We have mentioned two things about forgiveness that are essential in understanding this whole process of dealing with Bitterness. We MUST understand how important it is to forgive, so we can begin to heal. We also MUST realize it is not easy, and takes time for healing. (If you are the one who caused the problem, you have to be patient with the victim. There are no magic words to speed the process of healing. Tears help, to the extent that they will express sorrow for the past and sincerity and desire of the heart for a new beginning.) Here are the last two points to be understood about forgiveness.
3. FORGIVENESS IS SPIRITUAL AND TAKES PLACE IN THE HEART. Jesus said, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them” (Matthew 15:18-20). Jesus is always concerned more with the ‘heart’ of a person. You can dress in the very best clothing, and wear expensive and impressive jewelry. but it won’t take care of the heart! Mom used to tell us, “Shake hands, or hug each other and make up.” Well, we did, but inside we didn’t! Inside we still felt bad, still wanted to ‘duke it out’.
Forgiveness is spiritual, and unless it takes place in the heart, it is fake. Insincere forgiveness will not lead to healing, but to more resentment and hate. When you give the gift of forgiveness hypocritically, you free the other person and at the same time, you remain shackled. The offender is done, free, grateful, and on his way. You… are not. Do not take this lightly, if you give the gift, give it from the heart, because it is a ‘heart thing’.
4. THE UNFORGIVEN PERSON IS HELPLESS. Why did Jesus say to the unforgiving servant that he was a “wicked servant”? Because forgiveness was GIVEN to him, not earned, deserved! Yet when it came to giving this gift to his fellow servant, he refused! Sometimes we say “I just cannot forgive!” Be honest, it’s not that we CANNOT… what we are thinking is WE WILL NOT forgive! It hurts too much, we say. Yet we fail to remember how much PAIN WE INFLICTED ON THE HEART OF GOD WHEN WE SIN AGAINST HIM.
The person who is in the wrong, can do absolutely nothing to get forgiveness, but ask. He/she cannot earn it or buy it from you. If it is not a free gift of the heart, it does not work. We used to play “Heavy, heavy, hangs over your head”, but dealing with bitterness, isn’t a game. Often, we want revenge! We want them to suffer! We want them to hurt! All the while not realizing we are doing more damage to ourselves. Of course it is natural to want to hurt someone who has hurt us or our family. “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”, “brother you’re gonna get your ‘come-up-ins’.” Yet in the end, bitterness makes no exceptions, it will destroy the heart where it lives.