And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
The roots of unforgiveness can run very deep. It is not uncommon for someone to experience a hurt or abuse at the hands of another and spend years holding on to that pain. We think that unforgiveness is a way of punishing those who have hurt us, but the reality is that we only punish ourselves. Holding on to pain long after the damage has occurred just makes us hurt more. At the heart of unforgiveness is the idea that those who have wronged us do not deserve to be released from accountability for that wrong, but there is no way to reconcile this idea with the forgiveness that God offers to us and requires of us.
Before becoming friends of God we were enemies of God. We lived lives that defied him, and we behaved in a manner that did not bring him glory. Prior to our own conversions, some of us even spent time persecuting those who follow Jesus. Yet when we come to Jesus, He forgives all of that. He releases us from the judgment that should come as a result of our sins and instead assigns to us his righteousness and purity. If we wish to receive that, however, we must give the same forgiveness to those who sin against us. That is a great stumbling block to our faith. It requires that we release those who have hurt us and consider those wrongs no more. Without doing this, we cannot hope to have a restored relationship with our Father.
When I think of all the ways that I have sinned against God and the measure of forgiveness that I have received, and I consider the fact that God remembers my sins no more, I cannot think of withholding forgiveness from others. No matter the gravity of the sin committed against me, with God I can move past it. In the end, harboring unforgiveness does nothing but keep us from God. Father, increase our grace and forgiveness for others, teach us how to release those who have sinned against us, and give us a desire to see them restored to You.