Never take your own revenge.
Unforgiveness retains a death grip on both the offender and the offense,
trying to extract a payment that will in some way compensate for the
injury we have sustained. But usually our offender is incapable of making
a payment sufficient to cover the wrong he has committed. What adequate
restitution could someone offer us for a marriage ruined through adultery,
a childhood innocence destroyed by incest, or a life snuffed out by drunk
driving? Although an apology, a divorce, a prison term, or even a death
sentence might offer temporary relief from our pain, it cannot provide
When we refuse to release our offender, we enter into our own private
prison in which are emotionally chained to our offender and forced to
repeatedly relive the hurt we have already experienced—all because we will
not let go. It’s like picking up the rattlesnake that bit you once and angrily squeezing it as it strikes you over and over.
Forgiveness means transferring to God our right to extract payment from
our offender. A company that is unable to collect a bill from a delinquent
customer will turn that bill over to a debt collector. Similarly, when we
forgive someone we emotionally release him and assign his obligation to
the ultimate Debt Collector. Forgiveness does not require surrendering our
desire for justice but surrendering our right to execute justice.
The spiritual motivation for unconditional forgiveness is the realization of
that tremendous debt of sin from which God has forgiven you. The practical
motivation for unconditional forgiveness is the freedom that comes from
letting go of the offender and the offense that has brought so much pain
into your life.
Conditioning your forgiveness upon your offender’s actions—repentance,
rehabilitation, restitution—is to willingly remain in the position of a
victim. When you make your forgiveness of another person dependent on
the actions of your offender, you remain emotionally bound to the person
who has wronged you. You can travel no further or faster in life than he
does. If he refuses to say “I’m sorry” or demonstrate his remorse by some
change in his actions or attitudes, you are destined to hobble through life
together. However, by unconditionally forgiving that person you are saying,
“Although what you did to me was wrong, I am letting go of that wrong so
that I can be free to get on with my life.” Forgiveness benefits us much more
than it benefits our offender.
Today’s devotion is an excerpt from “How Can I Know How to Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt Me?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2012.