Nathalie Kay Hedren was born on January 19, 1930, in New Ulm, Minnesota. She was always an attractive girl and, as a teenager, took part in department store fashion shows. On reaching her 20th birthday, she bought a ticket to New York City where she joined the Eileen Ford Agency. Her modelling career quickly took off with her appearing on the covers of Life, The Saturday Evening Post, McCall's and Glamour among others.
On October 13, 1961, she received a call from an agent who told her a producer was interested in working with her. That producer was Alfred Hitchcock. He had seen her in a commercial for a diet drink and liked her look. Hitchcock was impressed with Hedren and after that meeting she agreed to sign a seven-year contract with him.
Afterward, Hedren was invited to lunch with Hitchcock, his wife, Alma, and Lew Wasserman, head of Universal. There she was presented with a golden pin of three birds in flight, adorned by three tiny seed pearls, and was asked by Hitchcock to play the leading role in his upcoming film The Birds. Hedren later said "I was so stunned. It never occurred to me that I would be given a leading role in a major motion picture. I had great big tears in my eyes."
The Birds was a box office and critical success. Hedren received the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year and her role as Melanie Daniels was named one of the top 100 greatest movie characters of all time. Her career was about to take off.
Hitchcock offered Hedren the leading role of his next film, Marnie. The film is acclaimed and described as a "masterpiece" and Hedren's performance was highly regarded as one of the finest in any Hitchcock film. However, Hitchcock had become infatuated with her. His actions towards her became more domineering and explicit until one day, according to Hedren; "He stared at me and simply said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, that from this time on, he expected me to make myself sexually available and accessible to him–however and whenever and wherever he wanted." Hedren refused and told him Marnie would be their last film together, but when she said she wanted to get out of her contract, Hitchcock said: 'You can’t. You have your daughter to support, and your parents are getting older'. When she said: 'Nobody would want me to be in this situation, I want to get out,' he said: 'I’ll ruin your career'. And he did.
Hitchcock kept her under contract and paid her to do nothing. Hedren's contract terms gave Hitchcock the final say as to any work she could take on and he used that power to turn down several film roles on her behalf. When at last her contract expired a she began pursuing work she discovered that she had been forgotten and that the industry had passed her by.
About 40 years later the New York Times did a piece on Ms. Hedren. In that interview the reporter asked “Of course, you must not have gone to his funeral.” Much to the surprise and amazement of this reporter Ms. Hedren responded “I did.” Why? I would assume the only reason you’d want to see his grave is to spit on it. To which Ms. Hedren replied You don’t get it. He ruined my career, but he didn’t ruin my life. That time of my life is over. I still admire the man for who he was.
Hs. Hedren could have been angry and bitter towards Alfred Hitchcock. He had ruined her career and caused her life to go in a completely different direction than she thought it would. But instead she chose to forgive.
WHAT FORGIVENESS IS
When speaking of forgiveness, Jesus uses the image of debts to describe the nature of sins (Matt. 6:12; 18:21–35). When someone seriously wrongs you, there is an absolutely unavoidable sense that the wrongdoer owes you. The wrong has incurred an obligation, a liability, a debt. Anyone who has been wronged feels a compulsion to make the other person pay down that debt. We do that by hurting them, yelling at them, making them feel bad in some way, or just waiting and watching and hoping that something bad happens to them. Only after we see them suffer in some commensurate way do we sense that the debt has been paid and the sense of obligation is gone. This sense of debt/liability and obligation is impossible to escape. Anyone who denies it exists has simply not been wronged or sinned against in any serious way.
What then is forgiveness? Forgiveness means giving up the right to seek repayment from the one who harmed you. But it must be recognized that forgiveness is a form of voluntary suffering. What does that mean?
Think about how monetary debts work. If a friend breaks my lamp, and if the lamp costs fifty dollars to replace, then the act of lamp-breaking incurs a debt of fifty dollars. If I let him pay for and replace the lamp, I get my lamp back and he’s out fifty dollars. But if I forgive him for what he did, the debt does not somehow vanish into thin air. When I forgive him, I absorb the cost and payment for the lamp: either I will pay the fifty dollars to replace it or I will lose the lighting in that room. To forgive is to cancel a debt by paying it or absorbing it yourself. Someone always pays for every debt.
