"If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15, NLT).
Many of us struggle with anger and forgiveness, and some Christian women find themselves turning to blogs for guidance on the matter. Perhaps we feel like we are giving in, we are getting the short end of the stick, or the other person is not getting what he or she deserves. Whatever the reason, it can be difficult for us to forgive.
Logically, it might seem that the most difficult offenses for us to forgive are the biggest. This is not always true, however, as it's often the seemingly insignificant things that get under our skin and gnaw away at us. When that happens, we may feel embarrassed about being so petty and therefore avoid dealing with it. Instead, we choose to deny the bitterness even exists.
While our nature may be to withhold forgiveness and hold a grudge instead, such a response can cause serious damage. Here are four ways in which a lack of forgiveness can cost you:
1. Refusal to forgive will shatter your relationship with the offender.
Being in a relationship makes you vulnerable. You risk being hurt, you may be disappointed, and you are going to have to take the occasional hit. Even in the best of friendships, offenses will happen. Withholding forgiveness at those times will inevitably cause the relationship to be lost. It is much better to seek forgiveness and reconciliation than to allow the relationship to be destroyed. "Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends" (Proverbs 17:9, NLT).
You need to seriously consider if someone's offense against you is worth losing their friendship over. If they have expressed that they are sorry and seem truly committed to changing for the better, then it is in your best interest to give them a second chance.
2. Refusal to forgive will affect your other relationships, too.
An offense leads to anger, which can quickly turn into resentment. Resentment can in turn morph into bitterness, which is much more difficult to resolve or contain than anger. Bitterness has a way of spreading beyond those immediately involved. Eventually, all your relationships will be adversely impacted.
Bitterness can sour even healthy relationships. Even if your other friends agree that you have been wronged, they may not like the way that you are unwilling to let it go. As a wound can become infected and spread to healthy tissue, a wounded relationship that goes untreated will affect other relationships. The only remedy is forgiveness.
3. Refusal to forgive will harm yourself.
When you harbor bitterness and hold a grudge against someone else, ultimately you are hurting yourself. Bitterness will distort your perspective, turn you into a negative person, and taint your view of all your relationships. It will turn you into a bitter, lonely, miserable person. As the bitterness continues to gnaw away inside, it will create all kinds of problems. It will affect you relationally, emotionally, psychologically, and even physically. Long-term stress can have a very negative impact on your health. You can keep it from getting to that point by choosing forgiveness.
4. Refusal to forgive will destroy you spiritually.
Jesus pulled no punches when he warned about the eternal consequences of withholding forgiveness. "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15, NLT). Clearly we must be willing to offer forgiveness if we hope to reap the benefits of forgiveness ourselves.
Do not be destroyed by a lack of forgiveness, whether presently or into eternity. Rather than descending into a pit of anger and bitterness work toward a solution. Extend forgiveness and seek reconciliation, saving the relationship and yourself in the process.