We can all attest to the pain and hurt caused by friends, family, coworkers, bosses, and even perfect strangers. I know that you’ve had your fair share of that pain. I have too.
I grew up in a household where the reconciliation process between friends and family members was mandated until it became a habit. And we weren’t allowed to walk away until all was forgiven.
But when you’re small, it’s easy to forgive things like your sister taking your toy or your friend taking your turn during a game. It’s when we get older that it somehow gets harder to forgive others.
For one thing, I find it easier to take things way more personal than when I was a kid. A few years ago, I was really struggling in my job and wasn’t given the help I needed. And I took that personally. It took some time to forgive that person. But it also took some perspective that it wasn’t personal. That person helped me as much as they were able. On another occasion, a good friend of mine was becoming more distant in our friendship. It took some time to forgive that person. But it also took some perspective to see that they were going through A LOT of transitions in their life. It wasn’t personal.
I was reading through the story of Joseph and was reminded of just how beautiful the story of forgiveness is. A sweet reminder that we are all on the continual journey to forgiveness. And it was the end of Joseph’s story that caught my eye.
Several years after Joseph reconciled with his brothers, Jacob (now Israel) died. They’d made all of the arrangements for his burial and attended his funeral. Then the brothers panicked. Now that their father was dead (who loved Joseph most of all), was Joseph finally going to seek his revenge for all that they had done to him as a teenager? They were so afraid of him that they wrote him a note asking for his forgiveness again. Joseph, heartbroken, said:
“Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, to judge and punish you? As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil, for he brought me to this high position today so that I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. Indeed, I myself will take care of you and your families.” (Genesis 50:19-21 TLB)
This was his chance! This was his perfect opportunity to get them back for abandoning him all those years ago! But he didn’t take it. Because he had already forgiven them. Probably before they even asked.
Sometimes the people that wrong us are going to be sorry and show remorse and ask forgiveness. Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes the reconciliation that we so long for doesn’t happen. And that’s ok.
Reconciliation and forgiveness are for our benefit anyway. As selfish as that sounds. Joseph could have been stewing and plotting revenge on his brothers all those years he was in jail. If he did, do you think that all of the good he was able to do for Pharaoh and all of Egypt come to pass? I don’t think so.
He didn’t allow what was easy (holding on to offense and unforgiveness) keep him from being used by God to save an entire nation. He took his eyes off of himself.
When we take our eyes off of ourselves and our feelings and circumstances, we’re able to see things with a better perspective. When I take my eyes off of myself and my hurt, I can clearly see all that God has done for ME. How He has forgiven ME time and time again. And if He can do that for me, I can do that for others.
The FREEDOM you receive from forgiving others… there’s nothing like it! And the more you do it, the easier it gets! And if we all start to walk in forgiveness, the world becomes a better place.
So like Joseph… like Jesus… whether they’re sorry or not, whether they know they did anything wrong or not, forgive them anyway. I promise you won’t regret it.