This is the case in all situations of wrongdoing, even when no money is involved. When you are sinned against, you lose something … take a look at Tippi Hendren and Alfred Hitchcock. Because of the way she was treated she lost happiness, sense of security, trust, reputation, peace of mind, a relationship with him and with others in the business, and opportunities to work and make more movies. When you are sinned against, whether accidentally or intentionally, you will lose something. There are two things to do about a sin. Imagine for example that someone has hurt your reputation. You can try to restore it by paying the other person back, voicing public criticisms and ruining his or her reputation. Or you can forgive the one who wronged you, refuse payback, and absorb the damage to your reputation. (You will have to restore it over time.)
In all cases when wrong is done there is a debt, and there is no way to deal with it without suffering: either you make the perpetrator suffer for it or you forgive and suffer for it yourself.
Forgiveness is always extremely costly. It is emotionally very expensive—it takes much blood, sweat, and tears. When you forgive, you pay the debt yourself in several ways.
First, you refuse to hurt the person directly; you refuse vengeance, payback, or the infliction of pain. Instead, you are as cordial as possible. When forgiving you must beware of subtle ways to try to exact payment while assuring yourself that you aren’t. Here are specific things to avoid:
- making cutting remarks and dragging out past injuries repeatedly
- being far more demanding and controlling with the person than you are with others, all because you feel deep down that they still owe you
- punishing them with self-righteous “mercy” that is really a way to make them feel small and to justify yourself
- avoiding them or being cold toward them
Second, you refuse to employ innuendo or “spin” or hint or gossip or direct slander to diminish those who have hurt you in the eyes of others. You don’t run them down under the guise of warning people about them or under the guise of seeking sympathy and support and sharing your hurt. When all your energy goes into moaning and groaning, none of it goes into problem solving. All your energy is focused on the past and none of it is focused on the present or future. If you let complaints rule your thoughts and govern your words, you will remain stuck in the mire of your past. Complaining not only leaves you a perpetual victim but it also destroy your life and leaves you alone. No matter how justified one might be in grumbling, not one gets excited about dating a complainer, living with one, or even having one in the same room.
Third, when forgiving you refuse to indulge in ill-will in your heart. That is, don’t continually replay the tapes of the wrong in your imagination, in order to keep the sense of loss and hurt fresh so you can stay actively hostile toward the person and feel virtuous by contrast. Don’t vilify or demonize the offender in your imagination. Holding others responsible for our sorrow, misery, or grief only keeps you ensnared in the grip of bygone incidents and stuck in the past. Hate, anger and resentment are destructive emotions, eating away at the heart and soul of the person who carries them. They are absolutely incompatible with your own peace, joy and relaxation. Ugly emotions change who you are and contaminate every relationship you have. Instead, allow people the right to be human, to be weak and selfish and occasionally forgetful, and realize that we have no alternative but to live with imperfect people. Don’t root for them to fail, don’t hope for their pain. Instead, pray positively for their growth.
What we think largely influences what we do. In turn our actions greatly influence our emotions. The way of acting and thinking is a cycle. Your actions and your thoughts influence one another. Forgiveness, then, is granted before it is felt. It is a promise not to do the three things above and pray for the perpetrator as you remind yourself of God’s grace to you. Though it is extremely difficult and painful (you are bearing the cost of the sin yourself!), forgiveness will deepen your character, free you to talk to and help the person, and lead to love and peace rather than bitterness. This doesn’t happen overnight but it will come. You don’t get it. He ruined my career, but he didn’t ruin my life. That time of my life is over. I still admire the man for who he was.
Further, by bearing the cost of the sin, you are walking in the path of your Master (Matt. 18:21–35; Col. 3:13). It is typical for non-Christians today to say that the cross of Christ makes no sense. “Why did Jesus have to die? Why couldn’t God just forgive us?” Actually no one who has been deeply wronged “just forgives”! If someone wrongs you, there are only two options: (1) you make them suffer, or (2) you refuse revenge and forgive them and then you suffer. And if we can’t forgive without suffering, how much more must God suffer in order to forgive us? If we unavoidably sense the obligation and debt and injustice of sin in our soul, how much more does God know it? On the cross we see God forgiving us, and that was possible only if God suffered. On the cross God’s love satisfied His own justice by suffering, bearing the penalty for sin. There is never forgiveness without suffering, nails, thorns, sweat, blood. Never.
WHAT WE NEED TO FORGIVE
The experience of the gospel gives us the two prerequisites for a life of forgiveness: emotional humility and emotional wealth.
