Difficult Forgiveness

Apr 4, 2011

“Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin. You’re going to live with those consequences whether you want to or not; your only choice is whether you will do so in the bitterness of unforgiveness or the freedom of forgiveness.” ~ Neil Anderson

I read this quote the other day in Insight On Romans, a commentary on the Biblical book by Chuck Swindoll. I like Chuck. Though I’ve never met him, he’s become my pastor, one of the seasoned voices I turn to for spiritual mentoring. Over the past decade, I’ve probably learned more as his student than from my many Sundays at church. He isn’t the only teacher in my life. Such a monopoly on my spiritual growth would be dangerous. But he’s one of a handful whom I deeply admire.

And so, despite the fact that everything in me rebelled against these trite words slapped on a painful subject, I kept reading. But I didn’t like it. We shouldn’t have to live with anyone’s consequences other than our own. Even the possibility made me indignant.

But I reread the quote, again and again, trying to take it in. I read the words against the backdrop of some of the deepest wounds I’ve endured, wounds I still struggle to forgive. It occurred to me the reason each is difficult to release is because I am, in fact, living with injustice. Wrongs I didn’t commit but with which I’m still suffering the consequences. It’s seems unfair. It IS unfair. The unfairness makes me reluctant to forgive.

My head spinning with all the implications, I kept reading in my commentary. In follow-up to Anderson’s quote, Swindoll said this: “As long as you hold onto a wrong done to you, you will be overcome by evil and you will be victimized by the very thing you are trying to get rid of. So, you have only one choice. It’s uncomplicated, yet anything but easy. Learn from my experience. Let it go.”

Let go. Something easier said than done, but necessary for freedom.

Do you have anything you need to let go of? Any injustice that needs to be relinquished to the hands of a just God? You’re not doing it for anyone other than yourself. YOU are the one who stands to gain or lose based on what you decide to do.


  1. Tammy

    This is just excellent…I love Neil’s work…and your insights fantastic Michele! Thank you…

    • Michele

      Thanks, Tammy. A convicting nugget from Mr. Anderson! But so wise, and beautifully said.

  2. Diane Marie Shaw

    You challenged me with this quote when you posted it on Facebook.
    It is amazing to me that last Thursday God took me back to that consequence and something might be stirring about it. It is in His hands. He has my best in mind and I am learning to be at peace with that.

    • Michele

      Diane, I have such admiration for you, both for your honesty and your sweet submission to our loving Father. Thanks for leading with your life.

      • Jeovelyn

        There is one particular proesn I really struggle to forgive. Every time I have to be around this proesn I am stressed and tense and prone to slip into ugly talk and thinking. I just keep trying to release this to God and pray for His healing. Slowly over the last several years I’ve felt change and some healing, but it is slow. I continue releasing it to God and seeking His help. Then I grab it back and start over, but I am making progress and letting go of bitterness for longer periods of time. I continue to bring it to the altar.

  3. Loretta Oakes


    I love your post and I LOVE Neil’s quote. Injustices constantly occur–from the person that cuts you off in traffic to the loved one that betrays you. It is our choice to forgive and to be set free from the chains of that injustice. The sooner I forgive, the sooner I no longer suffer!
    I also loved what you said, “…It occurred to me the reason each is difficult to release is because I am, in fact, living with injustice. Wrongs I didn’t commit but with which I’m still suffering the consequences. It’s seems unfair. It IS unfair.” This life IS unfair, but our God is a just and merciful God and I’m glad because I need Him to forgive the consequences of my sin! Jesus suffered the consequences of my sin so I didn’t have to! I wonder if Jesus in his decision to come and save us ever said to his Father, “This is unfair.” 🙂 What do you think? 😉

    • Michele

      Isn’t Neil’s quote fabulous? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it now … one of those you can’t just skip over or ignore. The best kind! Everything about Jesus was unfair … and I’m so glad it was, for our sakes!

  4. Bethany Williams

    Wow Michelle. Neil Anderson’s quote just took forgiveness to another level for me. I’m not too sure I am thrilled about this. Accepting someone else’s consequences in forgiving is a whole new challenge for me. Thank you for sharing this in an authentic, vulnerable way. I will be mulling this perspective of forgiveness over and over and over. Tough stuff!

    • Michele

      I’m not thrilled with it either. 🙂 You’re in good company, Bethany! I’ve endured a few huge injustices in my life, and living with those undeserved consequences is the single most difficult challenge. But I refuse to live enslaved. Tried that–didn’t work! For that reason, I choose to live free. Forgiveness is still my work in progress, but getting there …

  5. Shanda

    After I read what you have posted and others responses, I feel the same as I do when listenting to others testimonies. As an empathetic listener, I am often heart touched and fighting back tears as I hear what others have had to struggle through and have to strive so diligently to forgive. I hurt and truly feel along with so many as I listen to their stories. However, if I were to give my testimony I would be “on the other side”…the one who has caused the pain. I envy those who can confidently give their testimonies and tell of your war stories. I have denied sharing mine as for shame attached to my name. This is the time of year I cherish, Easter! What an amazing gift we have in Jesus! Daily I am thankful…but this time of year is very special to me. In recent years I have vivid thoughts and pictures in my own head of how great this gift is. Thank you Jesus! For dieing on the cross for MY sins, and ALL of our sins. I am forever grateful.

    • Michele

      I’m so with you, Shanda. I’ve been on the other side too, the one needing to ask for forgiveness, the one watching those I’ve wounded suffer. It’s not fun, but … Easter is coming! I enjoy this time of year as well, especially the older I get. I guess I understand more deeply now how much I’m dependent on the grace of God. Without it, I’m sunk. With it, I’m free! Thankful for you. 😉


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