“Nothing in the Christian life is more important than forgiveness…” John MacArthur said, “our forgiveness of others and God's forgiveness of us.” Why is he so loud? I wish this statement were a little less true. But, it’s hard to deny a truth that penetrates so deeply into the secret corners of your life. Forgiveness draws open the shades and pulls the covers off of pain we'd rather nurse in the dark. If I need the forgiveness of others, that means I've made a misstep. It requires me to be humble, to admit I'm wrong. If I need to forgive someone else, I'm forced to acknowledge that I've been hurt, and even worse, that I can be hurt again. So unforgiveness is a defense mechanism. it helps us build the wall between ourselves and our offenders. It helps us feel justified in remaining angry at the people who’ve hurt us most, and it protects our pride, so we don't have to address the depth of brokenness we've felt or dealt to others. But if you have been harboring unforgiveness, whether you feel unintentionally stuck or because you don't believe the other person deserves your forgiveness, I can predict at least one thing about your life: you are exhausted!
That was me. I was exhausted. But if the enemy can keep you waiting, he can keep you wounded. And if keeping you offended keeps you from being effective, your enemy has already won.
An excellent therapist had the nerve to ask me if I had forgiven the people who had harmed me. “Of course not,” I shot back. “They haven't asked for my forgiveness!” That began a journey of rediscovering God's grace, a grace I couldn't earn and didn't ask for. I was waiting for the people who hurt me to ask for my forgiveness. I was waiting for an apology I still may never get. And so long as I waited, someone else had power over me. Someone else could decide whether or not I would move on. But when Christ was on the cross, he prayed, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” He prayed this prayer without their requests for forgiveness. In the next breath, they were casting lots for His clothing. They were not repentant. They did not ask to be forgiven. They did not apologize or show remorse.
You can forgive without their apology.
You can be free without their apology.
You can move on without their apology.
And you can heal without their apology.
You may never get the apology you deserve or desire. But you do not need their permission to forgive. You do not need their permission to be set free. You don't need the apology. You want it, and so do I, but I promise you can thrive without it.
This article was adapted from The Book on Forgiveness: Small Steps for Big Change.