You can remain bitter toward someone only if you feel superior, if you are sure that you “would never do anything like that!” To remain unforgiving means you are unaware of your own sinfulness, faults, and need for forgiveness. When Paul says he is the worst among sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), he is not exaggerating. He is saying that he is as capable of sin as the worst criminals are. The gospel has equipped him with emotional humility.
At the same time, you can’t be gracious to someone if you are too needy and insecure. If you know God’s love and forgiveness, then there is a limit to how deeply another person can hurt you. He or she can’t touch your real identity, wealth, and significance. The more you rejoice in your own forgiveness, the quicker you will be to forgive others. You are rooted in emotional wealth.
Forgiveness founders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion—without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see oneself . . . and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness. Miroslav Volf
Jesus says, “If you do not forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:15). This does not mean we can earn God’s forgiveness through our own forgiving but that we can disqualify ourselves from it. No heart that is truly repentant toward God could be unforgiving toward others. A lack of forgiveness toward others is the direct result of a lack of repentance toward God. And as we know, you must repent in order to be saved (Acts 2:38).
GOD’S FORGIVENESS AND OURS
When God reveals his glory to Moses, He says He forgives wickedness yet “does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exod. 34:6–7). Not until the coming of Jesus do we see how God can be both completely just and forgiving through his atonement (1 John 1:7–9). In the cross God satisfies both justice and love. God was so just and desirous to judge sin that Jesus had to die, but He was so loving and desirous of our salvation that Jesus was willing to die. He would rather go to hell for us then go to heaven without us.
We too are commanded to forgive (“bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another,” Col 3:13–14) on the basis of Jesus’ atonement for our sins (“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. . . . If you do not forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins,” Matt. 6:14–15; Luke 6:37). But we are also required to forgive in a way that honors justice, just as God’s forgiveness does. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). “Christians are called to abandon bitterness, to be forbearing, to have a forgiving stance even where the repentance of the offending party is conspicuous by its absence; on the other hand, their God-centered passion for justice, their concern for God’s glory, ensures that the awful odium of sin is not glossed over.”
PURSUING TRUTH, LOVE, AND RELATIONSHIP
The gospel calls us, then, to keep an equal concern (a) to speak the truth and honor what is right, yet (b) to be endlessly forgiving as we do so and (c) to never give up on the goal of a reconciled, warm relationship.
First, God requires forgiveness whether or not the offender has repented and has asked for forgiveness. “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him” (Mark 11:25). This does not say “forgive him if he repents” but rather “forgive him right there—as you are praying.”
Second, God requires speaking the truth. That is why Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 17:3 to “rebuke” the wrongdoer and “if he repents, forgive him.” Is Jesus saying that we can hold a grudge if the person doesn’t repent? No, we must not read Luke 17 to contradict Mark 11. Jesus is calling us here both to practice inner forgiveness and to rebuke and correct. We must completely surrender the right to pay back or get even, yet at the same time we must never overlook injustice and must require serious wrongdoings to be redressed.
This is almost the very opposite of how we ordinarily operate. Ordinarily we do not seek justice on the outside (we don’t confront or call people to change and make restitution), but we stay hateful and bitter on the inside. The Bible calls us to turn this completely around. We are to deeply forgive on the inside so as to have no desire for vengeance, but then we are to speak openly about what has happened with a desire to help the person see what was done wrong.
In reality, inner forgiveness and outward correction work well together. Only if you have forgiven inside can you correct unabusively—without trying to make the person feel terrible. Only if you have forgiven already can your motive be to correct the person for God’s sake, for justice’s sake, for the community’s sake, and for the person’s sake. And only if you forgive on the inside will your words have any hope of changing the perpetrator’s heart. Otherwise your speech will be so filled with disdain and hostility that he or she will not listen to you.
Ultimately, to forgive on the inside and to rebuke/correct on the outside are not incompatible, because they are both acts of love. It is never loving to let a person just get away with sin. It is not loving to the perpetrator, who continues in the grip of the habit, nor to those who will be wronged in the future, nor to God, who is grieved. This is difficult, for the line is very thin between a moral outrage for God’s sake and a self-righteous outrage because of hurt pride. Still, to refuse to confront is not loving but just selfish.
