Forgiveness begins by admitting you have been offended. At this point you start with acknowledging the offense. You cannot quickly rid yourself of the offense until you bring it to the surface and call it for what it is. Forgiveness doesn’t remove or delete offenses from our lives. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you go into denial and forget this ever happened to you. Forgiveness will not erase your memory clean. What forgiveness does is to remove the power of that memory over your life.

Forgiveness doesn’t declare that what the offenders did is now OK. Instead, forgiveness takes an offense seriously, without trying to pass it off as an insignificant and trivial matter. Every wrong produces an indebtedness that we feel. Have you ever heard someone say, “You owe me an apology!”? If I offend you, then I have created a debt and am obligated to pay it. Forgiveness means that you must release what you are owed and not give your offenders what they deserve. Forgiveness acknowledges the debt but you are choosing to cancel it. This is the essence of forgiveness – releasing the other person’s indebtedness to you.

Forgiveness means that you are releasing the offender into the care of Jesus who is our just Judge and our Defender. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19).

When we hang on to the offense and refuse to release it, we are deciding that we want to stand in God’s place and take our own revenge rather than let our Just Judge do it. Genuine forgiveness recognizes that we do not have the right to become the enforcers of justice. To render justice to the offender, it would have to pass through us first since we are standing between God and the offender. Having bound ourselves to our offender through retaining the offense and standing in God’s role in seeking to render our own revenge, we position ourselves right in the middle of God’s line of sight standing between Him and the offender. For God to have access to the offender to bring about justice, we must release the offender and the offense out of our hands and into the hands of God, our perfect and holy Judge.

One reason you may not want to forgive is because you fear having to reconcile with the other person. However, forgiving a person doesn’t mean that reconciliation is the inevitable next step. While forgiveness is always necessary, reconciliation is not. Sometimes reconciliation is impossible because the offender is dead or unreachable. In addition, your offender may not even have any desire to be reconciled. Forgiveness depends on the offended releasing the debt of the offender irregardless of whether the relationship is restored. The offender could be a person who sexually molested you, a person who verbally belittled you, one who physically abused you, or one who betrayed you. If you have been wounded and the potential of further wounding is possible or even probable, safe boundaries are necessary.

Here’s the clincher. Your offender still has power over you until you forgive. That ought to irritate you if nothing else. You could be sitting around, angry as you can be, thinking that as long as you do not forgive, you are punishing your offender(s), while in the meantime your offenders can be going about activities of their daily routine enjoying themselves, not even thinking about you, much less concerned about you, and going on with life. But NO! You are punishing them, right? Who really is getting punished?

The result of forgiveness is the freedom to pursue the purposes of God for your life. Unforgiveness stifles God’s destiny for our lives. It clouds our motives. It pollutes our purpose. It tempts us to deviate from our course. When unforgiveness is present, we find ourselves weighed down and easily worn out. When we have a heart that is willing to forgive, then the weights that hinder us are gone.

You can identify the seed of what you have been sowing by examining the fruit of the crop you are harvesting, both good and bad. Whatever we give out, whether good or bad, will be given back to us in greater portions. That is the law of the harvest. We reap back what we sow, we reap later than we sow, and we reap more than what we sow. So, we have a choice in what we reap; the effects of blessing or the effects of cursing. When we suffer the effect of a curse, the suffering is essentially the damage and ruin toward ourselves for not choosing to give what we have received.

We can receive mercy without giving it. We can receive God’s forgiveness of sins without forgiving others who have sinned against us. When we do not give, we shut off the flow of grace from our lives. As a result, spiritual, emotional, and possibly even physical diseases are given permission to operate in us. Another thing that happens when we refuse to forgive is that we are cursing ourselves. Our tongue can bring blessing or it can bring cursing. Whatever we send forth from our tongue is what we reap. Whatever we send forth with our words returns to us. That is why we are told to “bless our enemies” and “bless those who curse you.” James 3:8-10 says, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth came both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

When people have not forgiven their parents for wounding they received earlier in life, they cut themselves off emotionally from their parents, often vowing never again to relate to them or be like them. The effect is that you cut off your inheritance. Your parents, regardless of whether they were good or bad, have a source of blessing that is your rightful godly spiritual inheritance. Even though it is difficult to see it in some parents, there is blessing somewhere up the family line that we need to call down to ourselves. Bitterness puts up a wall that shuts off any spiritual family inheritance because we simply can’t receive. As a part of this same thing, we all have a masculine and feminine heritage that is passed on to us. Bitterness can shut down and your vow can cut off what God would want passed on to you. The same is true if you have bitterness against the pastor or a teacher in your church.

