Remember the days when you went to a high school dance and most of the guys stood against one wall with their hands in their pockets trying to muster up enough nerve to ask a girl to dance? They stood there looking at each other, up at the ceiling, or checking their watches. If a girl approached or someone encouraged them to dance, the common refrain was, "I'm waiting for the next dance." And that next dance usually never came.
I had a life coaching client tell me he couldn't understand why he was having so much trouble forgiving. We discovered together that his inability to forgive was poisoning a long-time friendship and was dominating his thinking. He told me he was waiting for his friend to say she was sorry for what she had done before he would forgive her. He said, "I’m ready to forgive Sally (not her real name) but I'm waiting for her to say she’s sorry."
True forgiveness has no strings attached, no “buts.”
I asked him to repeat what he just said and think about it. The "aha moment" came when he discovered he was linking something he could control to something over which he had no control. In his own way, he was standing against the wall at the dance with his hands in his pocket waiting for a girl to come and ask him to dance.
A Solo Act Before God
Forgiveness is a solo act before God. Reconciliation is a coming together. For reconciliation to occur, it takes two to tango, and often the dance partner is not ready to take the dance floor.
One of the reasons people can't bring themselves to forgive another person of a wrong done to them is that they are waiting for the offender to say they’re sorry. They think reconciliation is the same as forgiveness, or feel reconciliation comes before forgiveness, when in fact forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same and forgiveness comes first.
No Strings Attached
True forgiveness has no strings attached. There are no "buts." If we add strings expecting an apology before forgiving, we are standing in judgement before the offender, requiring some type of payment. And there is only one who is qualified to judge, God the almighty. In fact, he sent his Son to the cross to atone for our sins, freely forgiving us with no strings attached.
Listen to God’s Words
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)
Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.
Also Read: Psalm 103:10-14, Matthew 6:14-15, Ephesians 4:32
In the Words of Others
“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept the apology you never got.” Robert Brault
“Forgiveness is the giving up of resentment against someone. And our right to get even no matter what has been done to us.” Dr. Charles F. Stanley
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Think About It
Are you having trouble forgiving someone? Describe what has to happen before you forgive the person or persons. Are you waiting for them to say they’re sorry?
Have you been waiting for someone to forgive you? Describe why you think the person or persons have not forgiven you.
How do you feel about Christ’s suggestion that you must forgive “not seven times, but seventy-seven times?”