Forgiveness is a basic element of Christian character. All human beings have hurt and have been hurt by others. It is important to realize that we cannot demand forgiveness from someone. There are offenses which are so hurtful, it may take a very long time for the wound to heal. The responsibility of the Believer is to be in the attitude of repentance (if the offender) or the attitude of forgiveness (if the wounded).
Jesus gives us two powerful and very insightful lessons on this subject in Matthew. Matt.5:23, 24, “Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” The first step is to realize that we may have hurt or offended someone. Then we need to STOP our service or worship activity until we have done what we can to be reconciled.
However, if you are the hurt one, then follow Matt. 18:15, “Now if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” These are the scriptural guidelines to follow, yet human relationships are complex. We always do our best to obey the Lord, but we also leave the results with Him. Romans 12:18, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
When pride gets into the picture, issues can escalate. Sometimes the offender may apologize and think, “Well, I’ve done my part. Now you must forgive me.” Not so fast. True repentance is shown by words and acts. The sinner needs to recognize the seriousness of his offense. A deep, heartfelt sadness over the sin will manifest in continued acts of understanding and in patiently waiting for the wound to heal. Ask the Lord to comfort the person and to help him/her forgive you.
Different people have different abilities to overcome hurt. The best advise we can offer is to be as loving and forgiving as possible to those who have hurt you. Or pray for those whom you have hurt to receive healing and the courage to forgive.
Proverbs 13:10 'Only by pride comes contention, but with the well-advised is wisdom.'