After more than twenty years of dispensing life advice on love and life, I’ve encountered a specific questions that, without fail, comes up over and over again. Maybe you’ve wondered about this one too.
I care deeply about my friends and loved one, but I seem to get taken advantage of often. I am having a very hard time getting over being betrayed in a recently-ended relationship. They admitted their wrongs and begged me for forgiveness, but are now doing the same things again. Is there a point at which I’ve used up all my forgiveness and just don’t have anymore to give? —K.L.
Arguments over the rightness of forgiving somebody for doing you wrong often focus on what you, the wronged, will get out of it; “Forgive them, so they’ll feel bad and not do it to you again.” “Forgive them, so you can be proud of your great compassion.” “Forgive them, so you won’t suffer from resentment and acid stomach.”
Though these claims may be true, they shouldn’t be your primary reasons for forgiving someone who’s wronged you. They’re only secondary at best. Forgiveness is not just medicine to make the victim’s resentment subside. It’s a powerful gift of sacrificial, unconditional love, freely offered to somebody, who is guilty as sin.
Though human beings like to take credit for coming up with a lot of impressive ideas, forgiveness is not one of them. It’s something that came straight from God. If it’s His invention, He alone dictates how much of it you give —and for how long. Though we prefer it to be a short-term, temporary assignment, He favors the permanent, full-time kind.
When Jesus was asked how often we must forgive, He answered, “Until 70 times seven.” The implication is clear; forgiveness is over and over again–forever.
We all know people who fail us, and keep doing so. Forgiving them doesn’t mean you’re supposed to deny the facts, pretending they didn’t happen or don’t matter. It sees the failure for what it is but refuses to hold people emotionally hostage until they’ve paid for it.
Real forgiveness occurs when you have chosen to forgive, versus having a positive feeling. Feeling forgiving is usually slower than choosing to forgive. Don’t rush the feelings. Let your will to forgive lead. Your feelings may have to catch up later.