How to Forgive Others

There are two main sources of pain and suffering; loss and offense.

Loss is unfortunately part of this world. The world is not in the condition God created it to exist in and it’s not yet what it will be. One day God will restore all things and we’ll transition into what we know of as Heaven. Until then, we will all suffer some kinds of loss. We do have God’s promise of peace and provision in the midst of loss but it will come.

The other source of pain is offense. Offense comes when we attach significance to other’s actions. Offense is a tool of the enemy to keep us isolated but we’re also pretty good and being offended without the enemy’s help. Offense rests within the heart like a splinter. It’s a nagging pain that installs a filter. When we’re offended we look through it as a lens to the world. It skews every relationship and circumstance once the offense takes root in our heart.

BUT, the offense only has power in your life to the degree you attach significance to it. Like a splinter, it’s irritating and painful and will not heal until you get it out. But when you get the splinter out, the area can heal.

Here’s the simple process to remove an offense and allow that area of the heart to heal:

  1. Acknowledge the incident or source of offense without judging the source

  2. Affirm your identity in Christ in that area

  3. Forgive the offender

  4. Pray for the offender

Acknowledge the Source

Acknowledge that you’re hurting as a result of the offense. Often times we pretend to be strong or unaffected but if we’d be honest, our feelings may be hurt or even worse, our identity may have been affected by the offense. Let’s called your offender John. You most likely don’t know why John did what he did. The truth is, it wouldn’t even matter if you did know, the offense remains. Your choice to make is to release John from your judgement. You don’t have to frame up an opinion about John and relate to him from that opinion. You don’t have to get others to see John through your offense. You don’t have to live in John’s head when you think about the offense. You can admit what he did but you can also make a decision to not be affected by his actions. You do that by not identifying with the offense, it’s not yours, it’s his issue, it’s between him and God.

Affirm Identity

After you acknowledge the offense and you’re willing to move away from its effects, acknowledge who you are in Christ. This is where knowing God’s promises are helpful. You may need to create a list of identity passages and/or promises in the area of the offense.

That may look something like this…

I am the righteousness of God in Christ, I am God’s child and he meets all my needs according to his character. I am protected and provided for in him. Because I am in Christ, all of his promises are available to me. I do not have to hold on to this pain because Jesus took all of my pain and offense on the cross. Jesus took all the effects of my sin and any sin toward me in himself on the cross. I choose to release the effects of sin toward me. Jesus, you became this and paid for it, I let it go.

Let It Go

Forgiveness is easy when you know you’re forgiven but it’s hard when you're focused on yourself. Forgiveness can be as easy as acknowledging the depth of sin God has forgiven you of. But if there’s pain from an offense, you may not be as willing to let go of the pain. Forgiveness simply means “to send away” or “let it go.”

Here’s what you do; remember that Jesus died for you when you didn’t deserve it and become aware that Jesus did the same for John. Ask yourself, “do I believe Jesus forgave John?” Honestly ask yourself this question and listen to your own heart for the answer. This is the hinge, the last step, see and feel John as forgiven by Jesus.

This does not mean what they did was ok, it doesn’t mean they’re getting away with it, it means that you’re seeing their sin the same way as yours, forgiven in Jesus. See it until you feel it. See it until you’re happy for John that he’s forgiven in Jesus.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
— Ephesians 4:32

Pray for John

John lied to me and stole from me but I don’t know why. John would have done that to anyone, it doesn’t have anything to do with me. I don’t have to make an assessment of the kind of person John is but I do acknowledge what John did. If I have the chance I will tell John and give him the opportunity to apologize. But whether or not he apologizes and makes it right, I am choosing to not let this define me, I am choosing to not respond in anger and bitterness, I am choosing to feel about myself what God feels about me.

When I think about this event, I will remind myself that Jesus took my offenses, he took the punishment for my sin AND the punishment for John’s sin. I am forgiven in Jesus and John is forgiven in Jesus. I choose to let go of this offense and I choose to release how I feel about John and what he did to me. I choose to let Jesus be John’s Lord.

From here forward, when I feel pain from this offense, I will feel forgiven by God AND I will send away the emotions of judgement and unforgiveness toward John.

I choose to pray for John. Father, I thank you that you love John, I know that you sent Jesus into this earth to doe for John and John is forgiven in you. Because you have forgiven John, I forgive John. I thank you that you are leading John into life and truth and he knows who he is in you. (continue prayer if so led)

This is not a magical formula, this is simply a method that helps you release the need to judge and punish John because you remind yourself that Jesus was judged and punished for John’s offense. Vengeance is of the Lord and he took out his vengeance for John’s sin on Jesus. The more you understand what Jesus did for you and John, the more you can let go of the pain.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is John’s sin worse than yours? The only answer is no.

  2. Did Jesus forgive you? Did Jesus forgive John?

  3. Who are you in Christ in the area of the offense/injustice?

Clint Byars

Believer, Husband, Father