Key #4 to Happiness – Forgiving Others
A man was walking with his best friend, someone he had known for a very long time. As they walked, they began to argue about some trivial issue. As they argued, they began to be very angry at one another. The more they argued, the angrier they became. They got so angry at each other that the man lost his temper and shoved his friend away from him. His friend stumbled and fell upon a board, which had a loose, rusty nail sticking up from it. The nail pierced the man’s friend in the back.
The man, immediately sorry for what he had done, picked his friend up and took him home to wash his wound and remove the rusty nail. “I’m so sorry,” he kept saying. “I don’t know what cam over me. Please forgive me!”
“That’s your problem,” his friend said. “You’ve always had a bad temper. I’m going to teach you a lesson. I’m going to leave this rusty nail in my back so that every time you see it you will remember what your bad temper did you me.” Even when the rust nail eventually began to infect the wound in the friend’s back, the friend refused to remove it and continued to remind the man of what he had done and how wrong her was, right up until the day that the infection from the nail finally killed him.
It is so easy to look at this story and say, “How foolish! No one should keep a wound open in their body just so they can hold it over the person who caused it! If that was me, I’d want to get healed as soon as I could!” But hear this, Child of God; every day, in relationships all over the world, people are doing just that to their own spirits, and the rusty nail that pierces them and drains their happiness away is called UNFORGIVENESS.
The Danger of Unforgiveness.
In order to see unforgiveness in it’s proper light, it is first necessary to understand what it means to forgive. In the Greek, the word forgive means: to free fully, relieve, release, dismiss, let die, pardon, divorce, let go, loose, put away, and to set at liberty. The Bible makes it very clear that we as followers of Christ are expected to forgive the wrongs that others may do to us: “And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have ought against any.” (Mark 11:25)
Beyond question, then, the Bible expects us to let go of the hard feelings held against someone who has done us wrong, no matter who, why, how, or what. Walking in forgiveness with others is one the believer’s primary keys to finding their happiness in life. When we do not let go of the wrong that has been done against us, but instead hold on to it, then we are walking in unforgiveness.
“So we walk in a little unforgiveness,” someone might say. “It’s only natural; besides, it’s the only way we can protect ourselves from being used and hurt.” Oh, saints, how little we actually know about the function of our own hearts! And how devious is our enemy, who deceives us into hurting others and ourselves in a hundred little ways! How many saints do you know who pride themselves on how they avoid adultery, fornication, murder and idolatry, only to fall prey to unforgiveness, bitterness and lovelessness? How many relationships, friendships and marriages have crumbled and fallen because of unforgiveness? There are too many to count! Out of the many things that damage relationships and spiritual growth, it’s usually the small, seemingly minor attitudes that silently eat away at the foundations until it is too late. “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes” (Song of Solomon 2:15). The “little foxes” of unforgiveness will always spoil the tender fruit of our relationships!
When unforgiveness enters our hearts, it erodes our ability to love, bond and trust, making us cold, bitter and hard. It kills our ability to develop relationships and fellowship with others – even with the Lord God Himself! “But when ye do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26). Many people hold unforgiveness in their hearts in an effort to hurt the one who first hurt them, not realizing that they are the ones who suffer the most! It is near impossible to find happiness in life when you are holding on to forgiveness.
The Importance of Forgiving.
If you ask most saints what are some of the most important spiritual elements in their life, most will tell you about tongues, spiritual gifts, prophecy, and the Word of God. Very few will include love and forgiveness on their list. But what does the Word of God teach us? How does God want the unsaved to respond to spiritual gifts and prophecy? Beloved, all of these wonderful abilities are intended to draw unsaved souls to God that they might receive one thing: FORGIVENESS of their sins through Jesus Christ!
“Be it known unto you therefore, man and brethren, that through [Jesus] is preached unto you forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things.” (Acts 13:38-39)
Saints, forgiveness is not just a side issue in the Christian faith; it is the very center of the gospel message. Jesus was made flesh and blood for this very reason – to break down the wall of separation between man and God, that mankind might be saved from the righteous judgment of God and be forgiven of their sinful acts and delivered from their sinful nature so that they might enjoy intimate fellowship with God!