Third, as we “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), we are to pursue justice gently and humbly, in order to redress wrongs and yet maintain or restore the relationship (Gal. 6:1–5). There is a great deal of tension between these three things! Almost always one is much more easily attained if you simply drop any concern for the other two. For example, it is easy to “speak the truth” if you’ve given up on any desire to maintain a warm relationship. I know a lot of people who will “speak the truth” in such a way as to hurt somebody but under the guise of “well … I am just telling the truth.” So if you want both, you will have to be extremely careful with how you speak the truth! Another example: it is possible to convince yourself that you have forgiven someone, but if afterward you still want nothing to do with them (you don’t pursue an ongoing relationship), then that is a sign that you spoke the truth without truly forgiving.
Of course it is possible that you do keep these three things together in your heart and mind but the other person simply cannot. There is no culture or personality type that holds these together. People tend to believe that if you are confronting me you don’t forgive or love me, or if you really loved me you wouldn’t be rebuking me. God recognizes that many people simply won’t let you pursue all these things together, and so tells us, “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). That is, do your part and have as good and peaceful a relationship with people as they will let you have.
WHEN DO WE NEED TO CONFRONT AND RECONCILE?
Jesus tells us that if we have been sinned against we may need to go and speak to the offender. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). But when do we “rebuke”—every time anyone wrongs us? First Peter 4:8 says famously that “love covers over a multitude of sins,” and Proverbs 10:12 backs this up. This means we are not to be thin-skinned, and it would be wrong to bring up every matter every time we have been treated unjustly or insensitively. Still, passages like Matthew 18 and Luke 17 say there are some times in which we should make a complaint. When do we do so?
This is where Galatians 6 gives us guidance. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (6:1). We should give correction under two conditions.
First, we should correct when the sin is serious enough to cool off or rupture the relationship. Matthew 18:15 indicates that the purpose of a rebuke is to “win your brother over”—that is, to rescue the relationship. That is implied when Galatians 6:2 tells us that correcting someone is a way of “carrying each other’s burdens;” it is an expression of an interdependent relationship.
Second, we should correct when the sin against us is evidently part of a pattern of behavior that the other person is seriously stuck in. “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him” (Gal. 6:1): the image is of being trapped in a pattern of behavior that will be harmful to the person and to others. In love this should be pointed out. So we rebuke for the person’s sake—to “restore him.” Our concern is his or her growth.
And how do we do it? “You who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Gal. 6:1). This is essential. If the motive of the correction is helping the other to grow, then we will be loving and gentle. Verses 2–3 indicate that we should do this very humbly. We are making ourselves servants by doing the correction.
Ultimately, any love that is afraid to confront the beloved is really not love but a selfish desire to be loved. Cowardice is always selfish, putting your own needs ahead of the needs of the other. A love that says, “I’ll do anything to keep him or her loving and approving of me!” is not real love at all. It is not loving the person; it is loving the love you get from the person. True love is willing to confront, even to “lose” the beloved in the short run if there is a chance to help him or her.
Nevertheless, it is clear that there are plenty of times we should not correct and not seek an apology even when one is owed. The stronger a Christian you are, the less sensitive and easily hurt you will be. When people “zing” you, snub you, ignore you, or let you down in some way, it should not immediately cool you to them. As a mature Christian, you immediately remember (a) times you did the same thing to others or (b) times that people who did this to you were later revealed to have a lot on their mind and heart. If you find that any wrongdoing immediately cools you to another and you want to insist on your right to an apology, do some self-examination regarding the level of your emotional humility and emotional wealth in Christ. Love should cover a multitude of sins (that is, most of them!) You should be able to warmly treat people who by rights owe you an apology but whom you haven’t corrected because the slights were rather minor, or the time isn’t right to speak about it, or you don’t know them well enough to be sure it is a major pattern in their life.
HOW DO WE RECONCILE?
Here are some basics.
a. WHAT ARE THE MARKS OF AN UNRECONCILED RELATIONSHIP?
An unreconciled relationship is marked by avoidance, coldness, and irritability (that is, the same action performed by another person does not disturb you as much as it does when this person does it!) If you find yourself avoiding, being cold toward, or being very irritated with someone (or if you can tell that someone is cold or irritable toward you or avoiding you), then you probably have an unreconciled relationship.
