Matthew 6 says:
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
...12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors....
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
If you turn on over to Matthew 18, it talks about the wicked servant who didn't have mercy on the person who owed him begged mercy from the own he owed. The one he owed threw him jail until he could make up what he owed. Jesus says this is how those who refuse to forgive will be treated.
Now, if you are like I can be, it's easy to make excuses on this one. I mean after all, do you have any idea what that person did? Do you have any idea what kind of trauma that caused? Do you have any idea what that did to me?
But notice, there are no outs on this. Jesus doesn't say we have to forgive unless...
My spouse cheated on me.
My parent beat me.
That person sexually molested me.
That woman gossiped about me and destroyed relationships with people I cared about.
That crappy driver cut me off.
My kid announced he/she is homosexual despite my teaching them it's a sin.
My neighbor's dog jumped the fence and killed our family pet.
(write your excuse here)
The truth is God could hit me with any of the above.
Jerri, you cheated on me. There were times you weren't faithful.
You devalued me in the way you acted, talked, and lived.
You used me for what you could get, not for who I am.
You have gossiped.
You have thoughtlessly risked others' hearts and "driven your life" horribly.
Do we really need to talk about your sins you've committed even when you know it is wrong?
Others' lives have been hurt by you. Their hearts have been broken because of you. You have destroyed, even if it were unintentional, things that were precious to them.
You really want to talk to me about your right to be mad...and your right to expect me to forgive you...even when you're wrong?
The question about forgiveness isn't whether we have a right to forgive or not, but how do we forgive no matter what?
Forgiving someone can be hard, and sometimes people do things you think you could never forget, but God would never ask you to do the impossible. He asks you to go as far as you can go, and then let Him work in you to do the rest. How does that look in real life?
Consciously decide to forgive the person that hurt you. I've prayed honest prayers like, "God, I agree with you that forgiveness is the right thing. I don't know how to do that, but I am choosing to be obedient. I confess I have held unforgiveness in my heart toward that person, but you say in your word if I confess my sins, you are faithful to forgive me and purify me from all unrighteousness.* I need you to forgive me and purify me.
Every time that person and their hurtful action comes to mind, consciously forgive them. "Lord, I'm thinking about this person and what they did again, and it hurts me. I want you to forgive me when I sin, so I am choosing to forgive them."
Heal and let it go. Very often we have a hard time forgiving someone because we are living in the consequences. There are certain consequences we can't do anything about, but we can choose to give the pain to Christ and let Him heal it. "Lord, I have no power over what that person does, but I refuse to let their action determine who I am or my relationship with you. Heal me so I can let this go."
Pray for that person. Don't just pray for that person to do what is best for you, like to fall off the planet or quit making life hard for you. Pray for that person to know Christ, not just in a historical sense, but in a spiritually real way, as Lord and Savior. And get rid of that judgmental attitude that says, "Oh, yeah, that person needs God because he/she is a flipping mess." Yes, other people are stuck in the wake of that person's life in this life, but that person is stuck with it not only in this life but in the one to come.
Quit seeing a person who doles out pain and see a soul in pain. Yep. I know. This is hard, but frankly, when you are all wrapped up in this person who is hell on wheels and wreaks havoc in your life and makes you miserable, I can look at you and see a faithless, whining, self-absorbed, not-looking-remotely-like-Jesus person. When you call, text, email, or post, I can sigh that deep, "God, I dread this person" sigh, or I can see someone in pain and pray, "Lord, may my words be yours, and may they bring healing to this hurting heart. Forgive me for judging. I know what it is to hurt. Give me compassion and forgive me for being condescending. Your heart and your words, Lord. Your heart and your words."
Ask God if there is anyone who haven't forgiven...and don't be defensive when He tells you who it is because it isn't always the "biggies". Sometimes it is small subtle things that stung, ways we feel betrayed by someone, things people didn't do.
Remember, forgiving doesn't mean forgetting. It means you aren't controlled by the memories--mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually.
And forgiveness doesn't mean God expects you to let them do it again. It just means you don't determine to make them pay for the rest of their lives because they did it before. Respond to their present behavior, not their past.
Forgiveness can be hard, especially when dealing with ongoing offenses, especially when the person never apologizes. Sometimes it can feel impossible. In our own strength, some things really are impossible to forgive. Some things I've done I think are impossible to forgive, but God is faithful to forgive me...and faithful to help me forgive others. Sometimes I just have to ask Him how.