When you turn gratefulness into a habit, it’s a powerful way to live. God knows this, which is why the Bible urges us to be grateful in so many verses, like this one in 1 Thessalonians:
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. —1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV
When you’re grateful, you have a light heart and a positive outlook on life because you focus on what you have, not what you’re lacking. Gratefulness makes it easier to be positive in other parts of your life, including the ability to forgive more readily.
Why is it so hard to forgive others, especially when we, as Christians, know the grace of God’s forgiveness through His Son, Jesus Christ? God expects us to forgive others with the same grace He extends to us:
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. —Matthew 6:14 KJV
The relationship between a grateful attitude and the ability to forgive others starts with remembering that admonishment in Matthew. If we’re grateful for God’s forgiveness, then it follows naturally to extend that gift to others. We honor God when we show our gratefulness for His blessings by letting go of resentments and grudges as He instructs us to do.
When you’re grateful, you’re full of positive thoughts and emotions. A grateful heart has no room for negative feelings like anger, jealousy and resentment. Instead of looking at others through a cracked, dusty lens of negativity, we see them in a more merciful light. We recognize that, like us, they’re imperfect and prone to mistakes. Imagine what it would be like if God held our human imperfections against us and refused to forgive the sins we inevitably commit. Just as He has mercy on us, we should extend that grace to others as a sign of our gratitude to Him.
Gratefulness makes forgiveness easier in several other ways. For example, when someone wrongs you, a grateful heart makes you more open to seeing the damage that holding a grudge can cause. Perhaps someone cheated you out of money, lied to you about something important, broke a promise or shattered your trust in some other way. The hurt might be physical, emotional and/or monetary, but once it’s over, the choice is yours to move on and let go or to let it dominate your life. The Book of Luke makes it clear that it’s not your place to pass judgment:
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. —Luke 6:37 KJV
Holding on to anger at others saps your energy and gets in the way of positive emotions. Forgiving someone is a very freeing act because it releases your heart and takes away the need to hold onto something that weighs down your spirit. Support forgiveness by being grateful that you survived the hurt and still have a good life and faith in the Lord. He doesn’t give us more than He knows we can handle, and that includes situations where someone wrongs us. Forgiveness is a powerful tool to help you release resentment over those wrongs.
When you’re happy in your own life, you don’t feel the need to focus on the acts of others because you’re busy in your own walk. You’re grateful for what God gives you each day and know that the good outweighs the bad. There’s no time to stay mired in the past because you’re too busy following the path He’s laid out for you in the present and focusing on a bright future. Being grateful for God’s gifts in your life makes it easy to apply that same grace to others as you let go of their transgressions against you.
Before you work on your forgiveness skills, hone that attitude of gratitude. Once you’ve got that down, the ability to forgive freely will follow.