But if we want to continue receiving forgiveness of sins throughout our life (for truly we will need it!), then God requires one thing of us all – that we completely forgive others like He constantly and completely forgives us.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32, NIV).
The Impact of Unforgiveness.
Despite the clear instructions of scripture, friendships, families, marriages, ministries, and lives are being broken up at a frightening rate. People are turning to divorce, crime drugs, violence and gangs, trying to stop their personal pain and find their life’s happiness. We are seeing Jesus’ prophecy come true: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matt. 24:12, NIV).
Why is this happening? Counselors and psychiatrists have discovered a common thread – unforgiveness and bitter hearts! Sons and daughters are bitter against absent fathers or negligent mothers; wives are bitter against absent or abusive husbands; fathers are bitter against their own abusive fathers, turning their rage against their own families; women are bitter against men, and children are bitter against their parents. Everyone is holding unforgiveness against those who have hurt them, and the resulting bitterness of heart is eating them up inside. We are seeing a whole generation of bitter, angry, hard-hearted people boiling over with silent rage and unforgiveness!
The worst part about it is Satan is having a field day! Why? Because whenever unforgiveness and bitterness enter our hearts, Satan has a legal right to build a stronghold there!
“If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven – if there was anything to forgive – I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (i.e., methods, devices, and plans)”
(2 Corinthians 2:10-11, NIV).
Paul is saying here that if there exists any occasion where forgiveness is needed in the church, he wants to forgive along with everyone else, for he knows how Satan operates. He knew that every unforgiven offense was an opportunity for Satan to bring the bondage of bitterness, anger, criticalness, strife, and hard heartedness to the offended party. These things would open the door for other tormenting spirits as well! You see, it’s not just about relationships, but about your spiritual and natural health as well. When you do not forgive, your prayers go unanswered, your love grows cold, your natural resistance decreases, your joy and happiness are drained away, your spirit becomes darkened, and every sin you commit goes unforgiven by God until you forgive! Now tell me, is it really worth it?
Five Reasons Why A Person Won’t Forgive.
Someone may say, “But it’s so hard to forgive! You don’t know what they did to me! I just can’t seem to let it go, even though I know I have to!” If this is you, Beloved, then you need to examine yourself closely as to why you as a believer would keep this deadly emotional poison flowing through your system. Here are five reasons why most people will not forgive:
1) They don’t value the relationship. Many people simply refuse to forgive an offender because they no longer value the relationship that they have with them. They are more willing to discard the relationship than to make the effort to restore the relationship. This is due to a lack of love, for without the love of God within us, we cannot see the value that God places in every person on earth! Can you imagine what would happen if God treated us the same way?
2) They are afraid to forgive for fear of being put in a position of weakness and vulnerability with another person. This is the most common reason among those who have been hurt before. They use unforgiveness as a shield to keep distance between themselves and those who have hurt them. They feel safer hiding behind the bitterness and anger rather than letting it go and giving the person another chance, as the Bible instructs them to. The sad part is, they are keeping God out as well, and letting Satan in! Saints, remember this: true, godly love always takes risks, and there is no hurt in this world that God cannot heal!
3) They won’t forgive because pride keeps them from truly seeing themselves in God. Many people will exalt themselves in their own eyes until they treat every offense against them as if it were against God Himself! They see the offender as “unworthy” of their forgiveness or love, not realizing that they themselves are no better than the offender in God’s eyes as long as they hold that grudge. They fail to realize that if Jesus could forgive the sins committed against him during his earthly life and still love his offenders, who are we not to? We must learn to let God be the righteous judge of every sin and get out of His way!
4) They can’t forgive because they are focusing on the wrong image in their minds. Many saints hinder their ability to forgive by constantly thinking on the wrong thing: instead of focusing on the Word of God, the example of Jesus, and guarding themselves against the deception of the enemy, they will focus on the offender, the offense, the words spoken, and the pain experienced. They will rehearse it over and over in their minds, keeping the memories fresh and the wounds sore. Beloved, please listen: as long as you keep talking about it, thinking about it, and hearing about it, you’ll keep hurting over it. Part of forgiving is separating yourself and your pain from the memories of the event – you must put the past behind you, embracing the memory while releasing the pain!
