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  • Jim Walter, ThM

Loving Oneself, Part 4

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

Another Biblical Self Care Strategy: Forgiving

by Jim Walter, ThM

“If you or anyone else tells me I need to forgive this jerk (referring to her husband who was sitting next to her), I’m walking outta here!!!”

I had met this very wounded woman only 15 minutes earlier as our Intensive retreat began. During the introductions, she and her husband disclosed that she had caught him in infidelity, just the previous week, for the second time!

I thought, “It’s a miracle she’s even here!”

Can you relate?

Have you been violated, betrayed, abandoned, let down, cheated, neglected? Have promises been made to you and then broken? Maybe someone you care about has been harmed, and it’s as if it were done to you?

Anger at your offender is reasonable, and as we will see, it is not a sin.

Even Jesus felt anger! (See Mark 3:5.)

But what about bitterness and resentment? Holding a grudge?

Can these “after-effects” of unresolved anger actually be toxic…to us?

Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Commenting on this verse, a pastor observed, “Anger is not a sin, but it has a very short shelf life!

Like food way past the expiration date, anger may spoil into bitterness, resentment, or grudges.

(Meanwhile back at the Intensive retreat…)

After this very wounded and upset wife calmed a bit, and after I assured her that no one was going to admonish her to forgive her husband, I asked if I could ask her a question. She said, “Sure.”

I asked, “If you came to believe that forgiving him was actually in your own best interests—that forgiving him is actually good for you, do you think you would forgive him?

She paused for several seconds, then said, “I suppose that if I thought it was good for me, maybe I would.”

Does forgiveness benefit the one who forgives? Is it actually good self-care?

YES! It is ultimately for our own benefit—not for the benefit of the offender. But WHY?

1. We prevent the devil from having undue “room” to influence us through our unresolved anger

Remember Ephesians 4:26: we are urged to not let the sun go down on our anger. The next admonition is “Do not give the devil an opportunity,” (Ephesians 4:27 NASB).

As God’s children and members of His kingdom, we are always under enemy attack. However, according to this passage, anger that has gone bad—longer than the next day—gives the devil and his minions additional room to influence us! Bitterness, resentment and grudges “make room for” evil spirits and opens up a place in our lives.

Are we OK with giving the devil that place?

2. We get rid of the emotional and spiritual “poison.”

Hebrews 12:15 urges us: “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” I’ve found it helpful to think of unforgiveness—bitterness—as being like a poison, an infection that needs to be removed and cleansed.

Who benefits from the removal of a poison?

3. We avoid being “wicked,” like the “wicked” servant (Matthew 18:32).

In Jesus’ story, that servant was wicked because he refused to forgive his fellow servant even though he had been forgiven a much larger debt (Matthew 18:21-35).

Clearly forgiving others avoids wickedness, and that’s good self-care!

4. We avoid the hypocrisy of asking for God’s forgiveness while harboring bitterness toward others (Matthew 6:12,14-15).

Apparently, our forgiveness of others is extremely important to Jesus. He includes it in His model prayer (“Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us,” Matthew 6:12). Then after giving his followers the prayer, He makes sure no one misses how important forgiveness is: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you reuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15 NLT).

Certainly, it would be hypocritical to ask for our Heavenly Father’s forgiveness and still harbor bitterness and resentment against someone else!

His forgiveness of us—infinite and unconditional—is the paradigm for our forgiveness of others: “…forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you,“ (Ephesians 4:32 NLT).

Remember, forgiveness is letting go of anger…it’s letting go of our right to hold anything against anyone. Jesus is the only one who has a right to hold anything against anyone—He is the only Judge.

If you are having trouble forgiving, you may have a lot of unaddressed hurt, sorrow, disappointment, and pain.

We cannot simply let go of that pain. There is no “Forgive and forget.” The hurt must be felt, expressed, and comforted by God and by others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

First deal with the pain. Seek whatever help you need from a trusted friend, pastor, counselor, spouse, whomever can comfort you.

When you are ready to practice loving yourself by choosing to forgive, perhaps this prayer will support you:

Dear Lord, thank you for caring so much about me that you are moved with compassion for my pain. Thank you that you understand and you care.

And thank you that you forgive me for all my sins—you don’t hold anything against me. You have completely “taken me off your hook” because Jesus has paid for all my sins on the cross.

In light of all this, I choose to forgive ______________________ for ______________________________________(express details).

I choose to let go of my anger. I choose to take ______________ off my hook. I know you are the only one who has a right to hold anything against anyone—I don’t! This person is accountable to You—please change him/her as you see fit. I choose to no longer hold a grudge against him/her.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And what about the wife of the unfaithful husband? She got the comfort she needed and chose to forgive him, but for her own benefit, which also benefited her marriage.



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