When we think about forgiving someone, do we consider it a one-time event? A once and done type of situation? If you personally see forgiveness that way, you’re not alone, most people forgive someone and move on as if the wrongdoing never occurred. However, forgiveness is far more than simply speaking the words “I forgive you” or “It’s alright”. Usually, forgiveness entails a previous understanding of what needs to be forgiven, and once the words of pardon are spoken, your mind doesn’t forget the incident. Unfortunately, that’s why previously “forgiven” incidents often pop up in arguments, because in the end everyone is human, and forgiveness is difficult to accomplish with just a few words. Forgiveness at its core is a commitment. It’s a commitment to God and the person who committed an offense. A commitment like that means we as friends, significant others, siblings, or anyone else must continue to forgive the person in the wrong, even when they repeat the same mistake in the future, don’t accept the offered forgiveness, or do anything to cause that forgiveness to turn cold.
Sadly, as much as we would love a couple words to solve issues, it’s just not the reality. That would be like me saying “I’m not going to worry anymore” and then magically my worries disappear. Wouldn’t that be nice? Instead, I must work to make my worries lessen and commit to not going back to my old ones. Similarly, we need to collectively decide that forgiveness is a commitment to not only God, ourselves, and the opposing person, but also a promise to not returning to previously forgiven issues. In addition to that, forgiveness needs constant work and touch-ups. When painting a piece of furniture, the paint chips and peels eventually so it needs work to keep it in top condition. Similarly, forgiveness needs to be revisited to make sure it's still meaningful and effective. Honestly, in the end, forgiveness is an ongoing process that we need to stop viewing as a singular event. Constantly forgiving those who do wrong, who have done wrong, and who might make the same mistake again in the future is vital. Without an enduring understanding that forgiveness cannot be summed up in words, but must be summed up in a consistent mindset, we fail to be the best people we can be for Christ.
In Matthew 18:22, when Peter asks how many times, he must forgive those who wrong him, Jesus says “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-times seven” (NIV). Of course, that verse can be interpreted in a lot of different ways, but I believe part of what The Lord is saying in that passage is that forgiveness truly is not a word or two; it’s a mindset. So next time we must forgive someone, instead of focusing on the words we’re speaking, maybe we should focus more on their meaning and what making sure those words stay true looks like. Committing to forgiveness, touching it up, and keeping it at its best is hard work, and yet its more than worth it to achieve not just a shallow understanding of exoneration, but an enduring awareness of the importance of fluent forgiveness.
- Matea Harwood
Matea Harwood (16) is on staff at TPS Chapel and is a Junior at TPS