When I feel wronged, I can contrive a hundred reasons against forgiveness. “He needs to learn a lesson.” “I’ll let her stew for a while; it’ll do her good.” “It’s not up to me to make the first move.” When I finally soften to the point of granting forgiveness, it seems a leap from hard logic to mushy sentiment.
One factor that motivates me to forgive is that as a Christian I am commanded to, as the child of a Father who forgives. Jesus said, “If you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).
But beyond that, I can identify three pragmatic reasons. First, forgiveness halts the cycle of blame and pain, breaking the chain of ungrace. Without it we remain bound to the people we can’t forgive, held in their vise grip.
Second, forgiveness loosens the stranglehold of guilt in the perpetrator. It allows the possibility of transformation in the guilty party, even if a just punishment is still required.
And third, forgiveness creates a remarkable linkage, placing the forgiver on the same side as the party who did the wrong. We are not as different from the wrongdoer as we would like to think, for we too must ask our heavenly Father, “Forgive us our debts” (Matt. 6:12).
When I consider Calvary’s dismay—
The shame, the scorn, the scourging borne by You—
Resentment melts; I am compelled to say,
“Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do!” —Mollon
He who cannot forgive others burns the bridge over which he himself must pass. —Herbert