One night on a lonely rural road in Idaho, Jerry Sittser lost three generations of his family- his mother, his wife, and his young daughter. Traveling home from a family outing, a car coming toward them failed to negotiate a curve and hit their van head-on.In his book, A Grace Disguised, Jerry states, “I learned later that the alleged driver was drunk, driving eighty-five miles per hour, and was accompanied by his pregnant wife, also drunk, who was killed in the accident.” the driver was later acquitted of all charges.

Like many of us, Jerry struggled deeply with the issue of forgiveness. He felt like the justice system had failed him. More than that, he felt like God had failed him. But one day he decided that his preoccupation of justice and wrongdoing was poisoning himself. He came to the conclusion that un-forgiveness uses victimization as an excuse.

Un-forgiveness uses victimization as an excuse

What are some of the
signs of un-forgiveness?

  • “Can’t get it out of my mind”- the tendency to nurse and rehearse the event over and over. The apostle Paul talks about “taking every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). The implication is that if we don’t take our thoughts captive, they will captivate us! Dwelling on the negative offense will prevent us from learning and growing from the experience. Instead of becoming better, we tend to become bitter which will eventually lead us into depression. Someone said, Instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, be glad that the thorn bush has roses.
  • “I get so irritated with (fill in a name)___________.” The tendency to harbor contempt when the offender does something, while others don’t irritate you when they do the same things.
  • “It’s all their fault!”- the tendency to place all of the blame on the offender. We often say, “if they would just …, then my life would certainly be easier!” However, even if my responsibility is only twenty-five percent, will it make a difference if I accept responsibility for my part? Absolutely!
  • Keeping score- The tendency to always go back to the offense. The Apostle Peter wanted to know how many times he had to forgive someone. Un-forgiveness is always ready to look at the score. If we have truly forgiven, let’s stop bringing up the offense.
  • Boasting about one’s own record- the tendency toward pride and superiority. In Jesus’ story of the prodigal (Luke 15:29), the older brother says, “these many years I have never done wrong.” Translate that into today, and you might hear yourself say, “but I’m not the one who went out and did (fill in the blank) ____________!”
  • Allowing one’s self to have a ‘victim’ mentality- the tendency to complain about your situation or even to play the role of the martyr. We must recognize that forgiving is not forgetting. Forgetting is impossible for most of us. On the other hand, “I forgive you” does not mean “I trust you.” To immediately give one’s trust to a person with sinful habits could actually enable them to stay in their same pattern of behavior.

Here’s a question: What symptoms of un-forgiveness do I manifest, and how can I remove them?