On the other hand, “I forgive you” does not mean “I trust you.” Some people think they haven’t reconciled until they can completely trust the person who did the wrong. That is not the case. Forgiveness means a willingness to try to reestablish trust, but that reestablishment is always a process. The speed and degree of this restoration entail the re-creation of trust, and that takes time, depending on the nature and severity of the offenses involved. Until a person shows evidence of true change, we should not trust him or her. To immediately give one’s trust to a person with sinful habits could actually be enabling him to sin. Trust must be restored, and the speed at which this occurs depends on the behavior.
This also applies to the people who owe you an apology but whose sins have been “covered” (see above). A person who has let you down but whom you don’t correct has damaged your trust, albeit in minor ways. If he or she comes to apologize, it will restore the level of trust and respect you had before, but until that happens you can still have a civil and cordial relationship with them.
b. HOW CAN YOU RECONCILE WITH SOMEONE?
We can look at Matthew 5 and Matthew 18 as two different approaches: Matthew 5 lays out what you do when you believe you have wronged someone else, while Matthew 18 is what you do when you believe someone has wronged you. But it is also possible to also look at these passages as giving us two stages of the normal reconciliation process, because seldom does just one party bear all the blame for a frayed relationship. Almost always reconciliation involves both repenting and forgiving—both admitting your own wrong and pointing out the wrong of the other. If we put these two approaches together, we can create a practical outline like the one that follows.
Begin by confessing anything you may have done wrong (this might be called the “Matthew 5:24 phase”). Begin with yourself. Even if you believe that your own behavior is no more than 5 percent of the problem, start with your 5 percent! Look for what you have done wrong, and collect the criticism.
List whatever you think you have done wrong and ask the other person to add to the list of things you have done wrong or ways you have contributed to the breakdown in the relationship. Example: “I’m here because I don’t like what has happened to our relationship [or—if the term applies—our friendship]. It appears to me that there is a problem between us; am I wrong?” Then, “Here is what I believe I have contributed to the problem between us—where I’ve wronged you. . . . But where else have I wronged you or contributed to the relationship problem, in your estimation?”
If you are almost totally in the dark about what went wrong, you may have to simply offer to listen. Example: “It appears to me that there is trouble between us and I have offended you. Am I right? Please tell me specific ways I have wronged you. I am ready to listen—honest.”
Then listen well to the criticism you’ve invited. Seek to distill this criticism into something clear and specific. To do so too quickly may seem defensive, but eventually ask for as many specific examples as possible. If the other says, “You are bullying,” you need to find out what actual words or actions or tones of voice strike the other person as “bullying.”
Here is a practical checklist:
- Pray silently, asking God to give you wisdom and allow you to sense his love for you.
- Assume that God is speaking to you through this painful situation and is showing you ways you should be more careful or change.
- Assume that God is speaking to you even through a very flawed person.
- Beware of being defensive. Don’t explain yourself too quickly, even if you have a good answer or can show the person that he or she was mistaken. Be sure you don’t interrupt or keep the other from expressing frustration. Show sympathy even if you were misunderstood.
- Always ask, “Is there anything else? I really want to know!” In a stressful situation it is natural for the other to hold back some complaints or concerns. Get them all out on the table, or you’ll have to do this again!
- Make it safe to criticize you: support individual criticisms with “That must have been hard; I see why you were concerned.”
- Look for needs in the critic that may underlie the criticism.
- Now respond to the criticism, by doing either or both of the following:
- “Please, forgive me for ________.” This is your repentance, your confession of sin.
- Admit your wrong without excuses and without blaming the circumstances. Even if the criticism included exaggerations, extract the real fault and confess it. Even if only 10 percent of the relationship problem is you, admit it.
- Don’t just apologize; ask for forgiveness.
- If you can think of a plan for changing your behavior, say, “Here is what I will do to make sure not do such a thing again in the future.” Ask if there is anything you can do to restore trust. If you really cannot see any validity in any of the criticism, ask whether you can get back to the person later, after checking with others.
- Avoid overstatements—“How terrible I feel over what I’ve done!” Such confessions may be mainly a painful catharsis designed to relieve one of guilt feelings through a kind of atonement/punishment, or to get others to provide lots of sympathy.
- On the other hand, avoid being deadpan, lighthearted, or even flip. Such confessions may aim to preserve pride, merely to fulfill a requirement, to force the other person to let you off the hook but without showing any real contrition or emotional regret at all.
- Most of all, do not make a confession that is really an attack. “If I upset you, I am sorry” falls in this category. It means, “If you were a normal person, you would not have been upset by what I did.” Do not repent to the person of something that you are not going to repent to God for nor take concrete steps to change.
