Want to do hard things? Want to succeed at life’s toughest challenge? Learn to forgive.
Even the most talented people have limited impact until they learn the basics of forgiveness. But what does forgiveness mean, exactly? Is it merely saying “I forgive you”? Does it mean forgetting as well?
We can try to squeeze it into a simple definition by saying: forgiveness is the continuous state of a guilty person not receiving the punishment that justice or intuition demands he receives. But it is still complicated and cerebral and not very practical. Then of course, life doesn’t have simple answers: there is no logical rationalization which we can unpack and forevermore know how to forgive. If forgiveness is so complicated, how can it be understood? Just as scientists can observe light and say it “is such-and-such” or “affects this-and-that,” but cannot say exactly what it is made of; so can man see forgiveness and give an explanation, albeit a weak one, of its attributes.
Forgiveness is mercy. If someone says “You are an egghead!” forgiveness continues to love that person. It is not merely words: it is an attitude. The words “God bless you” or “I forgive you” mean nothing unless continuously lived out on a day-to-day basis. Forgiveness means not holding the actions against the actor.
When God says in Jeremiah 31:34 that He “will remember [our] sins no more,” He is not insinuating that he has a bad memory. God cannot merely “forget” sins. Instead, He is demonstrating to the world that forgiveness involves the injured choosing to put out of his mind the actions of the injurer. In other words, when someone says “I don’t hold it against you” then he really must not hold the other person accountable for their hurtful actions. This is the example set by God. “Disciples, pick up your cross; follow me; learn from me.”