Eugene Cho

forgiveness is so difficult and yet, so important

“When deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive…  Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” Mary Karen Read (her last entry on her journal before she was killed in the Virginia Tech shootings)

In teaching the past couple weeks about “our” relationship with our parents, the stories keep flooding in including this one that I shared last week of a young girl that tried to take her life. They are painful, brutal, disheartening, and everything within – stories of various abuses, neglect, rejection, etc. In fairness, this is amidst the landscape of many healthy relationships but nevertheless, they are difficult.

The question – in various forms – that I am being asked is,

“How can you ask me to forgive?”

Here are some reasons & thoughts to consider regarding forgiveness.

Forgiveness is really difficult because it contradicts our human concept of fairness.

If someone has wronged or hurt you, it’s only fair that we be angry. If someone punches you, we want to punch back. If someone slanders you, we want to slander back.

Ugh, this following Christ thing is really hard & honestly, unfair at times. I never shared that forgiveness was easy or even natural. In fact, it’s best to acknowledge that it’s irrational, unfair, and likely, some of the most difficult things we’ll do in our life.

Following the ways of Christ = not always easy.

Forgiving someone doesn’t excuse that person or the wrong.

It doesn’t exculpate that person.

As Christians, there’s nothing wrong with calling something for what it is. If someone molested you, beat you, or whatever…it is wrong, sinful, foul, ungodly, and needs to be called for what it is. Period.

Calling someone to forgiveness is not license to be foggy with the interpretation of a situation. And we can be fold in that process.

In forgiving, we learn about the heart of God.

Yes, it is true that God is not defined by one attribute but make no mistake, forgiveness is a central part of God’s heart. There is no Christianity without forgiveness. And if we’re uncertain of this, we simply need to look to the cross.

Wow.

Anger and embitterment is not God’s will for our lives.

We might be completely justified on a human level to be upset, angry, and embittered but those feelings, emotions, and anger is not what God intended for our souls.

Forgive so that you can step into what God intended for our souls. In a strange way, forgiveness isn’t just meant for the other person, it’s meant for you and for your soul. Yes, it is true that you can “get by” and survive but what God intends us for is so much more.

The implications of generations. Sing a new song.

While there are varying opinions of “generational sin”, I think we can all agree that our actions – both good and bad – have an impact beyond our lives.

My invitation for people to forgive is not just merely for your benefit but to consider your future as well. We might not see it now but it will impact those around us – including those in the future.

Break the cycle. Begin a new rhythm of grace, mercy, and kindness, and forgiveness. Sing a new song.

“When deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive…  Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” ~ Mary Karen Read (her last entry on her journal before she was killed in the Virginia Tech shootings)

Forgiveness is rarely a one time event.

Forgiveness is part of a longer process that usually involves forgiving someone and even the same circumstance – again and again and again. I wonder if this is in part of what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 18:21-22 when he encouraged forgiveness to take place 70 times 7.

Filed under: christianity, faith, Jesus,

19 Responses

  1. Alysse says:

    This is one of the reasons I’m such a staunch advocate against physical harm to males accused of everything from angering to raping females. No boy or man can forgive, only live with, the loss of physical features (testicles or penis harmed/removed). Only mental anguish can be met with forgiveness. It’s simply too much to ask a male kicked in his privates to accept a life of sterility or loss of love, since it’s not all in his mind. He can repair and mitigate and prepare and try not to be scared and nervous about a repeat episode, but he can’t forgive (release another) as he will not have the enlarged future Mary Karen Read spoke of, if he should. In all other ways I think what Mary says about forgiveness is right. But what is happening globally to males is the outright attack and/or humorous degradation of their identity and irreplaceable parts (yet not their eyes) simply for being males.

    • Melissa says:

      Alysse -
      I am confused when I read your comment. What are you talking about? I do not know what to comment because I cannot understand what you are talking about or how it relates to the post above. Did you think the post was advocating for violence against men? As I read it, it was talking about our need to forgive wrongs done to us, and not talking about violence or abuse further than acknowledging that it has happened to many of us and is a horrible thing.

  2. Jane says:

    Thanks Eugene.

    This is so good and so timely.

