A Few Measly Pennies

Forgiveness is sometimes a hard thing for me.

I have no difficulty whatsoever forgiving someone who asks me for forgiveness. They are obviously sorry and know that they hurt me if they ask for forgiveness, so it's easy for me to forgive them then.

But it's really hard for me to forgive someone who hurts me and never expresses the slightest bit of remorse about it.

In these situations, each time I think of the offense, I get more and more frustrated. After all, I was clearly right, and that other person (whoever they may be), was clearly wrong, and don't they see how they've hurt me?

This frustration just festers, like an infected sore on my heart. Then the bitterness takes root.

Once the bitterness starts, it spreads like a cancer. It seems to me that at this point it is not just my relationship with the offender that is hurt - my whole outlook suffers.

Little annoyances or inconveniences that I would normally brush off with a smile suddenly irritate me to no end. Every little rude remark from a stranger sets me off, and I find myself complaining about all the rude people in the world, without realizing that when I snapped back I became one of the rude people.

I become a complainer, because when all the little irritations build up, I've got to get my frustration out somehow.

My relationship with the Lord suffers, because when I try to pray, I either can't focus or I find myself complaining to the Lord about so-and-so (I don't think He appreciates that).

What I've described above sounds a bit extreme when I read it back to myself. You must realize that this doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen every day. It's just an ever-so-gradual shift in my way of thinking, and after several months in this downward spiral, I realize where I've fallen. I realize what a crabby person I've become. And I realize this is not who I want to be.

How does this all come about from one little offense that should have been no big deal? It all comes back to selfishness. I get absorbed in my own hurt, I feel a little self-righteous, I take things into my own hands and refuse to forgive because it makes me feel better - not realizing that this self-absorbed, self-righteous attitude will gradually extend to every other situation I find myself in.

Not realizing that in the end, it's a poison to me.

Not realizing that of course that Lord would want to deal with that poison in my system before He takes care of the situation.

Bottom line: I've yet to find a verse that says you only have to forgive someone if they apologize first. In fact, I can think of plenty of examples in the Bible where the offended party forgives the offender before they ever ask for forgiveness. They are some of the most beautiful stories in the Bible, and some of my personal favorites. The story of Esau and Jacob, the Prodigal son, and Jesus and Peter come to mind.

I think if I really realized the weight of all that I've been forgiven, I wouldn't have a problem forgiving someone else - even if they never apologize at all.

Instead I become like that despised servant who was forgiven so great a debt by his master, and then had a fellow servant thrown in jail over a few pennies (Matthew 18).

It pains me to even write that sentence, because I don't want to be like that. And when I come to a point when I realize that I have been like that, there is only one thing to do.

Let go of those silly pennies. Ask the Lord to forgive me (again) for allowing that bitterness to take root in my heart, for not extending the grace that has been extended to me, for being self-righteous and selfish. And then change my attitude toward those who hurt me, and toward those innocent bystanders who have felt my anger without doing anything to deserve it.

When will I learn this lesson for good? When will I not have to go through this over every little offense that is not accompanied by an apology? I feel ridiculous to still be struggling with something like this. I'm so glad the Lord forgives me - if only I could more readily extend that forgiveness to others, instead of taking so long to realize what is happening.

Unforgiveness is such a sneaky sin. It sneaks into your heart when you aren't paying attention, and you barely realize it's there until it has grown out of control. And then it's painful to cut it out, but once it's out, things begin to heal.

I confess my sin to the Lord, and He helps me root it out. I take steps to change my attitude. I offer a token of renewed friendship; I practiced giving grace to an innocent bystander.

Little by little, I get back on the right track.

It feels so trite to say it now, but it is so true. Refusing to forgive someone really hurts them much less than it hurts you.

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Jessica Elyse @ Memoirs of a Mommy said...

Praying for you Callie. This is definitely an area I have struggled with. I truly believe that we can forgive someone without them accepting that forgiveness. Forgiveness is an act we need to do in order to move beyond that darkness that festers in our heart. Our forgiveness may never be returned by them, but that's ok. You need to set your heart in the right place and move on.


LeAnna said...

Oh so true, sister. We can't afford not to forgive. It's so easy to see our sin as excusable, and forgivable and to accept God's forgiveness. But how can we accept it if we don't also give it? Our sin is no better than the sin of the person who hurt us.
Great post!

Lauren said...

OH this is so hard...I have often wondered when I will learn that my inability to forgive is really just hurting me and isn't affecting the offender at all! It's amazing how such a small thing can have such a huge impact on our outlook on life!

Heather @ Simple Wives said...

Oh, this is beautiful! "Let go of those silly pennies". So many pennies need to be tossed out in my life.

Joey and Joanne said...

I read your blog periodically. I do not think I have ever commented before but I just wanted to say thank you for your post. This spoke directly to my heart on what God is convicting me on right now. So hard to have the right biblical theology on forgiveness. We serve an amazing and patient God! Thank you for posting. 1 Timothy 1:15-16!

Katie said...

I appreciate so much your honest in this post. It really hits me hard and I know it is something that I also need work on! One of my Sunday School teachers used to say "Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

Christy F. said...

I haven't posted either. This is exactly what I have been struggling with with my sister-in-law. I feel that she is constantly attacking me and outright hurting me but I let it affect me. I get so anxious and filled with bitterness that it turns my stomach. I am the Christian and yet it is so so so hard for me to find the balance between protecting my emotions and facing the truth. Every time I see her it is a different experience. Now I need to face the fact that the truth comes down to my inability to forgive her. Thanks for this.

Jessica said...

What a great post. I love that last line, and it's so true! Obviously I can really relate to this post based on what I wrote on My Twenties Blog today. It's a hard lesson to learn, but life is so much better when we just let things go and forgive! I held onto my anger for way too long, and I think it almost became a foothold for Satan to infiltrate my life and my thoughts. But I'm so glad at least those situations that I wrote about have been resolved. I'm sure this is one of those lessons I'll have to learn multiple times in my life...but hopefully I'll handle things better next time!

hi-d said...

Great insight. You are spot on - it truly hurts us more when we hold on to that bitterness. I've been there too...more than I'd like to admit.

Heidi (hi-d)

Kayla Rae said...

I love this post, Callie. I am the same way. I have a hard time forgiving someone who never apologizes for what they did. I always make sure I apologize if I offended someone because it affects me so much when I don't get the same in return. But ultimately, forgiveness is for us, not for them. :)

HIS daughter said...

Wow. You have no idea how much I needed this so so much! I am just...wow in awe of the Lord's timing. I have been struggling with this so much! Thank you for sharing!!! Praying for you! And linking to this post on my facebook for sure! WOW! God is so amazing!

Dove of Snow said...

Absolutely true! And you may find this as amazing and "weird" as me, but I JUST READ Matthew 18 and that same parable jumped out at me! I read it yesterday! WOW Your post here ties into the one I wrote a little while back, you may like it, so please check it out -- "To Love . . . and Love Again" is the title. We were/are thinking along the same lines and yes, we have to choose to forgive over and over even when we have no hope of an apology from the offending party! It heals us. Forgiveness helps the one who forgives most of all. So true. -Rachel

Inspired said...

I have struggled with this myself. Thanks for sharing Callie. So appreciate you.

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