I would be out of a job if husbands forgave wives, wives forgave husbands, children forgave their parents, siblings forgave one another, friends forgave each other, workers forgave their bosses and nations forgave nations. Imagine for a moment a child forgiving a parent who verbally belittled them instead of harboring that resentment well into adulthood and either repeating that pattern with their own children or worse internalizing the thoughtless comment. Imagine a worker forgiving their boss for taking undeserved credit for a job well done instead of finding ways to even the score. “Impossible” you say?
Signs of unforgiveness are everywhere in our culture. Just turn on a talk show any day of the week and you will hear story after story of one person who believes they are justified in their anger. And sadly, sometimes they are justified but there is a better way. If we can identify the early warning signs of unforgiveness in our own lives and learn to forgive others before they ask or even if they never ask for forgiveness, then our own lives will be blessed.
Angry Outbursts. Have you ever been around someone who just blew up over what seems like nothing and you are left wondering what just happened? Their outburst may be a sign of unforgiveness in their own life; something you might have said or something you might have done may have triggered a memory completely unrelated to the event itself and their outburst has more to do with the past then the present. But here’s the kicker…you need to forgive their outburst even if you don’t fully understand who, what, where, why, and how. Otherwise, you are likely to fall into the next category.
Cold Shoulder. Have you ever gotten the cold shoulder from a friend and you don’t know what is happening? Or better yet, someone pretends not to know you when you know perfectly well that they do know you. The cold shoulder routine may be another sign of unforgiveness in their life as they would rather stuff the issue then address it openly. This is a favorite tactic of most married couples as one spouse ignores or minimizes communication with the other. The one doing the ignoring is the one who is harboring unforgiveness. But here’s the kicker…you need to forgive their cold shoulder routine even if you don’t fully understand who, what, where, why, and how. Otherwise, you will be as guilty as them.
Gossip. Have you ever been around someone who says they are just trying to inform or warn you of someone else? Or perhaps, they are more spiritual in their tactic by saying they are just trying to find out how to specifically pray for someone else. Any way you look at it, this is gossip and unforgiveness is at the root. The person gossiping is actually distracting themselves and others away from their own issues in an attempt to look better. This is the worst type of unforgiveness as it is internal, revealing they have not forgiven themselves for an offense. So here’s the kicker…you need to forgive their gossip to show them that they are worthy of forgiveness and perhaps help them to learn how to forgive themselves.
As I am writing this article, my own lack of forgiveness for others becomes all too glaringly obvious. The best way I know how to forgive is to pray and turn it over to God. Sometimes I write it down and then destroy the paper as a demonstration of my forgiveness but mostly I just pray. Having received forgiveness for my own faults as a believer in Jesus Christ, I welcome the opportunity to show forgiveness to others, even if they never ask.