If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve likely heard the biblical mandate to forgive found in Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
After all, if Jesus could you forgive me, you think, I certainly can extend that same grace.
So you decide to forgive this person who’s hurt you. You feel super spiritual about your decision and all is well, until…
Those feelings of anger hit you like a freight train. Maybe it was a tiny trigger or a repeated offense. And now you’re back to feeling the anger all over again.
Did I not forgive? you think to yourself.
One thing is for sure, and that is, you WILL have to exercise your forgiveness over annoying, evil, self-centered people.
But do forgiveness and feelings work in tandem?
The truth is, forgiveness is a decision. It’s an act of the will to let this person off your vengeance hook and release them into God’s hands. And while your head can make the decision to forgive, your heart doesn’t always get the memo.
The good news is that you don’t have to have fuzzy feelings of forgiveness to truly forgive.
Yet, it’s not uncommon to make the decision to forgive but still struggle with “feelings” of unforgiveness.
Let’s talk about 3 reasons why you ‘feel’ like you haven’t forgiven and what you can do about it.
Reason #1: Unhealed emotions
Forgiveness is often the first step (and most crucial, I might add), but after that comes the healing of the emotions. Working through the pain of the offense and learning how to process it properly can go a long way in having your feelings catch up with your forgiveness. It can be beneficial to get help to process your emotions. If you are struggling with residual anger, bitterness or resentment, you would do well to get with a qualified professional (or even a trusted spiritual advisor) who can help you.
Oftentimes, you don’t recognize that the feelings you’re struggling with can go beyond the person who betrayed you. It can speak to a deeper underlying issue that should be addressed before the enemy uses it against you.
Reason #2: It’s still happening
Too often, I’ve seen well-meaning Christians confuse forgiveness with trust. I can forgive you but it doesn’t mean I trust you. If you cheated on me, I may forgive you, I may even give you another chance, but I don’t yet trust you. That’s because trust is earned. And if a person isn’t willing to earn back your trust, that should be a red flag that they don’t deserve your trust. That could be one of the reasons why your anger still gets triggered because you are still in the midst of it. Forgiveness is a biblical principle to release you from the bondage of bitterness.
However, forgiveness is not turning a blind eye to continued sinful behavior.
Reason #3: You haven’t accepted the reality
Oftentimes, we decide that we will be the better person and do the godly act of forgiving. And in doing so, we expect the situation to change. Perhaps the person will be more grateful, or the toxic behavior will stop. But your forgiveness won’t change the other person. When you expect it to, you set yourself up for forgiveness failure. The bible says we will know them by their fruit, (Matthew 7:15-20) so when someone shows you who they are, believe them.
Your forgiveness releases the offender, it doesn’t change them. Many who expect the other person to have changed simply because they are forgiven, sadly set themselves up for further hurt.
So what do you do when the anger arises?
1. Evaluate the situation.
Ask yourself, is this an old trigger or current trouble? This is important to distinguish as it will help you determine the type of help you need.
2. Don’t give in.
It’s tempting to allow the anger to cause you to rehash the offense in your mind and even with your mouth. Think of your anger as any other temptation that you have to resist. Instead, give the anger to God. Let Him know that you desire to give up your rights to this anger.
3. Recognize it’s a trap of the enemy.
The enemy loves to play off your past pain. He will use whatever he can to trigger you into falling back into old feelings. He does this because he knows that those old feelings will cause you to fall into sin. Yes, first he tempts others to sin against you, and then he uses that sin to cause you to sin. Resist him, my friend.
4. Renew your mind.
When the thoughts come back, they may trigger feelings. Instead of being driven by your feelings, learn the truth about your thoughts. What does God say about your thoughts and feelings? The only way to know this is to know His Word. If your thoughts and feelings don’t line up with the Word of God, they must be renewed.
Need help renewing your mind? My online course, Renew Your Mind can help. you can check it out here.
Forgiveness is a choice.
If you find that you are constantly fighting feelings of anger even after you’ve forgiven, it’s possible that you’re not struggling with forgiveness, but with residual sinful behaviors or trust.
Getting with a good Christian counselor can help.
Go to Faithful Counseling Https://faithfulcounseling.com/krisreece to find an affordable counselor in your area.