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How To Forgive Others: 5 Characteristics of Spiritual Maturity You Need

Can I genuinely grant forgiveness to someone who has hurt me? It’s one thing to think about it or talk about it, but living it out takes hard work. For years I tried and failed and then in a season of growth, something clicked. Heat-deep forgiveness requires maturity. Today we will see the 5 characteristics of Spiritual maturity that are needed to learn to forgive others.

Bible Verses About Forgiving Others Who Hurt You

As we look at how to forgive others we have to remember that forgiveness is a process. It often happens slowly over time with lots of repetition…

As we learn the process of forgiveness, we have been answering some questions. Let’s just review quickly what we have seen in these Bible verses about forgiving others who hurt us:

Forgive Others Scripture

Scripture is clear that God forgives us. In almost all the Bible verses to forgive others, we see that theme repeated.

  • Forgive others as I have forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).
  • Alternately, forgive others and you will be forgiven (Mark 11:25).
  • Forgive others who have wronged you (Luke 6:37)

Paul is one who comes back to this topic over and over. He reminds us why should we forgive others. God chose us and forgave us, so we should forgive others.

”So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,  put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord  forgave you, so also should you.” (Colossians 3:12-13 NASB) 

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5 Character Traits Required When Learning to Forgive Others

I am so thankful when the Bible adds instructions about how to do the hard work of discipleship! Paul starts by telling us we will need to put on five things, five character traits. These are the characteristics of Spiritual maturity that we gradually learn to practice.

Think of these as another piece of the fruit of the spirit we should grow, only Paul says we wear them, we clothe ourselves in them. Sort of like the armor of God we put on for Spiritual warfare, but this is the clothing we put on to grow in faith.

He is talking about a change in the foundation of our emotional and spiritual selves. A change only God can make. A change He longs to make in us, to make us more like Him. And when we put them on we are able to forgive others genuinely!

  1. Compassion
  2. Kindness
  3. Humility
  4. Gentleness
  5. Patience

Compassion

All five of these character traits are words that can seem vague or weak in our culture. It is important that we think of them from a Kingdom of God perspective.

Compassion, in the original language, is about the act of suffering together. It is shown by our desire to help take the load off the one who is suffering. We show this by walking alongside them in the midst of their trouble. 

A good illustration of this came into my life this year. This year I lost my mom to cancer. In compassion, while my kids and I cared for her, others cared for us. Some brought meals, others helped clean our home, and others took my kids to give them a break from the heartache of grief. They walked with me through the suffering, willingly. Compassionately. Helping be the hands and feet of Jesus holding our family together as we were wrecked with sorrow.

5 Characteristics of Spiritual Maturity You Need to Forgive Others Share on X

Kindness

Kindness is another vague word in our culture. It includes moral goodness or integrity shown in deeds. Kindness is an action word. In it, we see a person who speaks up for what is right rather than keeping silent, a person who acts when others walk away.

Some examples of kindness…

  • Helping the elderly neighbor take out her trash, instead of gossiping with others about how she is struggling.
  • Sitting with a visitor at church instead of your friends so they feel welcomed.

Jesus showed kindness by healing the outcasts, speaking to sinners, and taking our place at Calvery.

Just a note that kindness is different from being nice. When we are nice we smile and pretend everything is okay. When we are kind, we become part of the change that makes things better.

Humility

Humility is a tough character trait to learn. We almost seem to grow into this one without realizing it after we have practiced compassion and kindness for some time.

When I am humble, I have a deep sense of my littleness compared to God’s greatness. This is not about thinking about all the ways I fail. No, it is just as important to learn to forgive yourself as it is to forgive others! When I learned to forgive myself and others, I knew humility was near.

Also tied to humility is our need to esteem others more highly than ourselves. I know this is not a popular idea, but it is a Biblical idea.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;”  (Philippians 2:3 NASB) 

Gentleness

Next, we see gentleness, which sort of surprised me. We already learned the problem with cultural forgiveness is that it just lets go of the wrong. But we are focused on how to Biblically forgive others, meaning letting God take the wrong and give out judgment.

So, when I see gentleness in the list I feel like we are being told to take 10 steps backward! When I think of a gentle person I think of a weak and gullible person. However, in reality, gentleness is best thought of as power under control (meekness).

Related Post: 33 Powerful Bible Verses About Confidence

Jesus Is Gentle

For example, Jesus is characterized by gentleness. He was certainly not weak. He was in very nature, God

“who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, (Philippians 2:6 NASB). 

At any time while on earth, Jesus could have acted in His Omnipotent, All-Powerful might to prove Himself. Instead, He taught and demonstrated compassion, kindness, and humility. 

