“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
I am a strong believer of Maya Angelou’s famous quote, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” This quote has proven to be true multiple times throughout my life, and if I’m being honest I could have saved myself from disappointments had I applied this lesson earlier. This simple quote packs immense power, because it requires us to take a form of responsibility to who we allow into our circle.
One lesson I have learned to embrace in my twenties has been the lesson of forgiveness. This is something God has truly had to work out in me. Unfortunately, I have not always been the most forgiving person. I used to completely shut people out from my lives when they fell short of who I thought they were. I viewed forgiveness as some sort of weakness, and felt like holding a grudge was somehow negatively affecting the other person. While it could cause them some level of discomfort in the beginning, the true person I was hurting was myself. I strongly believe in protecting yourself, and guarding whom you allow into your space, however I have also learned to extend grace and forgiveness to others. God requires us to forgive others who sin against us. As I began to grow in Christ, I learned that we must extend forgiveness to others so that our Father in heaven can forgive us.
It’s actually quite hypocritical to expect anything less if we really think about it. We sin against God all the time, and go to Him expecting forgiveness for our indiscretions . . . but refuse those who mistreat us. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, or even allowing them to have the same access to you, but it is required to be given.
Forgiveness is ultimately not for the other person’s benefit, but for your own. I believe that unforgiveness is one of the greatest hindrances to progress within our lives. There is usually some fragment of a wrongdoing that we keep replaying in our minds over time. We think about how wrong the other person was and how betrayed we feel as a result of their behavior.
When I started to forgive those who needed forgiveness in my life, it was like a heavy burden was lifted. How much baggage are we carrying around with us, year to year because we refuse to forgive? Jesus said not to forgive “seven times, but seventy-seven.” The part of forgiveness no one told me about was that it can take multiple times to actually stick. I had to express forgiveness for certain individuals numerous times before I actually felt that it had taken root. Do you think this is what Jesus meant when He said “seventy-seven times.” That He knew it would take many proclamations before they actually took effect.
Forgiveness heals you from the inside out and allows you to go through life with a healthier mindset. It is not a rush. Sometimes you need to feel your feelings in order to process. You take the lessons you learned and apply them in the future. Many of those lessons will prove you with indispensable wisdom that allows you to advise someone else.
Think about whether there is anyone you need to forgive in your life, and take the steps to begin that process. Forgiveness is a journey, and God will be with you every step of the way.