The Bible has a lot to say about forgiveness. There are times when we get angry, when people hurt us, or when we feel betrayed. We have options at that point. We can hold on to anger forever, letting it build and fester inside of us, or we can let go of our anger and resentment in order to offer forgiveness. Understanding how to forgive others and learning to forgive ourselves comes from seeing God as the ultimate figure in how to forgive.
God is the most forgiving. Part of growing in our faith is to learn the spiritual discipline of confession, or asking God for forgiveness. God is the most forgiving of any sin, small to large. He understands that we all make mistakes. We all have our flaws. God understands that we are imperfect, but He gives us what we struggle to give one another - unconditional love. We often expect to pay for ours sins. And yes, there are consequences at times for our sins. Yet, just because we face consequences does not mean God has not forgiven us. In fact, sometimes those consequences are God offering us lessons that come from a place of love.
Ephesians 4:20-32 - That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)
Sometimes people do things that are just mean. Sometimes they mean it, and sometimes they don't. Either way, it can be very difficult to forgive someone who has hurt us. Yet, forgiveness is a choice. We can hold onto our resentment, build up grudges, and be continuously angry at someone who has done us wrong. Yet, does it do us all that much good? Often these types of grudges break ties with one another, draw lines between friends and family, and continue to build inside of us. There is a reason God asks us to forgive - it is freeing. We no longer have to control the situation or hold onto all that anger.
What forgiveness does not require us to do is forget. Forgiveness does not require us to completely forget that someone did us wrong. Even God does not forget our sins, He just chooses to forgive them. There are times when we need to remember that someone hurt us, because we need to avoid situations that allow him or her to hurt us again. Abusive relationships are a good example. We should not necessarily go back to the abuser because we forgave him or her. We can let go of the anger and resentment, but not forget the harm.
Ephesians 2:1-5 - As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (NIV)