  3. Alysse says:

    I really loved this video and appreciate what Mary said. I just couldn’t help think it would fall short to forgive persons who believe males deserve inequal justice and physical assaults, while speaking and acting enlightened. These women and even men proceed to give just enough possible faint justice to men but “don’t let them get too strong” as a movement or we women may go backwards in society. I think this is hogwash and as one can tell, this is where my activism lies. I’ve had a good life. I want to enjoy the rest of it without seeing men suffer the same, continued injustice and torment, after having aided me and many other women on our rise in stature often simply by giving us freedom and equality – not the trouble-maker men, the good men. Tormented women are aided and at least physically whole with the mental choice to forgive. That’s the large disparity in a narrow subject, admittedly, but it has staggeringly large connections. God’s will forthcoming, we can stop ‘permissable’ sexual assaults of males to be called “no problem”, “he deserved it”, “he’ll be fine it’s not like it’s rape” or by police simply “assault.” Let’s put women’s faces up and make it hard for them to get jobs by being on a list of sexual offenders. Only then will equality will be much closer, and in turn you’ll see many more men respecting women. Sources: common sense, conversations with my spouse and male co-workers for over 20 years. Of course I had to sift past the feeling-defeated men who think the deserve abuse, and the men for whom nothing bothers them and they advocate violence until happens to them.

    • Andy M says:

      Alysse,
      Like Melissa pointed out above, I’m not sure where you are coming from with this. It seems like you are responding to a different conversation than the one happening here. The current topic here is forgiveness, and nobody else has mentioned any kind of assault or abuse against men.

      “it would fall short to forgive persons who believe males deserve inequal justice and physical assaults”

      Again, while I’m not sure where you are coming from, it is not falling short to forgive those people, it is falling short to NOT forgive those people. Forgiveness is universal, there is nobody who should be excluded. And, like the video and Eugene have said, forgiveness frees you as much as it can free the person being forgiven. To not forgive anybody is to keep yourself in bondage just as much as the person who needs forgiveness.

      “only mental anguish can be met with forgiveness”

      Really? So someone who hurts another person in any physical way cannot be forgiven, whether the act was intentional or not? Forgiveness itself may be a primarily mental activity, but that does not mean that physical harm cannot be forgiven, even when the harm is permanent. Forgiveness is universal.

  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eugene Cho, Tiffany Pennington and Kathleen Acker, Ian Kirk. Ian Kirk said: RT @EugeneCho "Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future." – http://bit.ly/aarECd //A MUST READ! [...]

  5. Melody Hanson says:

    As I look back forgiveness wafts in and out of my entire life story, and in particular the last five years have been learning that I am forgiven and how I need to forgive. It’s what so much of my poetry is about and in particular this one:

    MY SECRETS

    WHEN I WAS A SMALL GIRL I loved heart-shaped ice cream bars, story books read aloud, and running barefoot all summer long. I remember back scratches and hugs after bad dreams. I believed the world was good. I knew nothing of sorrow or regret; that someday I would need to forgive.

    AS I GREW I began to see my father was never satisfied and he was afflicted by a secret rage.
    Mother grew sad and afraid, there was no one to tell; no one who could help. My world began
    to crumble; secrets became bigger than life.
    I discovered I could disappear, hiding from him
    I’d read a book all day long. And later, hide in work, shopping or a glass of wine. Just like Mom, it was safer to be invisible, silent, placid. I used whatever I could find to make the crushing sadness stop.

    AFTER YEARS AND YEARS of hiding, love found me.
    I began to write, to create, to grow things
    and finally to heal. Then I found my voice.
    By telling this story I would flourish and reach,
    timidly at first, for forgiveness.

    At nearly forty I accepted that I was the one Jesus loved. I never believed that could be true. You can’t be cruel to a person and share that truth. My secret life of sorrow and lament;
    the constant melancholy has become something else. Though I still cannot understand why my father was angry, why life was so hard.

    TODAY, in the early morning quiet, I know
    who I am now matters most. I remember; it hurts. I forgive; it heals. When your grief overwhelms and possibilities are gone, what you choose then matters. Somehow love found me. I also chose to receive it. Bad things will happen, I can’t stop them. In choosing the hope and the new life that Jesus offers; In choosing to forgive, I will live.

    logicandimagination.wordpress.com.

  6. randall says:

    I first read this via Anne Lamott but I’ve seen the quote attributed to various people:
    “Holding resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

  7. Judy says:

    I thought last week’s semon was good, but this week was SO POWERFUL, especially the video. I wish my sister could have heard it too, so she could start letting go of the bitterness and hatred of our father. I love your message about forgiveness. My dad is long gone, but it’s not too late for us to “sing a new song”. Thanks so much!

