Forgiveness is not one of those things we fall into naturally - it is definitely a "learned art" because it takes a whole lot of practice to really get it right! At first, we think we forgive just by telling someone it is okay, but still expecting them to somehow "repay" the debt caused by their misdeed. After a while, we learn we are not supposed to hold the debt against them, which raises the bar for us a whole lot because we have to let the debtor off the hook! It is one thing to let go of the hurt caused by the infraction, but quite another to actually let go of whatever we feel we are "owed" because of it! Two common things we struggle with as it applies to forgiveness is the debt owed and the sense that the circumstances cannot be forgotten. As long as we hold the debt in our heart and/or the memory in our minds, we still have some strings attached - the person is not totally released as far as we are concerned. As you can see, this is definitely an "art" which must be practiced over and over again until we get it right!
Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9 NLT)
Dwelling on faults is something I believe we come by "naturally" - we just have a hard time letting go of the "stuff" we perceive has been done "against" us at one time or another. Some of us have a tendency to do something I call "gunny sacking" - the process of saving up offenses and then letting it rip on the poor unsuspecting soul when the sack gets full! Others of us let it out right away, making sure the other soul knows we perceive their actions as something which violated one of our rights or fell below our expectations. Either way, it is dangerous business because faults held onto, or aired in a manner which only thinks about how "we" were affected stands the chance of hurting not only the other guy, but us in turn.
Let's talk about the quick response first. It is a good thing to "remain current" with all offenses - but it is quite another thing to "air your grievance" without consideration of the other individual involved. Too many times we air our grievances simply from our own perspective of the infraction - how we see it, how it affected us, how it brought this or that into our lives, etc. We fail to see the other side of the coin - the perspective from which the other individual may have been viewing the circumstance. For example, someone does something we take as a "slight" on their part - overlooking some need we had which we perceived as quite obvious. The other individual may have had no idea of our "need" because it was neither spoken, nor understood. So, are they really at fault for not meeting that need - creating the "slight"? Not really! We have the perception it was obvious - but trust me, what we feel may be completely obvious may be hidden well from the view of others!
We also cannot "gunny sack" all of the infractions or slights of another which we perceive to be "against us" - for this creates a huge number of issues outside of the smaller issues which were all stored up in the first place. Remaining "current" with offenses is not only practical, it is common sense. When we deal with something now, we often deal with it more practically - in the present we see the details, can bring into light what may not have been understood, etc. In the future, we have had a great deal of time to "retell" the story of how we "perceive" the infraction took place. Trust me - our story usually "morphs" into something quite different than the offense! The more we retell the story (something gunny-sackers do quite frequently), the worse the offense becomes. Why? Rehearsed stuff becomes fuel for the fire - it builds in intensity until we take the tiniest infraction and blow it out of proportion.
Love must be practiced in relationship. This is not a suggested practice, but a required one. Since love must be practiced (modeled), it is important to understand how forgiveness plays into this idea of love. First of all, love isn't always looking for its own way - something we'd do well to learn if we are to be overlooking offenses in this lifetime. Many an offense would not even be perceived if we'd stop interpreting life through the eyes of "ME" all the time! Secondly, love doesn't hold onto wrongs, but lets them go. When we release someone the first time, we might feel like we didn't "get anything" out of the action, but trust me, we do! The other person may not understand how we can "let them off the hook" without some kind of debt for their offense, but in time they will see Christ's character in your actions - something you cannot fake, but which is a result of appreciating the grace extended without measure in your own life. The more we practice this idea of "releasing" the other person from the "debt" they owed us by their infraction, the more we come to appreciate the magnitude of God's grace.
There is no debt owed which is greater than our own. This is a tough thing to fully appreciate, but it is truth nonetheless. When we can appreciate the magnitude of our own debt, it becomes a little easier to let go of another's! Just sayin!