Fool Me Once, Fool Me Twice: I Still Forgive You

Chelsea - beach cross

Chelsea - beach cross
In Christ’s relatively short ministry here on earth, He passed many teachings on to His followers. Often those whom He taught could not commit to following those teachings. His teachings were revolutionary and went against much of what the Jews had been taught all their lives.

Still, even when followers would turn away, unable to accept His instruction, Christ continued to preach God’s love, mercy, and expectations.

One would think, that after 2000 years Christ’s teachings, it would be easier to follow. Many of us take for granted much of what we know about faith. It’s easy to say we believe Christ is the Son of God; that He suffered on the crossed, died, was buried, and then rose on the third day. It is easy to say we believe in ever-lasting life. This has been taught to us our entire lives. It feels ingrained into our souls. We believe this to be true.

But still, there are times we struggle with intimately following Christ. His teachings were revolutionary 2000 years ago, and for many, they remain revolutionary today. While it may be easy to say we believe, it can be difficult to follow those teachings in a world that encourages us to place ourselves at the center and everyone else on the periphery.

One of those difficult teachings that Christ still insists we follow is to forgive our neighbors when they do us harm. When asked how many times we should forgive those who hurt us Christ responds, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” [Matt 18:22] In Luke 17:4, He says, “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Christ tells us that it doesn’t matter how many times a person sins against us, we must forgive him. This is a revolutionary teaching, then and now.

Why Should We Forgive?

We have all suffered injustices at one time or another. I once was asked how I could forgive someone who had hurt me very badly. The person asking me this question stood in awe of the fact that I could move on and be genuinely friendly after all the offender had done to me. To be honest, forgiveness didn’t come easy. I was deeply wounded and didn’t want to let go of that hurt. I was afraid of allowing God to heal me because I feared that I would just get hurt again. I would smile and be nice to the person, but on the inside I was seething. I would cringe if I knew this person was going to be around. I prayed like crazy for God to keep that person out of my path. Yet, God has a sense of humor and often does exactly the opposite of what we pray for, knowing what is best for us in the end.

The more I prayed and the more I studied, the more I understood that we must forgive one another if we ever want to heal. We must forgive one another if we ever want to draw closer to Christ. Forgiveness is not saying that what the person did was right or acceptable, but instead it says that we want and need to move forward; that we want to heal from the hurt. Forgiveness means we surrender our hearts to God and allow Him to take the pain we feel and produce something good come from it.

As I studied about forgiveness I realized that I cannot ask God for forgiveness if I am unwilling to forgive. Christ tells us in Matthew 6:14-15,

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

We must forgive others if we wish to be forgiven. My heart yearns for the forgiveness of the sins that keep me separated from my Father. It pains me to think of not being forgiven. When I think of how undeserving I am of God’s forgiveness, and yet He grants it to me without hesitation, I know that there is no way I can deny offering my own forgiveness to those who have hurt me so deeply, even if they are not contrite or if they have not asked for my forgiveness.

Forgiving those who trespass against us is difficult. It means abandoning our anger, our pride, and perhaps our own selfish need for retaliation in favor of extending Christ’s love in a manner that is revolutionary.

There is an adage that goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” I submit to you that we should change this to say, “Fool me once, fool me twice… I still forgive you.”

Forgiveness Equals Love

While we shouldn’t allow ourselves to deliberately be hurt and we should never be someone’s “doormat”, Christ does tells us that when someone strikes us on the cheek, instead of retaliating we should turn and offer him the other one as well. By doing this we show Christ’s love and this love may just convert hearts and souls for God.

It is easy to believe we are called to love one another and to see the good in each other, especially when those we are surrounded by are peaceful, kind, and loving in return. It is more difficult to love those who hurt us. It can be an arduous task to offer love and forgiveness to those who do not seek our forgiveness and who offer no love in return. However, when we offer our love and our forgiveness to people such as these, we know that we are modeling ourselves after our Heavenly Father who loves us and forgives us even when we may not be worthy of such tremendous love.

What a beautiful gift we both give and receive when we freely forgive.

 

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7 thoughts on “Fool Me Once, Fool Me Twice: I Still Forgive You”

  1. I think we are called to forgive, wishing no ill will but not necessarily to include a person in your life
    IF the occasion to sin is at all present. If say, an acquaintance hurt one bad enough and one did not react it is ok to break off relations taking into account that the next time one may react …sinfully and
    maybe causing the other to react sinfully.

