What Is Forgiveness?

We are taught at an early age to say “Sorry,” when we have hurt someone, and along the way we have perceived this to be forgiveness.  As a Christian, we are told to forgive, and even commanded to forgive.  The Old Testament is filled with many examples of God forgiving humanity.  The New Testament writers tell of God’s fulfillment of forgiveness in Jesus.  In addition, Jesus tells us to forgive. But what is forgiveness?  What does it look like?

Forgiveness can be difficult to define, let alone understand.  If you were to ask anyone what forgiveness is, you would receive as many definitions as the amount of people that you asked.  And, it is likely that there would be an element of truth in each definition.

Forgiveness has a complexity that cannot be described in simplistic terms. Yet for the sake of argument, let’s start with this definition of forgiveness:  Forgiveness means no longer being held in emotional or spiritual bondage to another person’s actions or words.  It means that regardless of how big or small the offense, you no longer have to feel controlled or enslaved by the offense.  In short, the offense no longer ruins your day, or even worse, distracts you from joy. 

And whether we realize it or not, withholding forgiveness enslaves us. When an offense is committed against us, it not only targets our egos, but our heart, our mind, and even our body.
If we are honest, each of us can probably recall several incidents where we were hurt and remain angry.  We may have thought that we “let it go.”  Yet, even a subtle reminder of this incident can conjure up all the same hurt feelings and anger with the same intensity of when it first happened.  Therefore, we are still being controlled by something today that happened well in the past.  The irony here is that we are the ones that are at the disadvantage; those who have hurt us may not even remember the incident.

The students that come to CWJC to further their education either through HI Set Prep, English as a Second Language (ESL), or Computer/Job Skill classes have failed in the conventional or traditional ways to learn.  They are at a disadvantage because we meet them at a place where they have not forgiven society, family members, or most importantly themselves for failing.  CWJC is more than just a place of education. It becomes a place for each student to learn that God loves them, people love them, and they can learn to love themselves again. Hopefully, each student reaches the point of forgiving themselves, as they move out of whatever trap has enslaved them to this point. 

So, what does the Bible say about forgiveness?  What does it look like? David had the best description in the Psalms, “as far as the east is from the west, so He has removed our transgressions from us.”  Can you sense the freedom of this forgiveness?  It knows no bounds, and it is all encompassing.  How would our relationships change if we allowed forgiveness in our families, jobs, and friendships? Forgiveness can be viewed as the pathway for greater virtues such as love, joy, and peace.  Who doesn’t want these virtues in their life?  CWJC helps show these virtues to each student as they grow towards faith in themselves and more importantly faith in God as they find ways to better themselves each time they step into our classrooms.

-Angela Good
 Williamson Women’s Program Director