Forgiveness has been on my mind lately. I have been faced with several situations where I have had to choose between being angry and hurt or forgive the person.
In the letter to the Colossians, Saint Paul says, “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13. NRSV)
It does not say that we should forgive or to forgive if we feel like it. No, it says we must forgive. It is a command. And for our own health and the health of others, we must forgive. Forgiveness is a healing force just like an antibiotic. It kills anger, hurt, and bitterness, things that can rot and destroy your soul and spirit.
Jesus makes it clear that there are consequences to not forgiving others: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15. NRSV)
If we choose to refuse forgiveness to those who hurt us, then our Heavenly Father will not forgive us. I, for one, need forgiveness as I am far from sin-free! So, I have to forgive others.
Many people say that we have to forgive and forget. I believe that we have to let go of the pain, anger, and bitterness when we forgive others. However, when the damaged caused by someone we trusted is so great, I believe that it is wholly appropriate to remember that a person damaged us. I believe Jesus addresses this when he says, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16. NRSV)
We are called to be wise and sometimes wisdom says that we do not need to put ourselves in situations where we know we will be hurt or damaged again by toxic people. Thus, we must forgive, but not necessarily forget.