I’ve been given conflicting advice about forgiveness from different people…
One line of thought says that forgiveness is an act of the will. To forgive means to make a decision that we intend to let a person “off the hook” of his punishment for whatever wrong they have done to us.
Another line of thought says that forgiveness is an act of the heart, it is about letting go of bad feelings towards a person, and truly getting over the anger and loving the person from the heart.
I much prefer the first definition, but then we have the words of Christ himself: “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
But this seems to be very unfair - the feelings in my heart are not something I choose. If I wince and my adrenaline pumps and I have to fight off fantasies of revenge against someone who has hurt me deeply, that is a problem that I can’t just fix by an act of the will. It seems very unfair that God will send me to hell if I still have bitter feelings in my heart that I can’t get rid of when I die. Does God really expect us to forgive from the heart? Isn’t it enough to just try to stop having those feelings, and try not to fantacize about revenge?
It seems to me that the whole “from the heart” theology leads to despair… not only do we go through life with fear and pain in our hearts from past offenses against us, we have to live in the knowledge that we will suffer in hell for eternity because we still have this pain