Five Character Traits of A Forgiver

April 03, 2019

Have you ever been hurt by someone you love? If not, just keep on living, and you come back and read this when you’re able to relate. The unsettling but sure truth is that you will do a lot of forgiving in your lifetime, and more often than not, it’ll be your friends and family that are in need of said forgiveness.

When pondering this topic, I couldn’t help but think about Calvary. I mean, after being mocked, cheated, and literally beaten to death, our perfect, blameless Savior thought it necessary to use His last moments on earth to utter words of forgiveness. I consider the times I’ve been mistreated or hurt (which can in no way compare to Christ’s sufferings), and I try to imagine forgiving the offender while they’re still offending. Not after the fact . . . Not years later, but right smack dab in the middle of my hurt, and let’s just say, I’ve got some work to do.

There have been times that I really thought I had forgiven someone, but then a mention of their name or a scroll through social media suggested to me otherwise. Why is it that when an offense comes from a loved one, the pain can cut so deep? Could it be that when we are deeply wounded by someone, it’s really because we love them deeply? When you’ve invested into a person or relationship and end up hurt, our human nature wants to try and figure out what went wrong and who’s to blame. No matter who’s at fault, replaying an offense over and over is unhealthy.

Think about crossing the monkey bars on a playground: In order to move forward, you must first let go.

This is where we tend to get hung up. We’re taught to think and put into practice “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” As a coping mechanism, we tend to keep offenses in the back of our minds to shield us from any future hurt. Unfortunately, this practice isn’t what Scripture commands of us. The Bible lets us know that if we want God to forgive our shortcomings, we must forgive the shortcomings of others. Never does Scripture tell us that forgiving others is easy–but it does let us know that it is not optional. As Christians, we’re mandated to show others the same mercy that keeps us afloat on a daily basis.

Not sure where you stand when it comes to being a forgiver? Lets discuss a few characteristics of forgiving people and see how we measure up:

  1. Forgivers don’t harbor offenses. Not only is dwelling in the past ineffective in finding a solution to your problem, it will destroy your peace. Let it go, Sista. When an unhealthy thought pops in your head to remind you of an offense in the past, rebuke it in the name of Jesus and keep on truckin’.

The Bible tells us in Philippians to be mindful of our thoughts and to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, praise-worthy, and of a good report. Nowhere in Scripture does it say to think on things that make us angry or sad. Neither does it say to think on things that make us doubt ourselves or others. If we have any hope of growing spiritually, we cannot allow those kinds of negative thoughts to stay in our minds, so when they try to creep in, don’t entertain them.

I grew up in a very dysfunctional home where my mother attended church but my father did not. As a matter of fact, he struggled with drugs and alcohol for most of his life and still does to this day. As a result of his poor choices, my childhood isn’t something that I relive often. There were times where I felt like my greatest accomplishment for the day was just surviving. I was determined to survive and come out better, especially since I knew the only alternative was to be bitter. Every night, I would get out of bed, get on my knees in the corner of my room and jut cry out to God. I would ask God to give me peace and to help me endure with a godly attitude. I knew that the situation I was in wasn’t good, but I also knew that God could make something good out of it as long as I didn’t waver in my faith. So, I just kept praying and praising. If the situation got worse, my praise got greater. God can’t heal you when you refuse to commune with Him, and your situation won’t change if you refuse to acknowledge it.

When you hold onto uncomfortable past experiences or just refuse to acknowledge situations that are causing you pain, it will affect every aspect of your life without you even realizing it. Hurt that goes unhealed will inevitably turn into resentment, and living a life of resentment will completely change who you are. What would happen if you started walking around wearing your grandmother’s prescription glasses? You’d be seeing things a lot differently! Which is exactly what bitterness and resentment will do to your vision—first they change your outlook, then your attitude, then ultimately your actions.

“If you never heal from what hurt you, you will bleed on people that didn’t cut you.” 

2. Forgivers don’t burry offenses. Pretending you’re not hurt and shutting the offender out of your life is a temporary fix and will only lead to further hurt. If you’ve tried this, you know that you will eventually have to face the issue, and the longer you keep it buried, the deeper the hole you’ll be climbing out of. Face your problems, so you can find a resolution and move forward.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

(This scripture gave me peace and assurance.)

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”  1 John 4:20

(And this scripture challenged and kept me accountable.)

Together those verses tell us that, yes, God transforms the hurt of those who love Him, but also that we cannot say we love Him if we do not love our brother. By withholding love and harboring unforgivingness, we forfeit God’s promise and forgiveness in our own lives. I knew there was no way for me to make it without God’s mercy, and therefore, I had no choice but to show mercy to my dad. 

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15 

When you stay in God’s Word and commune with Him daily, He’ll enable you to respond to hurtful situations with a right spirit. Though it is important to note that when you’ve really been hurt, forgiveness becomes a process.

In the book of Matthew, we find that the church is supposed to forgive one another “seventy times seven” times, which represents boundlessness. Don’t get discouraged when you find yourself fighting the same negative feelings every day–as long as you’re fighting them. God wouldn’t have attached a number like that to forgiveness if He never expected us to face hurt. He knew that not only would we face hurt, but we’d face it more than once and therefore we’d need to forgive more than once.

3. Forgivers realize forgiveness is a choice.Sometimes this choice has to be made once, and boom, everyone moves on with their lives. Other times, this choice has to be made every single day. There’s no documented, appropriated time frame on forgiveness. One offense may be easy to let go of, where another one could take years. The way people feel and heal varies. Though you don’t have to apologize for being hurt, you do need to be mindful that hurt harbored on, will turn into resentment. 

“Hurting people, hurt people.” 

An unhealed person will find offense in anything, and often they are looking for reasons to be offended. 

4. Forgivers keep a right spirit. It is not God’s will for us to live in a constant state of offense. When we choose to stay cozied-up in our tragedy, we limit God’s access into our situation and block our opportunity for  transformation. Though we may not get to choose the type of hurt we have to face in this lifetime, we do get choose how we let it affect us. Let your wounds shape you, don’t let them define you. Allow your painful past to preach a message of love and compassion to others. God really can make something beautiful out of your painful experiences, and He can mend relationships you never thought would be mended.

Forgiving doesn’t change the past, but it does change the future”

5. Forgivers strive to love like Jesus. When you are truly doing your best to show others the love of Jesus, you have to see them through His eyes—His compassionate, merciful eyes. I have always been in awe at the way Jesus loves in spite of all our mess. Last year, my focused prayer was for God to help me love others the way that He does. (Can I just caution you that this prayer is a lot like praying for patience?) For whatever reason, I thought loving like Jesus could be accomplished by random acts of kindness, paying-it-forward, and feeding the homeless . . . You know, those types of things! (Ha!) Months of “good deeds” and trying to be like Jesus go by, and randomly, I found myself faced with mean words and false accusations. After praying about it, I felt confident that this difficult situation was a lesson from God. It was like He was saying to me, “If you want to love like I love, then you must be hurt like I was hurt.” I realized this negative situation was actually an opportunity for growth and one in which would only draw me closer to Jesus. Initially, my human nature wanted to treat that person the way that they had treated me, but the Holy Ghost inside of me just wouldn’t allow it.

“Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

If we’re going to call ourselves Christians, we have to love people enough to pursue healing, not gratification. Sometimes an apology won’t come, and sometimes their behavior won’t change, but you cannot let that affect you. Feelings aside, it all comes down to the Word of God. We can have all of the steps in our “how to be saved” checklist crossed off, but we won’t make it without love: Real, unconditional love.

Simply put, to forgive is to love like Jesus.