--for being too fat, or too dark, or too tall. Those kids were relentless. Little did they know (or maybe they did) that I was a very sensitive and empathetic person, and I took those things to heart. All the way through high school and even into my adulthood, I would hear the things they said replay in my head. I had many self esteem issues, and that self-doubt remains even today. Do I think the bullies had the intention of wreaking havoc on my mental health for years to come? Absolutely not. They probably have not thought about it since or expected their words left any impact after they were said. I learned that in order to grow and start healing from the hurt they caused, I needed to forgive them, whether or not they apologized, whether or not I thought they deserved forgiveness. I found healing in forgiving, even when I needed to maintain boundaries and forgo reconciliation.

Fear Of Forgiving

There are many reasons why people might choose not to forgive. One is thinking that forgiving the wrongdoer means declaring that the wrongdoer’s behavior was acceptable. However, this is not the reasoning behind forgiveness. Forgiving a transgression still declares the transgression happened.  The reason to forgive is to let go of the pain that the transgression caused, so that the pain no longer controls you through feelings of bitterness and resentment. 

Forgiving doesn’t mean staying in or returning to an abusive, harmful, or dangerous situation. There’s no need for reconciliation with anyone that inflicts pain. Forgiveness helps us to move forward so that we don’t harbor negative feelings inside of us that start to fester and grow. When a person starts to hold a grudge, it not only affects them emotionally, but mentally and physically as well. That’s why it’s all the more important to forgive, and to forgive wholeheartedly. Forgiveness gives us so much freedom, and there should be no fear in living free!

Undeserving Forgiveness

Do we deserve forgiveness when we party too hard on Saturday night and miss church on Sunday morning because of it? Do we deserve forgiveness when we speak with words that would make a sailor blush? Do we deserve forgiveness for the many things we do (aware or unaware, day in and day out) that displeases God? No, we don’t, not even a little bit. But because of his grace and mercy, God forgives us, time after time, without hesitation, without an attitude, without holding a grudge. We should take God's grace to us into deep consideration the next time we are trying to figure out whether or not someone else deserves forgiveness.

Who deserves forgiveness? Those who make an honest mistake, or those who have hurt us intentionally? Those who apologize for hurting us, or those who don’t apologize at all? The honest answer is that none of us deserve forgiveness. Yet we are called to forgive one another as we have been forgiven.

Forgiveness Of Self

Sometimes the hardest person for us to forgive is ourselves. We have a habit of blaming ourselves and beating ourselves up for things we have done in the past. Some may think that is a way of being accountable, but there is a difference between taking responsibility for the actions we’ve done and torturing ourselves with unforgiveness. As mentioned earlier, to forgive yourself is not saying that your actions were acceptable, it is just recognizing that you were in a different mindset then, than you are now.  We are called to forgive as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32). It’s okay to forgive yourself as God has forgiven you.

Christ’s Unfailing Forgiveness

It can be pretty easy to hold grudges and point out why we feel like someone may not deserve forgiveness, but if we take a minute to think about all the times that Christ forgave us when we didn’t deserve it, we may change our minds. Scripture instructs us, 

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32). 

God wants us to forgive others as freely as he forgives us. If we are occupying our hearts with bitterness, resentment, anger, and malice, then there won’t be any room for God’s love, kindness, and compassion. God’s forgiveness is a gift freely given to us, and it is a gift that we should give to each other more and more.

About the author — Jalicia Maeweather

Jalicia (Juh-lee-suh) Maeweather is a life coach with a specialty in mental health. She is also the author of the book, The Uninvited Guests Of Grief. Jalicia enjoys writing, knitting, and spending time with friends and family.

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