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What I Wished I’d Known About Forgiveness

By Annie Garman

I never thought I had an issue with forgiveness. I mean, in my sheltered life, I’ve never been abused or victimized. My husband has always been faithful to me.  In general, I haven’t suffered grave offenses that have warranted major forgiveness.

However, it’s the small things that have tripped me up the most. A harsh tone. An unkind word. An unappreciative action. I’ve come to realize that I get hurt easily by those closest to me. And, when left unchecked, this hurt can quickly lead to bitterness (and anger, and a downward spiral, and, well, you get the picture). 

So, apparently I do have a forgiveness issue. (I really thought I was off the hook with this one!)

I wish I would have recognized this problem in my life earlier and taken more time to meditate on these truths:

Literally everything about this world is broken.

I really forget this piece of information a lot. It’s like I’m usually surprised that I am being treated less than perfectly instead of just expecting that bumps and bruises are part of the territory. We’re not entitled to a painless path. We need to actually expect that every day someone will say or do something that might sting. When we’re expecting it, then we can prepare our hearts for how we’ll react. 

I’m equally as sinful as the person who hurt me.

I think this truth is a game-changer. At the foot of the cross, we have all equally offended God with our sin. Sure, some sins may have graver consequences then others, but our sin separates us from God just as far as the next person. We need to start with, “There is nothing good in me either.” This recognition will breed the humility necessary for forgiveness.

Be obsessed with your own sin issues, not the sins of others.

When we are focused on the offenses of others to the neglect of our own wickedness, we are majoring on the wrong thing. Matthew 7 reminds us to focus on examining our own heart and repenting of our sinful actions before we focus on the  “splinter” in others. Only when we remove the “beam” of our own sin will we be able to see clearly.

Isn’t that an interesting thought? When we have sin in our own heart, our vision is distorted. The sins of others are magnified, and our own sin is minimized. 

We need to deal with our own sin first. Here are some questions to ask yourself honestly: Have I loved perfectly? As in, have I been perfectly patient and kind?  Have I been arrogant, rude, self-seeking, easily provoked, irritable, or arrogant? We need to constantly examine our own hearts with the measuring stick of 1 Corinthians 13. 

Forgiveness is an act of worship and obedience to God.

As believers, we are recipients of God’s forgiveness. We are to receive His forgiveness and extend it generously. His Word is full of commands to forgive (see Matt 6:12; Eph 4:32; Col. 3:13). Failing to forgive is a failure to love God as we should (see 1 John 4:20). It might be harsh to think of it that way, but we should never tolerate coddling this dangerous sin.  

When we remember that offenses will happen because all of creation is groaning under this curse (see Rom. 8:22-23) and are humbled by our own sin, we are cultivating good ground for forgiveness to take root.  

I don’t want to pretend like this is easy. It’s actually not just hard, but impossible in our own strength. May God’s Spirit fill you to overflowing and empower you for this supernatural task, and may relationships be reconciled for the glory of His name.  


Annie Garman

Annie B. Garman is a pastor’s wife and mother to four excitable girls, and author of Unexpected Grace: When Your Child is Born With Half a Heart. She and her family serve at Pillar Church in Northern Virginia where the traffic is thick, but the church planting opportunities abound. Their network of churches is attempting to plant a reproducible gospel-centered church at every Marine Corps base around the world (praetorianproject.org). Her biggest passion is to know Christ and make Him known in whatever situation she finds herself in. Annie shares her thoughts on motherhood, mayhem, and the meaning of life at anniebgarman.com.


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