Adam Northcroft
Why should I forgive?

Forgiving someone can be very tough. In fact, it can seem positively unfair, wrong even – an offence against justice.

In some eyes an act of forgiveness means permitting the perpetrator to walk away Scott-free and not face appropriate consequences.

Others say that forgiveness demeans the victim by suggesting the wrong and pain inflicted was unimportant, magnifying the sense of anger and injury in the aggrieved.

In reality unforgiveness is often about rage, bitterness and desire for revenge. This is especially true when the afflicted regularly relives the grievance so nursing a resentment that grows. Some can even become defined by it, allowing their views on people to be horribly re-shaped and hardened.

And while they feel entirely justified in their attitude because of the act against them, the fact remains that unforgiveness is deeply damaging.

The terrible truth is that victims can continue to be harmed by their own negative response to the event even years afterwards. Undealt with it can leave them angry, emotionally-withered and even physically sick.

Forgiveness is not about letting the other person off-the-hook, but is about setting yourself free from damaging emotions. Forgiveness is an act of self-preservation and restoration.

Many who have found it within themselves to forgive have encountered a real sense of freedom and lightness – even decades after the event. The liberty it produces can be life-changing.

It doesn’t mean the original act doesn’t matter, or that you should forget about it and just go back for more abuse, or that the perpetrator shouldn’t face appropriate justice. Not at all. Justice and forgiveness can work hand in hand.

Jesus urged us to forgive because as Christians we have been forgiven. He set the example on the Cross and forgave those who belittled, hated and abused Him, telling us to do the same. He also urged us to forgive for our own sake. He said that unforgiveness is like being in a prison while tortured by the jailer, and that forgiving is the way out.

At Christmas we traditionally quote the line from the angels at the birth of Christ: “Joy on earth and good will to all men.”

Knowing God’s forgiveness for our own sin and forgiving others for theirs against us is central to knowing this joy and good will.

Maybe this Christmas it is time to forgive.