The Hard Work of Forgiveness

My new film Over-the-Rhine, which has its world premiere in Orlando next month, is about forgiveness, so the subject is very much on my mind. Update: Over-the-Rhine went on to win numerous awards and was released under the title Healing River. It can be seen or ordered here.

OTR Poster2aHow do you forgive the unforgiveable? To begin with, you have to remember that, while there are unforgiveable acts, there are no unforgiveable people. Yes, tragically, a few souls have “seared consciences” (1 Timothy 4:2) and can no longer discern good from evil. But it is not possible—or necessary—for us to know for certain who those people are. It is possible—and necessary—for us to forgive. (Luke 6:37)

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

So, how do we forgive? To begin with, we stop trying to feel like we do, and do the hard work of raw forgiveness. “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor,” C.S. Lewis says, simply “act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets: when you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” (Mere Christianity)

Well, sure, but that’s only our neighbors. Right? Uncomfortably, Jesus offers no quarter for deserters here. First, he defines neighbor as anyone who needs what we have to give (Luke 10:29-37). And then, in case we find wiggle room still, he insists we apply it to our enemies: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

But how?

The answer is there in his words. Did you see it? Pray. The more we pray for someone, the more real, the more human they become. And the more human they become, the harder it is to hate them.

So take the raw first steps. There’s a very good chance it will go badly. But press on anyway. As you do, your enemy will become more and more real. He will have a name. She will have a past. He will have made terrible choices…choices you yourself might have made if circumstances had been different. Keep praying for her. Every day.

Is forgiveness enough? Perhaps not, but it’s the foundation for all that follows: mercy, grace…

Maybe even love.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

63 Responses to The Hard Work of Forgiveness

  1. says:

    Most of the time, taking that first step is the hardest, but when we allow ourselves to forgive, we’re freeing ourselves from the burden of hanging on to anger, blame, the unknown and giving way to mercy, grace and love. Thanks for this post and for the work you are doing through your films.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Like Anne Lamott said “Failing to forgive is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die..” and Steve Garnaas-Holmes recently wrote ““When we forgive, all are set free. When we retain sins we are stuck with them, the burden ours as much as theirs.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. bdeckard92 says:

    Always something I struggle with… waffling back and forth between forgiving and hating those I’ve hurt and even moreso myself. I know I can’t fill His shoes with His infinite grace and forgiveness but I’m trying to at least follow his footsteps. Thanks for sharing and I’ll be on the lookout for the film!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kate Loveton says:

    Excellent post. Good luck with the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Mitch, Could I read your script? Producer Arry Voorsmit is considering seeking funding for my script “Survival in Paradise” which you may have looked at on my blog As a first effort at screenwriting, my script obviously needs the talents of a “Carrie Fisher” type script doctor. Arry hasn’t optioned it yet but until he gets funding that wouldn’t be practical, I understand that. So, I would love to read your script. I’ll even put a link to it on my blog if you want, maybe wrap it in a critique—largely favorable, of course! Cheers, Your open-minded agnostic follower, Vern

    *Vernon M. Kerr* Mobile: (209) 541-7171

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Hi, Vernon. Unfortunately, my production company is keeping the story under wraps until the film is released. Script doctors can help sometimes, but if you’re a first-time screenwriter the best thing you can do is simply keep writing. Every re-write–and every new screenplay–will teach you new things.


  6. Very nice, Mitch. Looking forward to seeing it here in Colorado!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Where will we be able to see your movie? Great job, Mitch! A worthy subject and one that will make everyone think of “forgiveness.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. rabirius says:

    Congratulations, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think that forgiveness is a work – a process that for some of us, may be ongoing. We may not feel like we are accomplishing much but God knows our hearts.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on heartshabitation and commented:
    A good message from a fellow Christian blogger.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Erika Kind says:

    I love this, Mitch! Today may be the day of forgiveness. My quote today is also about it!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ann Coleman says:

    Forgiveness can be very hard, but it’s the only way we can heal. I like the idea of praying for someone who needs our forgiveness every day, because that does make them more real to us. And the more we can see them as a real, flawed, human being, the easier it becomes to forgive. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post Mitch… I hope Over the Rhine does amazingly well. Forgiveness is tough, and I’m guessing it is for all of us. I’m so thankful for God’s example…that He gave His only begotten Son ‘before’ I ever deserved it…and even now when I still don’t. Seems I never stop learning about forgiveness and I am sure I will continue when I see Over the Rhine… Can’t wait! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Beautiful post. Yes, forgiveness may not be easy, but I like what C.S. Lewis said behave as if you do, and you begin to actually.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. daodeqi says:

    good choice, it looks great!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Recently I listened to an old​ recording of Corrie Ten Boone about forgiveness. It was powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. C.S. Lewis is right. Love and forgiveness are action, not a feeling. God is so kind, when we submit, grace and healing flows. I’m learning this more and more. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  18. godoratheism says:

    Excellent post. Hatred mostly hurts the person holding on to it. Forgive not because your enemy “deserves it.” Forgive because you deserve it. (And, of course, Jesus commands it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Indeed, the peace gained in forgiving others is powerful. And yet, I would hope we would do so even if it were not. Because it heals others, and because it comes from the Father’s heart.


  19. aviator3230 says:

    Great post, Mitch and solid thoughts on forgiveness. I’ve shared on FB and I wish all success with your film!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. One thing I have learned about forgiveness is that; the very thing you do not forgive will become a part of you. The molested child grows up to become a molester, the cheated become a cheater, etc. Forgiveness is for our benefit. It does not disavow the wrong done, quite the opposite it calls the wrong out and then it surrenders the right of retaliation, so that we can move on in peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. notesfromthewalk says:

    “So take the raw first steps. There’s a very good chance it will go badly.” This made me laugh because it’s so true. Well said, Mitch. E.R.Peters

    Liked by 1 person

  22. carhicks says:

    I agree with Michael, if we don’t forgive it days at us and becomes part of us. I can forgive, but depending on the act, not sure about love. As Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” We need to adopt that belief.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    Yes, yep, uh-huh. Thanks,


    Liked by 1 person

  24. gerrymackrell says:

    When I would encounter bad or discourteous drivers I would be irate, Now when I see bad or discourteous driving, I think,I have done that. Calm trumps irate. Forgiving has its rewards.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. gerrymackrell says:

    Its the forgetting part I have trouble with.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. numrhood says:

    luke 6:12 & 37
    luke 35:54-12, 10:29-37
    matthew 5:19 & 44


  27. gwennonr says:

    Reblogged this on Special Creation Woman and commented:
    Oh, if only I didn’t need this message so very much!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. samba2017 says:

    Thanks for sharing these important words about forgiveness. I have a poetry blog here on WordPress and today’s poem is about forgiving in case you have time to look? Wishing you a good week, Sam 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  34. Forgiveness is really the only thing that makes logical sense. If the person was trying to hurt you, why give them the satisfaction of being hurt and staying hurt? And if they didn’t mean to hurt you, there’s nothing to forgive. – I know, easier said than done, but C. S. Lewis is so right, it starts with the decision to let it go, not the feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

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  39. Thanks for stopping by Mitch. Your writing is always inspirational! David

    Liked by 1 person

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