When an ungodly stronghold rules your life, you find yourself becoming a slave to your thoughts and those thoughts controlling you rather than you controlling your thoughts. When I use this term in this section, I am referring to a negative place that rules, controls, or dominates your thoughts and therefore dictates negative behaviors. When you have a stronghold of bitterness you have lost control of how you feel towards another person or situation. Since bitterness is nothing more than unfulfilled revenge, you stay angry or vengeful in your attitudes even though you might even act cordial on the outside. At this point, you have become enslaved to the bitterness, to the person, or to the situation. They have the power over you. As long as you can’t forgive, bondage prevails. Bitterness then becomes the personal damage that you do to yourself because you have chosen to either not forgive or feel powerless to forgive.

It is important to understand that there is a process in which a stronghold is built. Strongholds are not built overnight, but over a period of time when we do not address an issue appropriately by letting grace rule in our hearts. All strongholds begin when we open a door and give the devil a place in which to operate. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

The word “opportunity” is defined as “opportunity, power, place of operation, an area of legal control.”It refers to the first step in opening the door to yielding legal jurisdiction. It is also translated in many different ways. It is translated as “foothold” in the New International Version. The King James Version translates it as “place” while the New Revised Standard says, “Do not make room.” The New Century Bible conveys the meaning as it translates the verse – “Do not give the devil a way to defeat you.”

The devil wants a base of operation in our lives. Although we have protection by what Christ did on the cross on our behalf, we can still provide such a place if we choose to harbor sin. Once we surrender some real estate in our hearts, the devil seeks to build on it. He doesn’t rule the whole heart, only the block we let him move into. From there, a stronghold is methodically constructed until this structure of thoughts dominates our minds and is followed by behaviors.

A stronghold of bitterness starts off when we do not deal immediately with offenses. We open the door when we do not forgive and it becomes the devil’s opportunity, his foothold because we gave him room. As long as we allow thoughts of unforgiveness in our heart, we are yielding our thought life to the kingdom of darkness. The demonic thoughts of blame, accusations, self-condemnation, and hate are given the legal right to dwell in our lives. Our demonic adversary wants us to self-destruct with our own bitterness. These thoughts of bitterness are so entrenched in our hearts and mind that we essentially become ruled by them. It is at this point that we can find ourselves helpless to forgive. It is best to be aware of these “opportunities” or “footholds” that open the door and give permission for a stronghold of darkness to become eventually built. Retaining an offense rather than releasing an offense is the first open door.

We can open doors when we entertain a lie and lies become embedded when we believe them. The progression could happen like this: an event occurs in which there is a wounding of the heart. It may have been an actual malicious action that wounded you, or you may have been hurt by your perception of the event as viewed through your filters. Either way, the kingdom of darkness was present to whisper lies into your mind that you received as truth. These lies could be things such as,

“They really don’t care about me…. They think I am worthless…. I am not as loved as my sister (or brother)…. They would rather be married to someone else than to me…. God hates me…. God only created me because He wanted someone to torment…. They only want to destroy me…. I have to punish them… There is no one else to hold this offense against them, so it is up to me…. They don’t deserve to be forgiven…. Someone has to remember what they did.

These thoughts may or may not have actual merit; however, it doesn’t matter because they feel true to you.

When you refuse to forgive, because you have a “right” not to forgive, you not only give the devil a place, or a foothold in an area of your soul, but you are now feeding it. The longer you wait to forgive, the harder it is for you to forgive. The deeper a root grows, the more difficult it is to remove. Though nothing is impossible to God, He demands our cooperation for its removal. The deeper it grows, the more unwilling we become to let the Lord run deep in our lives. To make matters worse, what may reinforce those roots could be the inner vows we make that hold us bondage such as “I will never forgive!’

Excerpts from:

My Father, My Son: Healing the Orphan Heart with the Father’s Love

Author: Bruce Brodowski

ISBN: 9780982658116, Price: $14.99. Format: 250-page trade paperback

Available through: Amazon,Ingram, Spring Arbor, Baker & Taylor

Publisher: CarolinasEcumenical Healing Ministries