Forgiveness can be a very hard thing to do at times. It is a mental action which we can do one day and then feel anger or resentment come up on another day after we have chosen to forgive. Sometimes it can seem futile and confusing as to whether we have forgiven or not. From what I have experienced, it is a daily practice as are so many things when we are in touch with God and know what He wants us to do, yet find that doing them is not always the decision we make. Thankfully, we have a very forgiving God Who takes us back time and time again when we have fallen short of the standard we know is best for ourselves and others.
So, from my own frame of reference, the first reason to forgive is that God has forgiven us. How do we know that? Because of what He did for us as a demonstration of His great love and ability to forgive. How many of us would be able to be bullied, beaten and killed for our enemies? As we know, that is what Jesus did and it is even incomprehensible to someone who does not know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Who would forgive a murderer? Who would forgive a rapist? Only someone whose love surpasses our understanding. And who knows our weaknesses better that we ourselves do. When God asks me to forgive, it is a small thing in comparison to what He has accomplished on the cross.
The second reason that I see is because of my awareness of my own sin. It really helps when I can recognize the many mistakes that I have made over and over again. No, I haven't killed anyone physically, robbed a bank or committed a felony, but I know that many a time I have been the cause of deep hurt in another, have wasted time that cannot be replaced, and have been thoughtless in my actions. If we are honest with ourselves, we have all done things wrong, hurt another person and made mistakes in our lives. As I grow in my relationship with the Lord, I become more sensitive to my own behavior and the impact it has on others. It makes it easier to forgive having the self-awareness that God provides when I seek His truth. Knowing that I need forgiveness too and being thankful when it's given is a reason for me to also forgive others.
The third reason I think forgiveness is important is that unforgiveness is harmful to our own bodies, minds, souls and spirits. Unwillingness to forgive leads to resentment. It has been said that harboring resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Resentment can lead to bitterness and hardness of heart, which can cause more stress, high blood pressure, depression and a host of physical and emotional ailments. The only one being hurt is the one who got hurt in the first place. Therefore it is essential that we come to a place where we realize that letting go of resentment and unforgiveness is about our own mental and physical health as well as our happiness in life.
The forth reason to forgive is that God is just and God is merciful. He has shown mercy and will continue to forgive us throughout our whole lives. He asks that we confess our sins and repent of them. That is part of being a true Christian. Sometimes we don't know what we have done. Jesus said at the cross, "Father forgive them for they know not what they've done." (Luke 23:34). Oftentimes when we have been wronged, the other person is not in touch with how much we've been hurt. We may need to ask God to put the forgiveness in our hearts, especially if they're not aware of what they've done or aren't willing to apologize. God is a just God and I believe that each person will learn at some point what the truth is.
The fifth reason for forgiveness that comes to my mind is because love requires it. A relationship cannot survive without it. Sometimes a hurt is so strong and the damage that's been caused prevents the relationship from being able to reconcile. However forgiveness is still needed based on the reasons above. For ongoing relationships, there will be times when each person makes mistakes, slips back into old behavior, or steps on our toes. Talking it through, sharing feelings, and listening to each other in order to understand why things happened the way they did, can facilitate forgiveness and healing. As each person does their part in taking responsibility for making amends and forgiving each other, a love relationship can grow and thrive. Forgiveness, to me, is one of the foundational actions of a solid, loving relationship.