Occasionally, I will have a client walk in my door who seeks counseling for a particular problem, but the session becomes about something else. Rob was one of those clients. He was in his fifties and admitted having no close friends. Rob discussed that he had been hurt by many people in his life including those who he had thought were friends. When he felt wronged by someone, he tended to cut them loose. He came to see me thinking he had issues with trust.
I saw him as having issues with forgiveness.
It is inevitable that we are going to make mistakes and do things to cause hurt feelings. That is just the nature of being human. It is how wee respond to these hurts that will decide the ultimate success of a relationship.
Probably the greatest barrier to offering or asking for forgiveness is our own ego. Our ego tells us that we are important and that we are entitled to be treated in a certain way. When we are slighted, ego is that inner voice that says, "How dare you!" It goes against our nature to let someone off the hook or to admit our own wrongdoing.
However, having an attitude of forgiveness is one of our greatest callings as Christians. It is an acknowledgement that we are all sinners and fall short of His glory. When we recognize our own transgressions and that we are in constant need of forgiveness, it becomes much easier to forgive others.
We are called to forgive not only those who are repentant but also those who do not ask for it, In John 8, Jesus is presented with an adulterous women who the Pharisees wanted to have stoned to death. Jesus responded to them, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Jesus that told the woman, "Then neither to do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin."
She did not ask for His forgiveness but He granted mercy anyway. He displayed grace while the religious leaders of the day displayed judgment and a rigid adherence to the law. I sometimes wonder the impact that grace had on that woman's life. Considering how she was treated by the religious leaders, it is unlikely that she became a church-goer. However, it is much more likely that she became a follower of Jesus. With one act of grace and mercy, He changed her life forever, and probably the lives of many others who witnessed this.
We have the same ability to impact the lives of others through forgiveness. When we feel that others have wronged us, the burden is on us to forgive. We have an opportunity to follow the example of Jesus, and forgiveness is one of the greatest ways for the love of God to shine through us.