  8. Ann F-R says:

    I was given the privilege by the Lord of learning to walk out forgiving a relative who’d grievously injured my family and me, for 27 years. I didn’t always appreciate the “privilege” at the time, and there were many times I would much rather have avoided him, but many times I met him I sought God’s strength to love him by and according to the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling me. In my last conversation with him I said to my own and his shock, “I’ve been blessed to have you as my relative.” (My husband gaped at me, too! :)

    Instantly, from head to toe, I felt the humbling power of God pour over and through me to give grace to this man. It was then, and only then, that I understood that God’s blessing us is so profound, immeasurable and unconquerable that NO human imperfection, sin or grievous wrong can destroy it. We each may bless one another because we are used by God to do so, and even the wrongs we’ve done God can use to his glory. When I taught Romans 9:16-24 after that, it had deeper meaning than I could have imagined prior to living and walking through that relationship.

    That conversation was the last I had with him. As I hung up the phone, I said to my husband, “I think I just said ‘good-bye’.” My relative died 2 months later. After his funeral, his bitter wife said to me that he’d confessed and cried to her that he knew he’d been an awful husband before his death. I wondered to God in my heart, “had I not drawn on Your love and grace to offer to him, would he have had the courage to repent before he died?”

  9. your friend says:

    I was touched in my heart by the honest sharing of my friend Eugene and also those who left a reply.

    Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things we ever do. It needs supernatural strength and love, therefore, the godly character!

    What I had in mind while reading:

    Only when I have RECEIVED lavish grace, I can GIVE grace.

    I have been hurt most deeply by people, who do not practice grace, only teach it.

  10. [...] Cho wrote what I consider to be a powerful post on forgiveness. In it he included the above video. If you can watch it and not be moved, then you have some [...]

  11. [...] why you may not be seeing spiritual growth – from The Resurgence/Acts 29. – Eugene Cho posed some challenging thoughts on his post on forgiveness. – Loved Ben Lemery’s thoughts, “Why is my story on [...]

  12. [...] Cho wrote what I consider to be a powerful post on forgiveness. In it he included the above video. If you can watch it and not be moved, then you have some [...]

  13. Robin says:

    Forgiveness frees us. Enables us to love and gives the rights of justice to God. It is not always easy yet I feel the faster we move into forgiveness the more our hearts open up and God is free to move in our lives.
    Forgiveness is an act of trust in God.

  14. catesongbird says:

    The hardest thing about forgiveness for me is that it’s a choice, and I decide not to do it sometimes. I know the whole thing is just twisted since not forgiving makes me suffer more. I really like what Khaled Hosseini says in “Kite Runner” about forgiveness -that sometimes it comes in the night and quietly packs its bags and leaves. It’s not true all the time, but sometimes it is.

    I guess my other conundrum about forgiveness is that sometimes I do not allow myself to even get to an angry place in order to forgive. I think that reveals something deep in my heart about how I think I deserve the bad things that have happened to me. I probably do (existentially as a sinner), but that doesn’t mean God is happy about what happened or the wrongful act is justified in any sense. I have a hard time being angry at the people who have done some of the worst things to me, so at that point, I don’t even feel like there is something to forgive.

  15. Ben Wilson says:

    Really like the site. The one thing that strikes a cord with me though, negatively is the fact that that we as Christians are allowed to call the sin for what it is. When I look at the original definition of forgive I see a different responsibility. When you forgive you relinquish the right or desire to punish. You remit all debt. Some of the last words out of Jesus mouth were “forgive them Lord for they know not what they do.” He was not only showing that He forgave them but also asking God to not punish the soldiers. That was a selfless act. It was a glorious prayer to God and one that was answered.If you read Acts 2:14-41 some of the soldiers that Jesus was asking God to forgive were the very ones that Peter addressed on the day of Pentecost and were converted.
    1. Do you not think that one of the last acts that Jesus did would be one of most importance. I believe because of this it should be the first thing we choose as part of our witness.
    2. By still naming the wrong that was done to us as a Christian no matter how ugly the wrong is. Gives that sin that sin life. It is still holding that person accountable for that act. Your witness is weakened by announcing to the world the wrong that has been done. The strength of the witness is in the change forgiveness has made in your life.

  16. tom says:

    Some acts are just not forgivable and this was one such act…Murdering 32 of your classmates for no reason in a deranged killing spree is just not forgivable….I feel no forgiveness for that evil shooter

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