The Choice to Forgive: Healing is a Choice


The Seventh Big Lie: ”Forgiveness is only for those who deserve it or earn it.”

The fact that you are even reading these words is a miracle, because you have read a lot of stuff on forgiveness and understand everyone’s angle on it, and none of it does one bit of good for you and your situation. You have been abused, mistreated, or neglected in such a severe way that you believe that forgiveness of that person or persons is impossible for you to experience. You are a good and kind and loving person, but there is one person that you harbor a grudge against, and you plan on keeping it. The person does not deserve to be forgiven by you or by God. Anyone looking at what happened would say that you are totally entitled to your feelings.

If what I have described above is the way you feel, or you feel that way to a lesser degree, I am hoping and praying right now as I write this that this could be the time when everything changes for you. I am praying that as you read on I can help you walk through some steps and help you make some choices that lead you to the choice to forgive the unforgivable. And if you are someone who has not been hurt deeply, I pray that you will use these words to minister to someone else who is struggling because he or she is unable or unwilling to forgive. I pray that in the future if you are ever hurt deeply, you might come back to this and use it to walk out the anger, bitterness, and resentment.

The Most Dangerous Thing on Earth
We live in a world where danger and terror are all around us. We live with uncertainty each new day because we never know what might befall us. Since 9/11 most of us have a little more fear of terror in the world that might one day intersect with our personal world. There is something much more dangerous than a terrorist somewhere out there in the world that may or may not harm us one day. There is something worse, much worse than that. It is worse because it can exist within us and affect everything we do and the very person we become. That internal terrorist is called a ”justifiable resentment.”

A lot of people have resentments. Some just seem to have a bad attitude about life, and they lean toward resenting everything. They resent paying taxes, paying more than a dollar for a gallon of gas, or being asked by their church to give money to support the new building campaign. They resent the person they are living with. That person is not bad, but the “resenter” collects little things done over time and walks around with a huge collection of little things to hold against the person. It makes him feel a bit superior, so he hangs on to everything he can find. Resenters go through life pretty negative on anything and everything. They have a problem, but it is nothing like what I am going to describe. These petty resentments are real resentments, but they are not the type that will kill you.

A justifiable resentment is the type of resentment that will kill you. It is not about anything petty. It is about real and horrible abuse or mistreatment. It is about a real life event that anyone would say was terribly wrong, and most anyone would tell you that you are totally justified in feeling the way you do. Tenderhearted people will cry with you over it, and many probably have. All the evidence supports your feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness, and unwillingness to forgive. The other person does not deserve it, and no one wants him or her to have it. That is what I call a justifiable resentment.

Real resentment over real damage by a real person produces a justifiable resentment, and it becomes such a huge part of your life that it feels like a vulture sitting on top of you, a dark and dangerous presence that affects everything that you do.

If the resentment was not justifiable, someone could just talk you out of it. A friend could tell you things he or she has told others who had a bad attitude;

1. Stop being so negative.

2. Look at the bright side of things.

Get more — Free! e-book — Les & Leslie Parrott's, The Good Fight

3. Stop seeing the glass half empty.

4. Start thinking more positively.

5. Look for the good in people.

6. Try accepting people for who they are.

These are the things people say to someone who just needs to make a few changes to make herself more comfortable and enjoy life more.

But none of those things apply to you, because you have something to hang on to. There is a date and a person and a trauma that really happened. It is your Auschwitz, and those who know of your terrible ordeal support your feelings. That is the problem; no one questions your feelings. Everyone feels horrible for you, so it is easy for you to hang on to the resentment. Anyone would, but you can’t.

You can’t, because it is eating you alive. It is your own internal terrorist that is destroying your life, keeping you from living the best life possible. It is hurting your relationship with God and with others. You will be firmly rooted to your past and to your abuse as long as the justifiable resentment grows within you. Everything you do in life will lean up against your grudge. It will come to define who you are and limit what you can become.

Although it might be very difficult to imagine, you really can be free from that justifiable resentment. You can let it go and experience the healing power of forgiveness. You can choose to heal a very troubled area of your soul by choosing to walk through a path of forgiveness. And if you take this path, something very amazing is going to happen to you one day.

One day you are going to awaken and realize that everything in your life has changed. You will sense that you are no longer rooted in your past. You will realize that what once defined your life and your inner thoughts is no longer relevant to how you live your life. You won’t forget what happened, but you will be aware of something with the magnitude of a fly you just swoosh away. That little fly is nothing compared to the vulture that now sits atop your head, talons deeply implanted in your heart. One day you will awaken and that vulture will no longer be there, and you will be free!

Copyright © New Life Ministries. Used by permission of New Life Ministries. New Life Ministries has a variety of resources on men, women and relationships. Call 1-800-NEW-LIFE or visit

Rate this article

About Stephen Arterburn

Steve ArterburnStephen “Steve” Arterburn is an author, speaker, counselor, radio talk-show host of New Life Live, host of New Life TV, and founder of New Life Ministries and Women of Faith. He co-wrote Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time with Fred Stoeker, as well as several other publications.
See Steve Arterburn's Books



10:51am, CDT

Hope For the Broken Marriage


10:51am, CDT

How Not to Treat Your Mate