...IS NOT: telling someone you forgive them & then never talking to them again.
...IS NOT: telling someone you forgive them & then scowl at them when you see them.
...IS NOT: telling someone you forgive them & then turn the other direction when you see them coming.
...IS NOT: telling someone you forgive them & then when in conversation with them about things, you constantly bring up the past and their mistakes.
...IS NOT: telling someone you forgive them & then always looking for dirt on them.
...IS NOT: telling someone you forgive them & yet still harbor animosity toward them.
...IS NOT: feeling forced to have to say you forgive someone when you truly do not.
...IS NOT: pretending to be someone's friend or to pretend to love them (i.e. family/spouse/friend).
...IS NOT: telling someone you forgive them & then don't allow them room to change to show you they are not the same person.
...IS NOT: telling someone you forgive them, give them all your contact information, and then when they contact you -- completely avoid them, never returning a call or never answering the messages/phone.
...IS NOT filled with fear, doubt, rejection, animosity, and a closed-mind/heart.
Forgiveness is something that is freely given without expecting anything in return for it. It is freely given knowing that we, who forgive, are always in need of forgiveness because we too are not perfect. Though our imperfections from individual to individual may differ in quality and quantity, they exist. We know that although we may be forgiven, we are prone to falling or lapsing or stumbling through the refinement process.
People have become very self-preserving. There are so many hurts to fall prey to. The notion that any of us are an exception to the rule is a huge fallacy. We cannot protect ourselves or rise above becoming prey to hurt, hostility, bitterness, or offense. It is only Christ who can give us the strength, the patience, the love, the joy, the peace, the humility (meekness), the kindness, and the control (temperance) necessary to get through a situation that would NORMALLY cause hurt, frustration, hostility, bitterness, and/or offense. Christ alone. When we live and move and have our being in Christ, it is possible to walk through a fire unscathed and come out the other end full of love and mercy. Christ heals our hurts. By Jesus' stripes we are made whole. His blood, shed at the cross, for our sins has given us so much -- and among them is the forgiveness for our sins.
When we find ourselves in a position where we can become unforgiving, it is because someone has sinned against us. Someone has wronged us. This is what sin is: Wronging. We do wrong and it injures someone either physically, emotionally, or spiritually. When we sin against God we have done the same: We wronged Him. We took Him for granted and just expected Him to be big enough to "deal with it". We hurt other people because we are too self-absorbed. In our selfishness, we fail to see outside that "self" sphere to see how others are affected by our speech, our behavior, our actions, our conversations. We think that "this is who I am" and that people should just accept it or reject it... and if they reject it, we protect ourselves with the attitude of "whatever!" Then we scorn and ridicule those who reject us...which of course only causes them to disdain the scorn and ridicule: adding hurt upon hurt. It's truly a vicious cycle.
Jesus told his disciple that the number of times he was to forgive was seventy times seven. If we were to sit and count everytime we forgive someone, we could not keep track. There's no way, if you walk in the love of God, that you are going to keep track of the number of times you forgive others. Love keeps no record of wrongs. So basically, the disciple is being told, "It doesn't matter how many times you have to forgives someone -- JUST FORGIVE."
Forgiveness allows a relationship to re-develop. Not in the fashion it had formerly developed in -- but in a new fashion. The slate is clean. There is a brokenness (if there is genuine sorrow on the part of the one asking for forgiveness). That brokenness brings a cleansing. When forgiveness is given, it unlocks the prison door from both parties: the one asking forgiveness and the forgiver.
Holding unforgiveness keeps a person in an unseen self-made prison. The inability to forgive is physically bad for your health; spiritually bad for your relationships (with God & with others); and emotionally bad for your relationships, outlook on life, and attitude towards people. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness. Bitterness feeds hostility. It is worked all into a poison. That poison is spit out each time the tongue wags with venomous speech about life: places, people, and things. And when love is mentioned, that poison percolates with unrestrained passion making sure that all who are within earshot know just how much love is scorned in the heart of the poisoned person.
Love requires much forgiveness. If you are going to be a loving person in this world, then you had better expect to be hurt often and alot. Why? Because of the imperfections from individual to individual which vary in quality and quantity.
Forgiving is a healthy way of living. It brings so much freedom to the forgiver. It allows the things that are intended (or not intended) to be hurts to roll off the forgiver's back like water on a duck. "I forgive you." It means to not take things personally, knowing that it is only Christ who is good and perfect. Not people. It keeps prison doors open. It keeps relationships open. (Unless God, and ONLY God, closes those doors.) It keeps the bridges unburned so that the day when it becomes necessary to cross back over and say, "Hey, I was wrong. Can you forgive me?" Then it will be possible.
Forgiveness points others to Christ. It is only through Christ that we are able to forgive.
Thank you Lord Jesus.