Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
I have spent two years trying to figure out forgiveness. For a while I thought that when I forgave, it would stop hurting, but I forgave, yet I was still hurting. At another point, I thought that maybe forgiveness means reconciliation with the one who sinned against me, but he refused to change and I was hurt again. I came up with many more theories, but each one failed me, leaving me increasingly baffled.
I have discovered, though, that forgiveness seems to mean not holding a person’s sin against him or her. It means that when I am upset, I don’t use it against them. I do not need to forget about what happened, and I can take steps to keep it from happening again, but when I forgive, I start to see and treat them as human. They are capable of evil, yes, but so am I. And like me, they are also capable of good, and I cannot let my hurt blind me from seeing the good that they bring to the world. When I forgive, they become, in my mind, more than just the person who sinned against me. I will not claim the right for myself to condemn them for their sin, because I also am a sinner.
I have also discovered, however, that forgiveness is not a one time event, but neither is it a process. It is a cycle that never seems to end It merely gradually becomes a little bit easier as I make my way around to forgiving again.
Forgiveness doesn’t last, you see. I might stop holding this hurt against you, but I am not healed yet. The wounds reopen, and I feel the pain, and the anger and bitterness that come with it, all over again. A memory resurfaces, Father’s day comes around, someone reminds me of the way you treated me, and I find myself holding your sin against you all over again.
It’s hard to forgive you. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve had to forgive you all over again, but I must have reached seventy-seven times by now. I will keep forgiving, though. God forgives all of everyone’s sins completely, so I suppose that with God’s power in me, I can forgive these. However many times the pain comes back, I will forgive you again.