Many of us struggle with knowing when we are ready to forgive. Forgiving others takes more than words. How do you know when youíre ready to forgive someone? When you get rid of your anger? When youíre no longer upset? When you stop hurting? When your offender apologizes or asks for forgiveness? The answer to all of these questions is "NO" because they all deal primarily with how you feel.
When it comes to forgiveness, itís not about how you feel; itís about the choice you make to forgive. Yes, forgiveness is a choice and it begins with knowing and accepting that it is the right thing to do. Once you know and accept that forgiveness is the only thing that will free you of the anger and pain you are harboring, then you must deal with the daunting task of choosing to do it.
Perhaps the most difficult reason we find it hard to choose forgiveness is because before we make the choice, we want to nurse our wounds, get over the pain and resolve all conflict. We want to feel better about the situation before choosing to forgive and it is a understandable; feelings matter. But, forgiveness is a selfless and self-sacrificing process, so that means you have to stretch yourself and put aside all that you are and all that you feel to make that choice.
You know you are ready to forgive when you have chosen to pardon your offender with absolutely no strings attached. Here are some examples of what that looks like:
You are ready to forgive when your offender does not have to give you an explanation or apology for his/her actions or behavior. Sure, you want to know why someone hurt or betrayed you, but maybe the person is neither ready nor willing to admit the wrong theyíve done to you. In fact, they may even continue justifying their actions. It doesnít matter. Once you choose, how they react (whether good or bad) will not nullify your forgiveness.
You are ready to forgive when you donít feel the need to "air your anger" to your offender. Yes, you have a right to tell your offender how you feel, but there is a fine line between airing anger and letting someone know they hurt you. The difference is when you air anger, you are focused on getting things off your chest, justifying why you have chosen to stay mad and perhaps even demanding answers. When you tell someone they've hurt you, if you have truly forgiven them in your heart, you donít air anger; you convey how their actions affected you.
When it comes to forgiveness, itís a choice first and a feeling thereafter. That may sound harsh and counterintuitive, but once you make the choice, God will soften your heart and help you work through your feelings of anger and pain. Donít expect your choice to happen immediately; it takes time and prayer to get to that point. Make that heart-felt choice Matthew 12:34 says, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." So, when you are ready to speak words of love and kindness, you know you are ready to forgive.