I was perusing around Pinterest the other day and ran across a quote that got me to thinking. It said “Forgiveness doesn’t excuse what the other person did; it means you are letting God settle the score.” I read it and then reread it. There was something about it that was snagging for me in my spirit. At first glance it deserves a great big Amen! Or at least a noticeable head nod right? But then I got to thinking…dangerous, I know.
I’m the type person that I really like to know exactly what a word means. It’s worse than a spelling bee… “What’s the definition please? Can you use that in a sentence please? That’s me. It drives me a little nuts when people use a word in the wrong context or worse use it just plain wrong all together. The saying around my house growing up was always “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”, maybe that’s where I get it. Anyway, I decided to look up the word Forgive.
It’s such a simple word that we are all taught so early in life. Even with my 4 year old, Harley, if something happens and he hurts someone’s feelings or if he gets his feelings hurt, I’m quick to tell him to apologize and ask for forgiveness or forgive the offender who has hurt his feelings by says “I forgive you”…typically I’m asking him the former, not the latter! Ha! Welcome to child rearing! Anyway, I would imagine many of you were raised the same but do we really understand what it means to forgive?
Here’s the definition from Webster.
Forgive 1 A: to give up resentment or claim to requital
1 B: to grant relief from payment of debt
2: to cease to feel resentment against an offender
Ok that’s a good starting place but now what does “requital” mean? Back to my Webster app I went!
Requital 1: something given in return, compensation or retaliation (ouch)
2: the act or action of requiting; repay or avenge
Hmmm….seeking retaliation seems to go directly against the very definition of Forgive. If we are to truly forgive then, it quite literally means, we give up resentment or claim to being given something in return, compensation or retaliation. So, now with that knowledge under our belt let’s go back and look at the Pinterest quote I found.
“Forgiveness doesn’t excuse what the other person did (fair enough and true); it means you are letting God settle the score.” (Wrong) You cannot have it both ways. Either you give up the claim of retaliation (God settling the score) or you hold on to it, expecting God to, in someway, compensate you or retaliate against them, repay them or avenge you. By definition if you are still holding on to the latter you have not really forgiven them.
Imagine if God treated you that way when you asked Him for forgiveness. Did you know there’s a scripture that actually addresses this? Check this out…Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their offenses, your Heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.” OUCH! Do you know what comes directly before those two verses? The Lord’s prayer. Yep, that one…Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name… Wow! If we don’t forgive others, He won’t forgive us. Those are pretty strong words.
The more I read the quote compared with the actual definition the more I realized how few times we truly forgive people. Think of people you’ve “forgiven”, now look at them through this lens of knowledge showing exactly what forgiveness is. Have you truly forgiven them or did you just pass the buck to God to “settle the score” for you? Hey, don’t hear any condemnation in my voice either because I’m right there with you. I had to reevaluate how I felt. I had to revisit those particular circumstances and ask myself those hard questions. To be completely vulnerable…I didn’t really like some of the answers I gave myself.
There’s a fantastic scene in The Shack movie where Mack, the main character, is talking with “God” about forgiveness and he says to “God” that he can’t forgive, he doesn’t know how. And “God” has the best answer, He says you just keep saying it over and over everyday and eventually it will get easier. “God” says “Forgiveness isn’t about trusting the person again, it’s about letting go of their throat.” Wow! I think that’s how we all have to start, especially for those deep wounds. We may not mean it at first but as we continue to say it in our hearts and as we continue to pray about it, I think that God comes in and helps us, as long as we don’t confuse the process along the way and start seeking retaliation rather than true forgiveness.
So, as we celebrate New Years Day today I’m pushing myself to be sure that when I am trying to forgive someone (understanding it’s a process and one you can and must ask God to help you with) that I’m truly letting go of their throat, letting go of all claims to retaliation, repayment, compensation, resentment, and score settling. It’s not easy, it’s painful. But God can and will, with your willing heart, enable you and help you while simultaneously putting a gentle salve on your heart, soul, spirit and mind to help you heal from whatever wound was inflicted.
God helps us to truly forgive as you forgive, that we know we will never forget but we will choose not to remember, that we will not seek your requital but rather pray that person finds peace in you as we have.