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Forgiveness is something that until you don’t have it, you don’t miss it. It’s the very fabric of any successful relationship. Without it, every relationship will crumble or simply remain broken or strained as a result of inevitable broken trust. I say inevitable because it is impossible that no offenses should come. In other words, we are human and therefore make mistakes and hurt others with our selfish actions (i.e. offend others). One of the primary challenges of extending forgiveness to another is that it is by its very nature gracious, that is, it is undeserved favor bestowed on the person in the wrong, the “offender”. If you are asking for forgiveness and believe you deserve it, then you’re not *actually* asking for forgiveness (grace), you’re asking for justice (what you [think you] deserve); which probably also means you don’t really view or understand what you did as wrong. By very nature, when you forgive someone, you are releasing them from the debt they owe you, from receiving what they deserve, such as your rejection and anger. But without fail, when an offense occurs, *someone* must pay the emotional, financial, or spiritual debt owed. This, ultimately, is THE most difficult part of forgiving a loved one.

It is tempting to sometimes understand “justice” (in the sense that you want the other person to pay for their wrong) as the opposite of being merciful, but this is an incomplete understanding of the difference between justice and mercy. Justice and mercy meet within forgiveness. This is because in forgiving someone, you are paying for the debt that they owe you, balancing the proverbial scales of injustice. This is what makes forgiveness difficult. It’s not a matter of simply saying, “I forgive you”, “It’s OK”, or “No problem”. In order to forgive someone, *you* must incur the debt that *they* owe you. Some describe it as “releasing another”. But this difficult act of releasing another becomes easier for those who have genuinely experienced forgiveness. That’s because forgiven people have a different perspective. Forgiven people, forgive people. Forgiveness is a gift that, when received, can be freely given to (or withheld from) others. Most of the time, when someone is withholding forgiveness, it is simply because they have not experienced it themselves (or they have but there is a lack of understanding or genuine reception). There is a kind of proverb that reads, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that releases from debt, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Simply put, forgiven people, forgive people.

Are you merciful and forgiving? Have you experienced forgiveness or do you consider your life a meritorious endeavor? I don’t take forgiveness lightly because I know how incredibly painful and difficult it is, but as one who has experienced it in a deep and profound way, it has been one of my greatest joys (and challenges) to extend the same free gift I’ve received to the people around me.


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