Whenever I speak on forgiveness, as I did this past Sunday, I’m overwhelmed by the stories I hear. I have relatively minor things to forgive compared to what some have gone through. It humbles me because it’s not always so easy to forgive even the relatively little things. That’s one reason why forgiveness is so powerful when it happens. It’s hard to explain people who are able to let go of the past and offer grace apart from God’s help. Justin Taylor has a good post on forgiveness, including this section from Ken Sande’s book The Peacemaker:
“To forgive someone means to release from liability to suffer punishment or penalty.” He explains:
We must release the person who has wronged us from the penalty of being separated from us. We must not hold wrongs against others, not think about them, and not punish others for them. Therefore, forgiveness may be described as a decision to make four promises:  “I will not think about this incident.”  “I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”  “I will not talk to others about this incident.”  “I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”
Although Justin quibbles with the first point, there’s still lots of good stuff here. The real test is when you can forgive someone to the point of wishing them well, instead of wishing them harm. Of course, forgiveness does not always mean that you will have the same relationship again – although sometimes, not often, you build a stronger one. It’s hardest when you have to forgive someone who isn’t remorseful. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this lately. It’s not a theoretical issue for me, and I see what happens to people who don’t forgive. I think by the time you hit your forties you have accumulated hurts that you need to forgive, and you are on your way to being someone who is free from bitterness or someone who is developing an unforgiving spirit. A couple of decades later, and it’s almost too late. The hardest part about forgiving is that it isn’t a one-time thing. I can forgive someone today, but chances are that if the hurt is deep, I’ll have to forgive them again tomorrow. Good thing that God hands out a fresh batch of grace every day because that’s exactly what we need. At least it’s exactly what I need.