Forgive – Regardless of Response

The longer you wait to forgive, the more likely you will be corrupted. There are as many shades of offense and forgiveness as there are stars in the heavens but one thing remains true – if you refuse to forgive, you will suffer.

Building on the thought, ‘waiting to forgive will likely corrupt you’. I discovered when I was disconnected that I had become very bitter with my wife. If you had asked me if I was bitter I would have denied it because the bitterness was buried so deep. I loved her and was committed to her so I didn’t think bitterness could live with love.

I was wrong. I discovered it after she left. I was working on changing the me that made her leave and ‘bam’, there it was. I realized it when I started reviewing the times I got angry with her. ‘What made me angry?’, was my question to myself. I learned that it was a thousand mostly tiny irritations that had built up in over twenty years of marriage. The irritations, oft repeated, burrowed their way down deep into my soul. They lived there.

The reason they were able to live there is that I didn’t want to be mad all the time so I pushed the irritations down. ‘I won’t react to these things that really irritate me, and that’s love’, was my thought. I was wrong. Ignoring irritations didn’t make them disappear. In fact, it made them powerful.

The way they manifested was that I exploded with anger over minor situations. I discovered what was happening. I was pushing down irritations every day, like compacting gunpowder. All it took was a tiny spark to explode. The spark was totally unrelated to the irritations. The explosion didn’t do anything to relieve the irritation. All it did was fire a hurtful bullet at her while amplifying the corruption in me.

If I had forgiven those tiny irritations I would have been free. She would have felt loved. Instead, I kept bringing them up and demanding she change. To use a religious term – that she ‘repent’ of the things that irritated me and do the things that didn’t irritate. When she didn’t, the irritations grew and I became increasingly rotten inside. I think it’s important to note that she had no intent to irritate me and was shocked when all that irritation boiled over.

During this time I came across a passage in the Bible that put its finger on my mistake. All the times I ever prayed, and my wife came to mind, should have set alarms off. I should have obeyed this instruction. Check it out from Mark 11:25.

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions. (NASB)

Take note of the instruction – whenever you stand praying, forgive. Is there any expectation there for the offending party to repent and ask for forgiveness? Nope. (This is not necessarily true in every circumstance. See Luke 17:3) The idea is that when you are praying and a person comes to mind who you haven’t forgiven – do it now. Failing to do so means that God will then choose to hold your sins against you.

I realize that not all of my readers are familiar with the Bible and Christian beliefs but I don’t want you to miss the truth here. I had to repent to God and ask His forgiveness for my sin against him when I discovered my unforgiving spirit. When I did this I was free. His forgiveness sort of opened me up and let all that poison spill out. I sensed that He had cleansed me. I knew His promise in the Bible is when we confess and repent of something that doesn’t please Him, He forgives. I also had to ask my wife to forgive me AND I had to forgive her of the things she had done to irritate me (without her asking). I did both and I felt free and clean. The bitterness, corruption, and anger that I had carried so long was gone.

What’s all this got to do with the title: Forgive, regardless of response? At the time I realized all this I had no right to expect my wife to respond in any way. I still thought if I asked, she should at least respond positively. She didn’t.

I probably reacted poorly to her negative response and pushed her farther away. If I had forgiven – regardless of her response – our story might have ended differently. Instead, I nursed expectations. I don’t remember, but I might have entertained the thought, ‘I’ll ask for forgiveness, and then she will, and everything will be great’ I anticipated she would respond in a certain way. When she didn’t, I was disappointed. I’ve since learned that having expectations of the person we’ve forgiven keeps us in bondage. Forgiveness is to be given freely – no strings attached.

When we forgive, truly forgive; which includes the determination to never hold the offense against the person ever again. We live free. The corruption of holding a grudge gets washed away. Forgiveness has to be given like a gift sent to a far country. We will not see the person open the gift. We don’t know if they will like it. We don’t know if it will ‘fit’ them. We hope for a good result but the response is not the reason we forgive. We forgive because it’s right to forgive – regardless of response. Regardless of healing. Regardless of affect. Regardless of ourselves.

Having forgiven in this way since this time, I can assure you the benefits are without number – even though unexpected.