    1. Hi James,
      I agree with you completely! God doesn’t ask us to include those who hurt us in our lives especially if it brings with it the occasion to sin. People often mistake forgiveness with acceptance (and being ok with) people hurting you and allowing it to continue. That’s not what forgiveness is. Sometimes to move forward we have remove those people from our lives. But we can forgive them as we move on. We should forgive them as we move on. Of course there are times where the hurt is so deep that it may take a lifetime to heal, but forgiveness will always hasten that process.
      We receive such tremedous grace when we forgive others and when we ask for forgiveness. We can’t know how our willingness to forgive those who hurt us will affect the lives of others. Sometimes when we make the difficult decision to forgive others we inspire others to do the same. Imagine the healing that could happen if people would forgive one another! Wow! Where seeing sinful actions can lead others to sin, imagine what seeing others forgive one another could do for our society!

      Thank you for your comment. I hope you have a blessed day.
      Michelle

  2. Marion (Máel Mhuire)

    Forgiveness, however, does not necessarily entail according to the other person the same level of trust and intimacy that once existed. For example, I might forgive a friend who blabbed all about the secrets I had confided in her, and still be friendly with her, but I would be wise not to trust her with any more secrets (without, however, making a big deal about mentioning that to her or to anyone else.)

    Or with a male cousin who had, when we were both youngsters, attempted to behave inappropriately with me in such a way that it became necessary for me to literally fight him off with all my strength, . . . I forgave him, but I wouldn’t permit any of my own children to spend the night at the home of that cousin and his wife, not without me or their father present, too. (Without, however, making a big deal of mentioning why to him or to her, or to anyone else who didn’t absolutely need to know.)

    As President Ronald Reagan once advised, “Trust, but verify.”

    1. I completely agree with you. It’s always wise to guard your heart and to protect yourself and others from those who would hurt them. As I said, we should never put ourselves in a situation where we will be deliberately hurt or used like a doormat. Forgiveness isn’t about trust in others though. It is, however, about trust in God and about healing. We don’t have to trust someone to forgive them. When we forgive we open our hearts to God’s healing; this is what is so important about forgiveness. If we aren’t open to God’s healing through the forgiveness of others, we also will not be completely open to God’s healing through His forgiveness of our own sins.

      Thank you for your comment. Many blessings to you.

    2. I completely agree with you. It’s always wise to guard your heart and to protect yourself and others from those who would hurt them. As I said, we should never put ourselves in a situation where we will be deliberately hurt or used like a doormat. Forgiveness isn’t about trust in others though. It is, however, about trust in God and about healing. We don’t have to trust someone to forgive them. When we forgive we open our hearts to God’s healing; this is what is so important about forgiveness. If we aren’t open to God’s healing through the forgiveness of others, we also will not be completely open to God’s healing through His forgiveness of our own sins.

      Thank you for your comment. Many blessings to you.

    3. Marion (Máel Mhuire)

      Thanks, Michelle.

      You would be amazed at what ideas different Christians have about what Christian forgiveness looks like. Finding solid guidance can be tricky, especially when a “higher standard” of what it means is expounded on Catholic talk radio or publications, etc.

      I’ve heard it said by a priest from the pulpit that the wife who stayed with her violent husband until he killed her had done the right thing by not leaving him, and that she was a martyr for the indissolubility of marriage. (The memory of that homily still horrifies me.)

      A Catholic author on a Catholic radio show described how God led her to seek out the stranger who had forced his way into her sister’s house and shot her. For his crime the man was now serving a life sentence. This lady began to do all she could for the shooter of her dead sister in a spirit of forgiveness – and he responded by giving every sign that he was experiencing a conversion and had remorse for what he had done. The lady then began visiting him in prison, and writing to the parole board on his behalf.

      I try to be open to what God may ask of us that seems difficult and contrary to the spirit of the world, but sometimes I’ve wondered, when it comes to the question of what constitutes real human forgiveness, whether some Christians are raising the bar so high that reaching it is unattainable while retaining one’s own mental and emotional stability.

      Difficult to know. Thanks again.

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