Forgiving your friends
How (and why!) to forgive when you've been wronged
Do you remember this line in the Lord’s prayer?
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
The second part of that line—forgiving those who sin against us—can be one of the hardest things Christians are called to do. When someone says something horrible about you and you hear about it, or they hurt you physically, or they lie to you, or act without thinking about your feelings, it’s natural to want to stay angry, and make them feel how you feel. The world says, “get revenge! Stay bitter! Make them pay!”
But the Bible says, amongst other things:
- “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult” (1 Peter 3:9)
- “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31)
- “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14).
It’s pretty clear that God wants us to forgive others and not hold on to our anger!
Here are some ways to help you forgive your friends and family when they hurt you, even when it’s really hard.
Remember why we forgive
What does the Lord’s prayer say? Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
We are called to forgive others because God first forgave us!
Imagine a person who continually hurt you, said horrible things about you, rejected your guidance, wished you didn’t exist and lived a life that showed they didn’t care about you at all. Would you be able to forgive that person?
God did! God forgave that person and that person is me. That person is you. That person is all of us! Through the amazing gift of Jesus, God offered us forgiveness that we didn’t deserve, before we even said sorry. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
If God can forgive us so much, then we should forgive others when they wrong us.
Prayer is powerful! Rather than clinging on to pain and hurt, give it to God and tell him how you feel. Ask him to take away the negative feelings you have towards the person who wronged you. This can be hard, because it’s our tendency to want to hold onto hurt so that we can make the person feel guilty, but this is not a godly way to act. Pray for God’s help, and keep praying whenever the ugly feelings rear their heads. And, pray for the person who wronged you! Whatever the situation, whoever they are, they need to know that God loves them and will forgive them too.
Apologise if you need to
Often the worst hurts occur in the midst of a fight or argument.
Do you have something you need to apologise for? Even if the other person doesn’t apologise first (or never does), be the bigger person and show grace to your friend by apologising for the things you did wrong.
Don’t say “I’m sorry you feel angry”—humbly admit any wrongdoing by saying something like “I’m sorry I said that mean thing about you … I should not have said that”.
Try to love the person
Even after you think you’ve forgiven a person, negative feelings may still arise.
Keep praying about it! And then, if you can, try to love the person. This may take a number of different forms, but when I’m struggling to forgive a person, I try and think about the hard things they could be going through that might have prompted them to act badly.
If I can’t think of anything, I think about how all people are sinful. I am no better than this person who has hurt me. This helps me to forgive the person, because I remember that I, too, have hurt people in my life and I have no right to “be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7).
Once your thoughts are loving, try expressing this in actions. Try and repair the friendship, and reassure your friend you still care about them. This will obviously be easier if your friend has admitted they did something wrong, but even if they didn’t you can try and move forward.
IMPORTANT: If you are in a situation where you are in danger or continually mistreated, it may be necessary for you to stop spending time with that person, or get help from a trusted adult. Forgiveness doesn’t mean staying with a person if they abuse you or make you feel unsafe.
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