By Alan Bailey

To forgive – or not?


When someone does you a good turn, it leaves you feeling warm inside. But when you have been delivered a nasty blow, or a series of them, you are left feeling angry, hurt and vengeful. Especially if what happened was deliberate and caused by someone close – someone you would have preferred to love.

Now the question comes; to forgive or not? The answer to this will have a great deal to do with the future happiness, or lack of it, of both parties.

Rights and wrongs

Most of us would think first of all about the rights and wrongs at issue. "What was done to me was totally wrong and unjust, so why should I forgive?" It has long been a misunderstanding that forgiving means changing your mind and saying that what was wrong was really right. It is not that at all. Nor does it mean making excuses for bad behaviour.

Forgiving means letting go the grip one has on a past event. Not holding on to it and going over all its details again and again. It also involves facing our own part in what has become a bad relationship. We may need to admit having some negative input in the matter.

Why should I?

"But then," I can hear someone object saying, "The other party shows no sign of sorrow or of backing down, so why should I?" This is a stalemate and as such will remain if no effort is made to break it. The other person feels the same as you do and is making no approach for the same reasons.

If people who have hurt one another can sit together and speak honestly about their inner feelings, admitting guilt instead of laying blame, something can be achieved. If malice and desire for revenge can be put to one side and the cards laid on the table, surprising things may happen. Care for each other can replace ill-will. Each other's feelings can be respected in a new way and the door opened for future understanding of each other's needs. There should now be room for growth. So the bad experiences of life can be stepping stones to greater things.

This or bitterness

But while those in conflict are unavailable, unyielding and unforgiving, bitterness can build into a life-long legacy, chewing a person up inside, doing more damage perhaps than the original offence. If we would like another chapter, another start, would not they too? With God's help it can be done. In the process we may grasp the amazing fact that God offers us forgiveness, based on the sufferings of Jesus in our place.

We will realise how great is our offence against God and how amazing is His grace, His undeserved love. We read; "God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5, verse 8).

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