Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word - but it's not
Saying, "I forgive you" is much harder than saying "I'm sorry." Especially when the one who brutally assaulted your feelings hasn't even acknowledged their wrong in the first place. Take the tale of a man who has been cheated on by his wife. Is it harder for the wife to say "I'm sorry" or for the husband to say "I forgive you"?
I think the answer is obvious.
When you say, "Sorry" you have instantly relieved yourself of the burden of reconciliation. It is now the offended party's decision on how to proceed. The offended gets to choose to take the path of reconciliation or completely walk away. I often counsel people who have wronged someone on how to proceed with offering an apology. The guilt of causing pain can be a major hangup. But I always have to add that even if the offended party won't accept the apology then at least you have done your part and you can now move on. Saying your sorry is a release!
Listen up! It's a fairy tale of forgive and forget.
But the forgiver never gets the chance to just move on. The guilt of committing an offense is no where near the agony of being on the receiving end. The emotional, relational, and physical toll can be maddening and is often life-altering. That is what "I forgive you" is much more difficult to say than "I am sorry." Forgiveness means surrendering so much more.
In forgiveness you have to surrender:
the pride of being right.
the lust for revenge
the idea that you are morally superior
the time it will take you to go through a forgiveness process (the deeper the hurt, the longer the process)
the right to hold a victim mentality
Forgiveness is indeed the hardest set of decisions a person has to make. It is a set of decisions because it could take years, if not a lifetime, to be completely reconciled. You wake up with the pain in the pit of your stomach. Day by day you have to forgive that person a little more. A fractured relationship will never ever be the same. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. The path you take in reconciling will have much to do with determining the merit of the forgiveness journey.
Because Christ has forgiven you
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. -Ephesians 4:32 - 5:2
Because Jesus has forgiven us - often times before we even understand the depth of our sins and trespasses - we too should exhibit the same type of sacrificial attitude when it comes to dealing with the pain of being hurt by someone. This is the central truth to the Christian's life and message. Jesus himself alludes to the hypocrisy of being forgiven by God and refusing to forgive one another.
Forgiveness between humans is an arduous process. Forgiveness between human and the divine was as well. Just like the forgiver must give up pride, lust, time, etc, in order for the forgiveness process to start, Jesus had to give up many things. He gave up perfect community in heaven to come and live among humans.
While He was on earth He gave up the safety of living a normal religious life which ultimately led him to give up his life on a cross. But he did so that we humans could experience what true forgiveness feels like. And from that point in history the arduous process of forgiveness has been put on God. Now all that we mere mortals have to do is say the hardest words..."I'm sorry"
And the process of reconciliation between men and God can begin.
Forgive even if reconciliation is not possible
The Holy Spirit is the guarantor of our reconciliation with God until we reach eternity with Jesus. We have no such guarantor when it comes to reconciliation with people. The sadness is this: every human relationship is not salvaged. While I believe that every fractured relationship and marriage can be healed and made stronger, that does not mean that every relationship will be healed. That is the sad reality about a sin filled world.
But that does not mean that the mandate of forgiveness gets tossed out the window. Forgiveness is possible even in situations where reconciliation is impossible or not recommended. There are spouses, parents, and friends who have passed away that you need to forgive - even though reconciliation is not possible. Some have physically escaped abusive relationships but have never left them emotionally. I highly recommend forgiveness but extreme caution when it comes to reconciliation. Part of forgiveness is personally giving up a victim mentality. Certain relationships will never allow you to escape that kind of destructive self-image and the reconciliation process should be approached with extreme caution and professional counseling.
Certainly there is someone that needs to hear you say "I forgive you." Will you do it?