“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
Matthew 5:39 (NIV)
Forgiveness. It’s one of the main calls of action as a Christian. Jesus forgave us of all of our sins by dying on the cross. Because of this, we know it’s an essential part of our journey in striving to be Christ-like. But let’s be honest, forgiveness is one of the hardest things in the world to do.
Maybe you are struggling to forgive because you are afraid that you may be taken advantage of again. Or maybe you just don’t feel your forgiveness is deserved in a particular situation. Often I hear people ask how they can forgive if the culprit has not even apologized (repented)? The church’s simple response to this is that we did not deserve the Lord’s forgiveness either when He sacrificed his only Son. Still, it can sometimes feel nearly impossible to forgive those in everyday life who wrong us.
It has been a journey for me to learn how to just “turn the other cheek” to people who seem to consciously slight me. But we owe it to our savior to at least try, especially since we too make mistakes and find ourselves in need of forgiveness on a regular basis. The first tactic that my therapist drew my attention to is to try to put yourself “in someone else’s shoes”. I know, I know-why should you? Well, you certainly don’t have to. You don’t owe the wrongdoer anything, but don’t we owe it to ourselves if we want to glorify God? You decide.
In Don Miguel Ruiz’ book The Four Agreements he reminds us that “nothing others do is because of you”. Humans act selfishly. It’s in our nature, believers or otherwise. I remember when my friend brought up her plans to eventually relocate to New York City at work when a coworker quickly began trying to talk her out of it. Although her opinion was never asked, she passionately shared how she herself used to want to move there but later found that she hated it. Furthermore, she actively attempted to convince my friend that she would hate living in New York as well. My friend and I were taken aback but immediately understood that the only reason she was trying to talk someone else out of moving was that her previous attempt to move to NY had failed.
Other people, even those who love us, may genuinely be trying to help, but they do so from their own narrow perspective. I encourage you to take the higher road by moving beyond just your individual limited perspective. Recognize when someone is criticizing your situation, it actually may not be a reflection of what they think of you, but rather how they feel about themselves.
The other way changing your focus can aid in forgiveness is to remember what’s really important. When another person attacks or neglects you, focus on what truly matters in the situation.
- Does this have any effect on your life goals (career, finances, children etc.)?
- Does what they did affect how you see yourself?
- Does it change who you are? Because it doesn’t really matter how others see you, we know how God sees us.
Last month was my birthday and many of my so-called friends blew me off. I had a right to be angry that their words weren’t matching up with their actions. I also had reason to be disappointed that we apparently weren’t as close as I thought. But at the end of the day, were their poor choices really going to change me growing another year older? No. The sun still rose that morning and set that evening. I celebrated with who did show interest, I learned a lesson about friendship and I moved on-another year older.
Forgiveness is so hard to do because we are hurt, we are scared and we are trying to be smart. It is okay to feel hurt, it’s natural to fear sometimes and it’s great to learn from past experiences, but 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power of love and of self-discipline.”
God does not want us to fear. He’d like for us to trust Him with all of our worries which takes the self-discipline He’s graciously equipped us with. He also blessed us with a spirit of the power to forgive through being loving. You can literally “turn the other cheek” by changing your focus to better match the Lord’s. Being compassionate can help you take offenses less personally. Even better, keeping God’s plan for you in mind will help you stay focused on your goals rather than others’ actions.