- Real repentance has three aspects: confession to God, confession to the person wronged, and offering a concrete plan for change so as to avoid the sin in the future (see Luke 3:7–14).
- “Here’s how I see it. Can you see my motive or meaning was very different from what you inferred?”
- “Can you understand my point of view? Can you accept that I could have perceived this very differently and had the motives I am describing?”
- “Is there some way, though we see this issue so differently, that we can avoid hurting each other like this again?”
Now (if necessary) address any ways that the other person has wronged you (“Matthew 18 phase”). If you have done all of the above, you may well find that this approach elicits a confession from the other without your having to ask for it! This is far and away the best way to get reconciliation.
However, if the other person is not forthcoming, begin with: “From my point of view, it looks as if you did ________. It affected me this way: ________. I think it would be far better for all concerned if instead you did this: ________. But my understanding may be inaccurate or distorted. Correct me if I am wrong. Could you explain what happened?” Be sure your list of things the other person has done is specific, not vague.
If the other person offers an apology, grant forgiveness—but avoid using the term unless forgiveness is asked for! Otherwise to say “I forgive you” may sound tremendously humiliating. Alternative ways to express forgiveness might be “Well, I won’t hold this against you,” “Let’s put that in the past now,” or “Think no more of it.”
Here are some general guidelines for this part of the process:
- Maintain a loving and humble tone. Tone of voice is extremely important. Overly controlled, nice, and calm may sound patronizing and be infuriating. Don’t resort to flattery or fawning syrupiness or fall into abusive or angry tones.
- Attack the problem, not the person. For example, don’t say, “You are so thoughtless”; rather, you might say, “You have forgotten this after making repeated promises that you would not.”
- Suggest solutions and alternative courses of action or behavior. Make sure all criticism is specific and constructive. Never say, “Don’t do this” without saying, “Instead do this.”
- In the heart of the discussion, you may discover some other underlying goal or need that the other person is trying to meet that could be met in more constructive ways.
- Keep in mind differences in culture. A person from a different culture may consider your approach incredibly disrespectful and demeaning when you think you are being respectful.
What if the other person won’t be reconciled to you?
First, some thoughts on failed reconciliation with a non-Christian. Christians are commanded to seek peace and reconciliation with all people (Rom. 12:18; Heb. 12:14), not just Christians. However, non-Christians may not feel the same responsibility to live in reconciled relationships. In general, you will find that non-Christians will not feel compelled to respond with forgiveness and repentance.
If that occurs, you must take what you are given. Romans 12:18–21 provides guidelines on how to stay gracious, kind, open, and cordial to persons who are being standoffish.
It is usually hardest to forgive someone who will not admit any wrong and who stays haughty. Internal forgiveness may be a longer process. Use all the spiritual resources we have in our faith:
- Look at God’s commands to forgive—it is our obligation.
- Remember God’s forgiveness of us. We have no right to be bitter.
- Remember that God’s omniscience is necessary to be a just judge. We have insufficient knowledge to know what others deserve.
- Remember that when we allow the evil to keep us in bondage through bitterness, we are being defeated by evil! Romans 12 tells us to “overcome” or defeat evil with forgiveness.
- Remember that we undermine the glory of the gospel in the world’s eyes when we fail to forgive.
Second, see what the book of Proverbs says about receiving bad reports: “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” (Prov. 17:9) The first thing to do when hearing or seeing something negative is to seek to “cover” the offense rather than speak about it to others. That is, rather than letting it in, you should seek to keep the matter from destroying your love and regard for a person. How?
- Remember your own sinfulness. “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD” (Prov. 16:2). Your motives are never as pure as you think they are. To know your sinfulness automatically keeps you from being too sure of your position and from speaking too strongly against people on the other side of a conflict. You realize that you may not be seeing things well.
- Remember that there is always another side. “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him” (Prov. 18:17). You never have all the facts. You are never in a position to have the whole picture, and therefore when you hear the first negative report, you should assume that you have far too little information to draw a conclusion.
Folks, we too have the power to choose forgiveness. When we handle our hurts and resentments in these ways, we may even get a sincere and heartfelt apology. But even if we don’t, we will now have the freedom to let the hurt go. Far from leaving us weak and vulnerable, it has the power to enlighten, empower, and liberate both the person offended and the person who did the offending. This is the way to freedom. This is the path to starting over.