“Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.”1 The first time I heard that Bible verse, my heart hurt, and I felt so ashamed. Why? Because I knew there were people I hadn’t forgiven. Yet I really wanted God to forgive me for the things that I had done that hurt someone else.
I didn’t want God to forgive me the way I forgave others, because I knew I hadn’t forgiven others! But I wanted God to forgive me, because He is merciful, because I really needed it, and because I was sorry for what I’d done. But I felt others weren’t sorry for what they’d done to me. So that wasn’t fair! Or so I thought.
Squirming in my seat, and in my heart, I told God in prayer that I didn’t feel that was fair. Then He spoke to my heart and said, It wasn’t fair what they did to Me either, referring to His death on the cross.
I’m so sorry about that, I replied. But You’re God and You can do the impossible. I’m just a weak woman who does stupid things sometimes.
Well, I made you in My image and likeness, didn’t I? So you have what it takes to do what you need to do. I know, because I gave it to you.
Oh … right. Well, then, You’ll have to be the One within me to forgive them, because I don’t feel strong enough. You’re my strength, Lord. So please help me to forgive them, by Your grace.
And He’s helped me every time since! Forgiveness isn’t easy, yet it is possible with His help.
I have discovered that forgiveness is an ongoing process, and in His love and mercy, God has given me a few tools to help make it easier along the way. Some of the tools are funny, some are profound, and some are just good sense—like looking at things a different way, perhaps the way God sees things.
One funny tool is a sense of humor. The Bible says, “A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing.”2 Just like the right medicine can help soothe our aches and pains, and speed up our healing from injuries or sickness, so a happy heart—a good sense of humor—can be very helpful to comfort and soothe our hearts and minds when others have hurt us, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
One time when I was working alongside some new coworkers, I just couldn’t seem to do things the way they liked. I was feeling angry at them and sorry for myself. Alone in prayer, I started to tell God, Well, if they don’t like me … Before I could finish my sentence, a still small voice said to my heart, I’ll eat their French fries! What?!
That made me laugh! Because out of the blue, it reminded me of an inside joke my late husband and I shared. Years ago, when he was first learning Spanish, he and some friends were having lunch together. As they were finishing, he said to someone in broken Spanish, “If you don’t like me, I’ll eat your French fries!” The friends were shocked! Then they laughed, because what he meant to say was, “If you don’t like them, I’ll eat your French fries.”
Anyway, that good laugh helped me lighten up, so I could forgive my new coworkers and stop taking myself so seriously.
Another tool is what I call “10 Things to Forgive.” It comes from this anecdote:
On her golden wedding anniversary, my grandmother revealed the secret of her long and happy marriage. “On my wedding day, I decided to choose ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,” she explained. A guest asked her to name some of the faults. “To tell the truth,” she replied, “I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself, ‘Lucky for him that’s one of the ten.’”3
Another helpful tool comes from a story attributed to Corrie ten Boom, where she explains forgiveness through an image of a large church bell. Concerning the difficult emotions that go along with the process of forgiveness—such as resentment, hurt feelings, reliving painful moments over and over, etc.—she says the process of forgiveness is like letting go of the rope that rings the church bell. We say we forgive and let it go, yet those bad feelings aren’t gone right away. After letting go of the rope, the church bell continues to ring for a time, yet increasingly slower and quieter, until eventually it stops altogether.
The full circle of forgiveness may take time to complete, yet it does eventually bring us peace of mind and rest of soul.
- Matthew 6:12 GNT
- Proverbs 17:22 AMP
- Roderick McFarlane, Reader’s Digest, December 1992