For many years I thought if I forgave someone for a very hurtful wrong against me then I was letting that person off the hook. I convinced myself that I had to hold a grudge to make sure that person knew that what they did was wrong. I still remember where I was driving when the Lord revealed to me what was really going on. By refusing to forgive someone I was actually the one that was suffering the most.
An amazing thing happened when I began to forgive people for past wrongs. Instead of “letting them off the hook”, I was in fact the one who was set free. By going to people and asking for their forgiveness for the bitterness toward them I felt a deep sense of relief, even physical relief in some cases! Jesus’ teaching on the subject of forgiveness is pretty sobering: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). As if being set free from bitterness and possible physical pain are not enough, Jesus teaches us that in order to receive His forgiveness, we must forgive others. We are wise to make our way down the road of forgiveness.
I have rarely experienced something so freeing and life giving as forgiveness. It is remarkable what happens when we chose to forgive others. This has proved to be one of the most life giving teachings of Jesus that I have encountered.