The idea of traditional forgiveness has always made me uncomfortable. The commonly practiced “I forgive you for wronging me” hasn’t ever sat well with me, probably because I never really understood it.
Forgiveness was always displayed to me as either the freeing of someone from their transgression—as if they needed me to be saved—or a false show of how gracious I was, that I would let someone off the hook after they’d hurt me. Both felt disingenuous and as if I were missing the point of forgiveness altogether.
This propelled me on a journey to discover what forgiveness actually is. Is it the act of saving someone from damnation? “They need your forgiveness, so they can receive grace for their wrongs,” people would say. Or was it about elevating my own sense of righteousness, humbly offering them a pass while remaining on my moral high horse.
What we get wrong about forgiveness
The problem with both options was that forgiveness became about setting the other person free, as if I were able to condemn or imprison them to begin with. It became about seeing someone else as less than myself and offering them a way to salvation by assuming that I deserved to either give or deny them grace.
This was far from what forgiveness actually is. Although there have been plenty of times when it made my ego feel great, I always found that granting forgiveness in this way never actually brought me any happiness. So the question became, what if I am looking at forgiveness all wrong? What if it isn’t about setting someone else free but rather setting myself free? What if, in reality, forgiveness isn’t for the person who wronged me but for myself?
Forgiveness actually means letting go.
Saying that forgiveness is about letting go might sound reductive but it’s the most freeing thing in the world. Letting go of what? Good question! The first answer is letting go of the wrong done against you. Completely. As if it never happened. Seeing it no more, forgetting it, separating it from you as far as the east is from the west. Sound familiar?
But let’s be honest, forgetting that someone hurt you feels impossible because it often is impossible for the ego or pride in us that tries to blot out our true identity.
As Christians, our identity is sons and daughters of the Father. We have been given seats at His table and have been clothed with His power. We are His children but we live in a world that constantly tries to erase our belief in that identity. It feeds us lies of inadequacy. We believe that being a child of the King can be taken from us or that our identity can be compromised. And the ego needs us to believe in these lies because that’s where it gets all of its power. It only exists when you put value in an identity that’s outside of the one given to us by our Father.
Freedom is our true inheritance.
If you stand with the Father, then who can come against you? If you are standing with the King, if you are seated at His table, then who can come against you?
To come against means to harm, threaten or offend. So often, being harmed means we are made to feel less than—made to feel inadequate. But we are children of the Father, so what mere person has so much power that they can rewrite the truth of our identity?
Forgiveness means letting go of the false idea that you can be harmed, stolen from, made to feel less than or that someone else can change your identity in the Father. The truth is, no one can do that and in Christ, nothing is lost. It may feel like a loss but we are to live above that.
You can see yourself as less than you are and in doing so, give others the power to harm you. We all do this; I am as guilty of forgetting my true nature as anyone. Thankfully I’ve started practicing remembering who I am. I remind myself that I am spirit first, body second; that this world fades, but the soul is limitless; and that the Father of heaven calls my soul one of His own, and my home is elsewhere. This planet is just a pit stop.
People are still going to be cruel and unkind at times. But you have the choice to accept that unkindness and hold it tight to your chest, filling you with offense and anger—or you have the choice to let it go, remember who you are in the Father, and say, “If I am seated with Him, then no pain or trouble or offense can change me.”
And the most amazing things happen when you see yourself this way. When you react to someone from a place of love instead of offense, you can actually change the world. And I don’t know about you, but I think the world could use some changing.
Forgiveness is about letting go of your false identity and stepping into one that can’t be harmed. It’s about setting yourself free from the belief that you are less than and accepting that you are His. So who can come against you then?