We all know what it feels like to be hurt by someone. Maybe it’s been years since it happened, but we still struggle to forgive the one who hurt us, even though we know we need to.
Vince Antonucci has wrestled with unforgiveness. For years, he harbored bitterness and resentment toward his father who abandoned him and the rest of his family. Vince says one of the things that helped him get unstuck from unforgiveness was understanding why God asks us to forgive in the first place.
“I always felt like it was for my dad, to let him off the hook. Finally, I realized that it was for me. My dad was not the one in prison, I was. If I forgave my dad, I would be set free, not him.”
Now that Vince understood why forgiveness was so important, he needed to learn what forgiveness was and what it wasn’t. He shares four common misconceptions about forgiveness that often trip us up.
“Forgiveness isn’t saying what happened is acceptable. Forgiveness isn’t waiting for the bad feelings to go away. It’s not waiting for an apology before you feel better. Forgiveness isn’t just saying the words ‘I forgive you.’”
So what does it truly mean to forgive? Vince shares three truths about forgiveness he learned on his own journey.
Forgiveness is releasing my hope for a better past.
“So often, we keep looking back at what happened and think, ‘I didn’t deserve that’ or ‘if that hadn’t happened my life would have gone much better.’ While that may be true, you can’t change the past. If we keep wishing for a different past, we get stuck in our past. When we forgive, it doesn’t change our past, but it can change our future.”
Forgiveness is relinquishing my right to retaliate.
God doesn’t want us to take vengeance into our own hands. It will only make things worse. He wants us to leave that to Him.
Forgiveness is releasing Jesus’s power into my life.
“Forgiving my dad was not something I was capable of. I proved that many times when I gritted my teeth and welled up my will power and said, ‘alright, today’s the day I’m going to forgive my father,’ but every single one of those times it was me trying to forgive my dad in my power and I didn’t have the power.”
“Finally, I gave up. I couldn’t forgive my father, but God could help me get unstuck.”
Forgiveness is a process. However, learning to let go of the past, relinquish your right to retaliate, and release the power of Jesus in your life will help you take huge strides in your journey of getting unstuck from unforgiveness.
Vince Antonucci pastors Verve, an innovative church that seeks to reach people who work on and live around the Las Vegas Strip. The upcoming television series God for the Rest of Us will chronicle Vince’s work there. In addition to writing books, Vince leads mission trips around the world, speaks nationwide, performs stand-up comedy in Las Vegas, and most of all, loves spending time with his wife, Jennifer, and their two kids.