5) They won’t forgive because they don’t understand the damage it does to their hearts. Most everyone who willingly holds onto a grudge does not realize the damage they are doing to themselves. Unforgiveness always leads to bitterness, and bitterness always leads to a hardened heart, one that cannot love or trust anyone. It affects our ability as parents, spouses, and friends. Everyone can tell bitter people; they’re the ones who have become abusive, hard, quick-tempered, stubborn, unfriendly, and cold. The offense may be years gone and long forgotten by the other party, but the impact remains long after the fact. Saints, we must understand this: the only person unforgiveness hurts is the unforgiver!
The Power of Love.
The Battle against unforgiveness is being lost by someone, somewhere, every day. Today it’s like a contagious disease, spreading from marriage to marriage and family to family, leaving behind divorces, broken families, bitter hearts, and painful memories. How can we stop it? The answer is so simple yet so deep that we often overlook it – we must learn to LOVE! Not the warm, fuzzy, teary-eyed lip service love that you see on television of get in many fellowships. But that selfless, aga`pe love of Jesus, the self-sacrificing love that led Him to give His life for us while we were still his enemies, the love that could accept rejection, lashes, beatings, spitting, nails, and a criminal’s cross and still say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Beloved, this is where the real battle for your spiritual life and happiness begins; not over doctrines, denominations, Bible versions, or spiritual gifts, but over who will love and who will hate, who will forgive and who will grow bitter! Oh saints, where are those who can turn the other cheek, who can love their enemies, who can bless those that curse them or spitefully use them? Where are those who can truly, honestly forgive? This is what the world needs to see, hear and experience! This is TRUE spiritual growth and a primary key to finding happiness! This is the nature of the true child of God, one who, like a rose, can take the crushing of this world and still give off the pleasing fragrance of love and forgiveness. This, beloved saints, is the mark of a true believer. Praise God!
How to find happiness – Forgiving Others Exercises:
1) Make a list of those people who have hurt or wounded you in your life, whether they are alive or have passed away. Include a detailed list of the hurts and wounds inflicted upon you.
2) Take the time to go before God and ask forgiveness for holding grudges against them; ask Him to remove the offense from your heart. Ask God to wash your heart in the blood of Jesus Christ and to fill you with love for that person. Renounce the Spirit of Unforgiveness, repenting from your heart before the Lord God.
3) Forgive each offender. Forgive them verbally, out loud. Be specific in what you are forgiving them for. If you have trouble forgiving, review the “Reasons People Will Not Forgive” provided in this lesson. Focus on the impact that unforgiveness could have in your life and ask yourself, “Do I really want this poison in my life? What have I already lost because of unforgiveness? Is it really worth it to damage my own spirit because of this? What blessings am I missing out on because of this?” Now, go back and try again to forgive that person’s hurts against you. Do this for every person on your list and take your time.
(Note: if you still have trouble verbally forgiving this person, this may be a sign that you have developed a demonic stronghold in your life. Ask the Lord God to help you forgive them. You may need to seek deliverance counseling.)
4) Once you have asked forgiveness from the Lord for harboring unforgiveness, and have verbally forgiven and released each person who has wounded you, now begin to pray a blessing over the life over each person. (Remember, Jesus said to “love those who hate you, bless those who persecute you.”) A sign of true forgiveness from the heart is when we can freely speak a blessing over those who have wounded us and truly mean it from our hearts.
5) If you still know or have a relationship with someone who has wounded you in the past, it would be wise to go to that person and tell them that you have forgiven them for any trespasses, as well as asking their forgiveness for any sins you may have committed against them. The more hurtful the wound, the necessary this step may become. You may very well free them from the guilt of offending you!
Previous Keys To Happiness Lessons:
How to find Happiness – 15 Lesson Series – Overview
How to find Happiness – Introduction
How to find Happiness – Key #1 – A relationship with God
How to find Happiness – Key #2 – Being Thankful
How to find Happiness - Key #3 – Learning How to forgive yourself
May you find true happiness, forgive yourself and may God answer your prayers – Amen!