We’ve all been there where we’ve done something wrong, and we seek forgiveness. I’m currently taking a class through my Church, and I learnt something tonight that has totally blown my mind, and I thought I’d share it with you. We’ve all been betrayed by people before, even by someone close to us, and it has forever changed the relationship. From a Christian perspective we’ve always been thought to “turn the other cheek” and to not seek “revenge”, but when someone has wronged you, how do you turn the other cheek. There’s a story in Matthew 18:21-35, it’s about a rich master who completely wipes out his servant’s rather large debt (maybe millions in our present time). After he was let go by the master, the servant then finds another servant who owes him a rather small debt (possibly hundreds or a few thousands in today’s currency), and has the second servant thrown in jail. This story is to symbolize that God has forgiven us for all our sins, therefore we should forgive others for their sins against us.
While there is still plenty of debate about how to forgive someone, and whether you’re to seek retribution, the Bible seems to give plenty of examples of what not to do. Here are a few things I’ve previously known that were reiterated tonight.
What is Forgiveness:
- To completely wipe someone’s debt away.
- Although you’ve forgiven someone once, you’ll have to actively remember not to seek vengeance. (I’ve always felt guilty that I want to see the person pay, and couldn’t understand why that feeling seems to come back at times, I used to think that meant I haven’t forgiven them)
- We can ask for forgiveness an unlimited about of time, there’s no number that God will say “Ok this is your last one.” (Some people, even many Christians find this hard to believe. I think this is because as humans there’s a point when we get fed up, but that trait doesn’t apply to God)
What Forgiveness is not:
- Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you’ll feel good about them again. Unlike God even though we’ve forgiven someone, our emotions are still tied to the memory of what they’ve done to us. (This is a bit of a drastic example, but in cases of abuse, how do you forget that you were abused)
- Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting.
- Forgiving doesn’t mean you’re ok with what they’ve done.
- When I forgive, I don’t repay the hurt I feel to punish them. (This is where I had my ah ha moment)
As I pointed out in the last one, not repaying a wrong with a like wrong, that’s the one that really resonated with me. I’ve had a false belief about this one for a long time now. I understand that if someone lies or steals from you, you don’t lie or steal from them. I also understand that their are consequences to people’s actions. My false belief was tied to the consequences, e.g if someone stole from you and caused you financial hardship, your consequence for them shouldn’t in turn cause some type of financial hardship for them. That would be an example of an eye for an eye, which according to the earlier passage, that is not a correct response. The consequence of stealing is possibly going to jail, instead of an action that benefits me. I’m not sure if I’m explaining this well, but it really got me thinking, if I’m to truly forgive someone, I can’t repay their bad behavior with my own bad behavior. Or better put I can’t gain an advantage or take any kind of retaliation. In other words Forgiving someone from a biblical perspective, takes an active choice on my part not to punish or seek punishment for someone who has wronged me.
What I learnt tonight has fundamentally changed how I look at forgiveness. This seems to take a great deal of mental strength not to repay a bad deed with another, I foresee that I will have to really actively work on changing this part of my view towards forgiveness. If there is anything I can say for sure it’s that many times when we learn lessons from life or the Universe, it’s because we’re going to have to practice that lesson soon. I am going to have to work really hard on this one, in one night I’ve completely shattered a view I’ve held for 30+ years.