In my family some folks did not believe this. I’m not saying they were not Christians, but Christians don’t ever get it all totally right on this side of Heaven and unfortunately I saw first-hand how not working on this causes even more trouble for the forgivor than the forgivee. Oh, it is perfectly awful to be the person seeking forgiveness because nothing is ever settled. At any time the shadow of an earlier error could fall upon any current negotiation. Call me a liar and you have described my condition; correct my error and I am empowered to make a different choice. As I look back it must have been exhausting to keep a running record all the time, constantly expecting the worst of us all, and almost certainly of themselves.
I observed how this leads to a hierarchy of sin, if you will. There are the terrible sins of others and the white collar sins of my own. Of course, that is not in scripture anywhere I have found. It is instead a human rationalizing of my personal way of sinning so I can hide my genuine need for God under a bushel of other people’s shortcomings. I agree that murder and mayhem is horrid. But so is taking away dreams and stealing trust and telling the biggest lie of all…that God has favorites.
The most effective parenting for me was a concerned and loving parent spending time with me to explain where I went wrong, what alternatives might have been better and how concerned they were that I learn to avoid problems of my own making. They invested their time, energy and love in walking with me. Unfortunately, I was the child that had to learn all lessons for myself, at least twice. But still today their wise and kind counsel comes to mind when I have a challenge to address. And mostly I don’t remember those days when they were not on their best game which happens to us all. But the older I get the more I am convinced that Colossians 3:13 is dishing out solid advice when it says “bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you so you also must forgive.”
Now please don’t use this as an excuse to not deal with abusive or dangerous or illegal situations in your life. Don’t buy your abusive boyfriend or child a gun for their birthday. Don’t let people run money through your bank account. Don’t share private information with people who even might use it to abuse someone physically or financially. None of that is what we are talking about here.
This is about truly letting go of all the garbage attached to being wronged. You know, the fear it will happen again, the feeling stupid, the embarrassment, and even the self-righteous feeling of being better than someone else. We all deal with that, even if we don’t want to acknowledge it.
But God forgives, accepts, corrects, loves and restores us; that is an amazing, awe inspiring experience that teaches us, slowly and bit at a time how to share that with those who trample on our feelings or even cause us loss or pain. It is the beginning of a new paradigm: what is absolutely the most important thing for us? Too often it feels like the most important thing is to “get our own back” and protect ourselves and getting even. But all that takes energy better spent in freeing ourselves from all the garbage.