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Forgive? They Donít Deserve It!

by Patty Froese Ntihemuka

Itís time to let some things go.

 Some people don’t deserve to be forgiven. They really don’t. They’re horrible, nasty, hate-filled people who hurt you again and again. They don’t care that they hurt you. They aren’t sorry for what they’ve done. They don’t want your forgiveness, and, frankly, they don’t deserve it!

You pray really hard! You try to let it go, but as soon as you think you have, there it is again, that anger. That resentment. That knowledge that the person doesn’t even want to be forgiven. So why are you bothering?
I have a friend who was beaten up by his dad—a lot. My friend still has scars all over his body from those beatings. He told me these horrible stories about what his dad did to him—bone-chilling stories. His dad told him what a loser he was. He told him he’d never be good at anything. Now, is he supposed to forgive that? Is he supposed to just say, “It’s OK, Dad. I love you. Let’s be friends!”
What about the drunk driver who kills your mom in a car accident? The drunk isn’t hurt at all. When he sobers up, he feels a bit bad for your mom, but he’s more concerned about himself. Your mom is dead, and she’ll never come back. You have to grow up the rest of the way without her. She won’t be at your wedding  or see your kids. The drunk driver  will go on being a part of his family. He never even said he was sorry. Why forgive him?
The phrase “forgive and forget” seems to be kind of nuts. I mean, forgiveness is one thing, but some things you’d be stupid to forget! “Forgiving and forgetting” is saved for those little misunderstandings between friends. It’s saved for tiffs and spilled milk. You never really forget the big stuff, right?
It feels kind of hopeless trying to forgive—actually impossible. I could tell you to pray really hard and God will do it for you. That’s partly true. God works miracles and helps to take away our resentment before it eats a hole in our spleens, but that’s not the whole picture. There are a few things to remember about forgiving that may help.
1. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. You don’t have to forget what happened. You don’t have to block it out and pretend you were never hurt. But you can overcome the pain and use it to become a stronger person.
2. Forgiving isn’t for the person who hurt you; it’s for you. Hatred does nasty things to us on the inside. A person can hurt you, but the worst damage happens after the fact—when the hatred slowly changes you into someone you don’t want to be.
3. A person doesn’t have to want to be forgiven for you to forgive them. Forgiveness doesn’t depend on the other person, it depends on you and God! They don’t have to finally understand you or suddenly realize the impact of what they did. They can still be enjoying the memory of your pain, and you can forgive them.
So how does one go about forgiving? Saying that it’s possible doesn’t help us much. Saying that we should doesn’t help much either. What we need is a “How to” guide on forgiveness. How do we get over the hurt? How do we forgive when the person hurt us more deeply than anyone else ever has?
The first step in forgiveness is action. That’s the truth of it! We can’t feel forgiving, we can’t feel loving, so we’ve got to act it out, according to Colossians 3:14. Hypocritical? Hear me out. 
Mort Fertel put it this way: “Do you feel healthy, and then decide to go out jogging three times a week and quit eating potato chips? No, you start jogging, change your diet, and start feeling healthy. Do you feel ready for a test, then study for it? No, you study consistently, then feel ready to face the test. It’s basic cause and effect. You have to do something in order to change how you feel. It’s not being hypocritical, it’s taking a step of faith. It’s dipping your toe in the Jordan, as it were.”
When the Israelites needed to get across the Jordan, a large river that seemed impossible to cross, God told them: “As soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap” (Joshua 3:13, NIV).*
God didn’t tell them, “I’m going to pile up the water, dry the riverbed, then you can hike up your robes and dash across.” He told them to stick their feet in the water first! It works the same way with forgiveness. We’ve got to do something first, and then the miracle happens.
It’s funny how when you act the part of a person who has forgiven, a lot of those negative feelings just drain away. Of course, you’re still left with the memory of what happened. Dealing with that is really difficult. Looking back on what happened brings back all those negative feelings, and there you are right at the beginning again! So you have to deal with it!
Solomon said, “He who conceals his hatred has lying lips” (Proverbs 10:18, NIV). If you’re just hiding a whole pile of loathing, it doesn’t do you much good. You have to deal with what happened. How do you start?
It helps to realize that what happened can’t be changed; it’s not going to disappear. That horrible event has changed you; you’ll never be the same because of it. But you can choose how it changes you. You can allow it to eat away at you until you’re just as nasty as the other person is, or you can choose to learn from it and react positively.
Romans 8:28 says: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). God can even work this out for good! As a result of what you’ve been through, you can be a more considerate person, a more understanding person. You can be wiser, braver, and stronger for someone else.
Forgiveness is an action and a choice. You act like a person who has forgiven, even if you don’t want to. The willingness to make the effort is all God needs to begin healing you. Second, you must choose to see the event in a different light. You can see it as a starting place for a new, wiser, more considerate path. You now know more. You’ve experienced more. You’ve survived more. What are you going to do with that? Are you going to become bitter, or are you going to pull closer to God and let Him pull you higher?
It might not be easy, but when we take that first step and get our feet wet, God does some pretty big things with a river full of resentment.
*Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Patty Froese Ntihemuka writes from Canada, where she continues to write in every spare moment.

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