I've seen the effects of unforgiveness. I've seen the mental and emotional anguish it causes. I think we carry illnesses and diseases because of it. I've seen families torn apart and friendships destroyed. It's happened because an adult child married someone his parents didn't approve of. It's happened because of business deals, because one sibling seemed to be favored over another, or because one certain person gets to do everything at the church.
You've heard it said before: "Unforgiveness doesn't hurt anyone but you." I don't believe that's true. Unforgiveness hurts us all. It hurts the heart of God. It hurts you, your offender, and the body of Christ. God gave us the greatest example of forgiveness and reconciliation when He sent Jesus to die for our sins. And He gave us that example for a reason...it's our example to follow. We should be quick to forgive. And we should desire to be reconciled to those with whom we have broken relationships.
Don't wait. If you have unforgiveness in your heart, you've already waited too long. Confess it as sin to God and go and be reconciled to your brother, your mother, your child, your friend. You don't want to have any regrets in this life. And waiting could become your biggest regret. God wants truth, life, freedom, and relationship for you. And He will help you if you ask. I can't promise it will be easy. It probably won't be--I know because I've had to do it too often. And I can't promise the other person will receive your apology. But even if they don't, you can live with the peace of mind that you did what you needed to do and that's what you're responsible for. No regrets!!
Helps in Asking Forgiveness
- Humble your heart before you go to ask forgiveness. Make sure your heart is right with God.
- Your apology is as big as your offense. If you sinned by thinking bad thoughts about a person, you don't go to that person to ask forgiveness--you go to God and ask His forgiveness. It was a sin of your thought life and your heart and mind need to be cleansed by asking God's forgiveness. If your offense was an action of doing something to another person, you need to apologize to that person in private. If your offense was a public offense, you need to make a public apology.
- When you apologize, say something like this, "Please forgive me for saying you were ugly. That was so wrong of me and I should never have done that. Will you forgive me?" Always give them room for a response. Don't just go to them and say, "I'm sorry." While that shows that you did something wrong, it's not specific enough and it doesn't allow them to respond.
- Never justify your actions! Don't say, "I shouldn't have said you were ugly...but your makeup was just over the top and your hair was sticking up like a monkey's!" That only adds insult to injury. You are still making it sound as if you were right.
- If you're the person who was hurt, say something like this, "I was offended when you told people I was pregnant. And I've carried that offense too long. I value our friendship and want things right between us again. Will you forgive me?"