It has occurred to me recently that I sometimes fail to forgive because I cannot bring myself to acknowledge that the other party has sinned against me. If he hasn’t acknowledged his sin or flat out denies it, I often let myself believe that it wasn’t really sin…just a mistake or a misunderstanding or even a hurt that I deserved. If resentment or bitterness start to fester around the wound, I feel guilty about that, but I can’t really resolve it since I haven’t forgiven. We can’t forgive mistakes or misunderstandings or just punishments; sin is the only thing we can forgive. So before I can forgive, it is imperative that call the sin what it is. Forgiveness is for the guilty, not for the innocent. So before I can forgive, it is imperative that I judge the offender to be guilty.
Of course my judgment must not presume to go beyond the act in question — it must not usurp God’s authority and pronounce damnation. My judgment must be charitable — it must give the benefit of any doubt, and it must not impute motives that I can’t possibly know. And my judgment must be soberly self-directed, honestly evaluating my faults by the same standards with which I evaluate others (Matthew 7:1-5).
This need for judgment should give us extra impetus to confess our sins against one another. If I’ve done wrong to someone, I shouldn’t exacerbate that wrong by leaving the burden of judgment on him, I should judge myself, deliver the verdict to him, offer any restitution if possible, and ask his forgiveness.