While that may be true for a few, I’ve come to believe that, whether they realize it or not, unforgiveness is, in fact, a very real issue for most people. Almost everyone has someone (or ones) they haven’t forgiven.
I’ve seen it confirmed over and over again. For many years, whenever I have spoken on this subject, after defining and describing forgiveness from a biblical perspective, I have asked the audience this question: “How many of you would be honest enough to admit that there is a root of bitterness in your heart—that there are one or more people in your life—past or present—that you’ve never forgiven?”
I have asked for a response from tens of thousands of people, including long-time believers, Bible study leaders, and vocational Christian workers. It doesn’t matter what the setting is or who’s in the audience. In virtually every case, somewhere between 80 and 95 percent of the hands in the room have been raised.
It still affects me profoundly to think that the vast majority of people sitting in church Sunday after Sunday (and many who are sitting at home, having left the church, disillusioned) have at least a seed—if not a forest—of unforgiveness in their heart.
In many cases, those raised hands reveal hearts that are still wounded, still bleeding, still suffering, still hearing the words, still seeing the offenses, still having a hard time getting over what happened.
In other cases, the hands represent hearts that have been anesthetized; they have become indifferent or detached, perhaps putting up walls to keep from getting hurt again.
Whatever the story behind each hand raised, I am convinced that unforgiveness in the hearts of God’s people is not the exception—it has become the norm for most. They may have learned to live with it. They may be “coping.” They may mask it with laughter or bury it with busyness. But when they get honest with themselves and God, they are not free.
So while I’m well aware that there are other good books and resources available on this subject . . . I keep seeing that sea of raised hands. People just like you. I keep thinking of the eyes I’ve looked into and the stories I’ve heard from tormented—or jaded—hearts. More important, I keep thinking about how different people’s lives can be once the walls are broken down, once they choose the pathway of forgiveness and are set free from the prison of hurt and bitterness.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Lawrence Kimbrough, Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008).
We have just released a new Bible Study based on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book, Choosing Forgiveness.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Choosing Forgiveness, Lesson #1
What Happens When We Refuse?
Choosing Forgiveness, Lesson #2
The Promise of Forgiveness
Choosing Forgiveness, Lesson #3
The Art of Forgiveness
Choosing Forgiveness, Lesson #4
What True Forgiveness Is — And Isn’t
Choosing Forgiveness, Lesson #5
Returning a Blessing