What I KNOW – The Formula for Forgiveness

Math is not one of my strong suits. Just ask my sister, the accountant. I manage to calculate the tip at a restaurant, balance my checkbook, and add up my golf score accurately, but not always on the first try.

Algebraic equations, square roots, and the answer to that age old story problem of when those two speeding trains that left different stations at the same time, going different speeds, would intersect just aren’t important enough for me to want to spend a lot of time thinking about it. I struggle to understand the relevance and the effect these formulas have on my life.

There is, however, one formula that I have come to discover that is really important and worth committing the equation that represents it to memory. Its relevance is obvious if you are human and its effect is life transforming.

That equation is: Mercy + Grace = Forgiveness

I know that forgiveness is one of the hardest things we are called to do in our lifetime.  Disappointment, rejection, criticism, and conditional love are just a few of the hurts we inevitably experience in our journey of life. The only balm for these wounds is forgiveness.

The only way to forgiveness is a with merciful heart showered with God’s grace.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, and it doesn’t mean you’re letting the other person off the hook. It does, however, mean freeing yourself from the bondage of that person’s actions.  It means trusting that God will ultimately make things right. This ability to trust and hand things over takes a power that only comes from God.

In order to forgive we need a merciful heart, mercy meaning undeserved favor.  We need a heart that is willing to love, or at least like, the unlovable. It helps me to show mercy to those who have hurt me when I think about the mercy I have been shown by God. Thinking about the many times I have been given undeserved second chances and blessings in spite of my poor choices humbles me and softens my heart.

In order to have a heart willing and be able to show mercy, we need God’s grace, pure and simple. We can’t do it on our own. I know, I have tried.

I have tried to will myself to be kind, to show underserved favor to those who have hurt me, and at best it works temporarily. Inevitably, the old feelings creep back in and I usually end up even more angry than I was before. It doesn’t last.

The only lasting formula for forgiveness is God’s grace at work in a merciful heart.

This I KNOW.

What do you KNOW?


Joan Carey, Firstfruits executive director, is an author and speaker with a passion for helping women grow in their relationships with God. Her Ponder This book contains a series of modern day parables sure to get you thinking about and seeing our extraordinary God in our ordinary experiences. Joan invites you to use resources on this website for daily reflection in your journey to grow in God's loving care for you.
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