It has been a long and thoughtful process that has brought me to the place where I am able to forgive anything. I’m not saying I have been hit with the supremely unforgivable. No one has put bullets in me, severed my limbs or done irreparable harm to a loved one. Nor am I saying that forgiveness means remaining in the same room with an offender. I have simply learned to chalk all interpersonal ugliness up to sinful human nature. Doing this allows me to understand the why of it and to not take offenses personally. Not infallibly, but as a rule.
When I was quite young, I realized that having double standards (hypocrisy) is detestable. Therefore, I have striven to adhere to the same rules I apply to others. As a corollary, I tend to go easy on people when they offend in ways that I have been guilty of.
But as I got older, I found myself losing self-control as a consequence of living independently of God. I found myself doing some things that 10 years previously I would never have done. At first it made me think I was unusually bad. But God helped me to see that this was an indication of how awful the sinful nature is in each of us, and how little real control I have over it. I was coming to terms with the nature of sin and the human predicament. This is what we’re dealing with. It’s why we need Jesus.
Once I had made these realizations, I began to soften toward others who were guilty of misdeeds, even when I was hurt by them, even when they did things I have never done. I remember seeing my own sin tear down my personal boundaries. What right do I have to hold others to strict account when I am so fallible?
Understanding the reality of sin, forgiving, exercising forbearance. It’s all part of walking with God. But doing these things doesn’t mean I can’t say anything about others’ behavior. To the contrary, when I’ve been hurt by someone else’s misdeeds, the way I understand it I have the God-given right to say something about it. But I should say it with love and compassion, with a sincere desire to see the person change for the better as a result. Such an approach lends a very definite authority to a rebuke.
“Rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:8, NIV).