Forever Forgiving

By Natalie, a high school student and Marjorie Foerster Eddington


I'm having problems forgiving a person who, after I forgive him, turns around and does something else bad. I feel that I am being taken for granted. Am I forgiving too easily or too much? Is there a limit?


First of all, you are no pushover. One of the few things that Jesus said on the cross was, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). If Jesus could forgive the people who killed him, then you can't be considered a pushover for forgiving a friend, no matter how many things he or she does.

In the gospel of Matthew, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who has done something wrong against him, "till seven times?" Jesus replies, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven" (Matt 18:21, 22). Now Jesus did not really mean 490 times. His statement meant that God forgives us not just numerous times, but an unlimited amount; therefore, we should do the same with others. Jesus forgave every person he ever saw for whatever his or her sins were. He never thought twice about forgiving; it came naturally because he forgave through his understanding of God and his relationship to Him.

It is important that we not hold what someone has done in the past against him and expect that that's what he'll do in the future. Just forgive in the moment and have no thought of anything else. We only live in the present moment, not in past moments, nor future moments.

It is also important to know how Jesus forgave. He didn't just say that all the sins that someone had committed didn't matter. He said that they were forgiven. He didn't condemn the person. In fact, he separated the person from the sins. He did not attach sins to a person. In doing this, he showed the person his or her true, God-given identity. And the person was healed!

That is what you must do for your friend. You must disentangle him from his mistakes by forgiving him.

Natalie, a high school student

Editor's Note:
Sometimes people think that forgiving someone means that they're communicating to others that it's okay to do bad things, to behave in disrespectful ways, or to hurt others. That's not what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness means exactly what Natalie said. We separate the person from the behavior; we acknowledge that the behavior is unacceptable; but we love the person and pray to see that person as able to rise above bad behaviors. We stop letting the bad behavior affect us in a negative way or control our feelings.

If for some reason a person keeps on taking advantage of our forgiveness, we probably will stop hanging out with that person and may reach the point when we no longer maintain a friendship with that person. That's okay. Just because we forgive someone does not mean that we have to be active friends with or trust that individual. It just means that we see the person as God's child, totally separate from the inappropriate behavior. That's the best thing we can do for that person, and it's the best thing we can do for ourselves. Some day, our forgiveness may help to change that person. We may never know. But at least we will not have let negative feelings towards that person ruin our happiness or add to their negative behavior.