It seems these things build upon each other. Gentleness flows from a heart and mind that have been conditioned and trained by compassion, kindness, and humility. 

Power under control. That is something I have to practice and practice. I want others to see my power, my strength. But when that power hurts others or takes away from what God wants to accomplish… it isn’t godly.

Patience

Lastly, in this forgiveness of others Bible verses, we see the characteristic of Spiritual maturity we need to forgive is patience. It is easier to describe what it looks like when I am not patient. Irritability, harsh words, and taking control all happen when I am impatient.

To be patient is to wait, but godly patience, patience that comes from Spiritual maturity is more than just waiting. Biblical patience is waiting with a happy heart without complaining. Man, that one is challenging in so many ways! 

But the truth is the first four pieces in Paul’s list really train us to live out patience.

  • Compassion
    • When we walk alongside others who are suffering in compassion we are less likely to complain.
  • Kindness
    • Being part of the solution through kindness helps us see that change takes time. 
  • Humility
    • Seeing ourselves in light of God’s greatness and our smallness through humility helps us remember we are not in control and that’s okay.
  • Gentleness
    • Choosing to contain our power or strength when it could set others back also helps us learn to patiently wait on God.

Spiritual Growth That Leads to Forgiving Others

When we combine these five Spiritual attitudes, these characteristics of Spiritual maturity, we grow in faith. We…

  • Develop a heart that can better “bear with one another” and forgive.
  • Remember that we were once immature in our faith and can forgive others as they grow and struggle.
  • Allow God to be the change in the people we love rather than pushing them past their limits.

Spiritual growth comes as we walk with the Lord. Slowly over time, as we pursue Him intentionally, He grows these traits in us. He dresses us in the clothes of righteousness Paul is talking about here (Isaiah 61:10).

Getting to that place requires a lot of time in God’s Word and a lot of time praying over my own Spiritual progress. 

Forgiveness Feels Impossible

To answer the initial question, It really is possible to genuinely forgive others. I don’t believe God would give us so much instruction about how to forgive and why it is important to forgive others if we could never accomplish the thing. 

It feels impossible thought because Spiritual growth takes time.

It feels impossible because you have a very real enemy who is fighting against you, against your growth, against your ever being able to walk in the freedom of forgiveness! The fight is real.

He knows that if you forgive others you will experience such spiritual breakthrough that lives all around you will forever be changed! It glows through you when forgiveness is your daily choice. And the lost world notices people who are glowing with Christ’s love.

The Spirit Is Willing but the Flesh is Weak

Another reason it can feel so challenging to forgive is that I am just flesh and blood. My tendency, in my flesh, is to focus on all the ways other people need to do better and mature. How about you?

Humility is where I get stuck putting on my spiritual clothing. Honestly, I imagine it like getting dressed in the morning. Compassion and kindness are like tank tops and underwear – no problem. But humility is the sock and I just choose to go barefoot. Gentleness and patience, a shirt and pants go on and off I go missing something so important in maturity as a Believer.

The Spirit in me is willing to try humility, but the flesh just wants to skip that bit…

Forgiveness in Marriage

My lack of Spiritual maturity shows its ugly head most often in my marriage. When my husband hurts me or he is struggling, I see his need to grow and ignore my own bad behavior.

Now, to be fair, I justify my bad behavior (and lack of motivation to forgive). Don’t you? And I often argue with myself and God about the need to develop these character traits in myself. 

I am trying after all.

No one is perfect.

This is the best I can do today… I’ll do better next time…

Related Post: A Wife’s True Story: Knowing The Importance of Forgiveness in Marriage Leads To Blessing

Excuses

What are your “go-to” reasons to focus on the faults of others who are in the wrong rather than your own? 

My top two reasons to not forgive are:

  • Feeling justified… because I have been hurt. 
  • Needing the respect of an “I’m sorry”. 

Related Post: 2 Foolish Objections to Forgiveness in Marriage

Humility Is Best Chosen

Even as I write those two ongoing struggles with forgiveness in marriage, God reminds me to be more humble. When God convicts me to forgive my husband, Bud, and bear with him while he grows, He often reminds me of my past. 

I don’t mean in a ‘poor pitiful me’ way, but in a way that reminds me how far God has brought me. When I remember that, the humility floods my heart in waves. You see, I was a wreck of a person. I ran headfirst into sin and hurt so many people along my path to God. 

It is good to remember the broken pieces God has mended. It would be better to choose humility because God wrecks me with it when I resist. Humility brought on by the hand of God hurts… just like shoes that pinch or socks that bunch…

God Changed Me 

Forgiveness feels impossible until I remember that it took a lot for God to forgive me. It took the sacrifice of His One and Only Son…

On top of that, He works tirelessly to change me. I never want to forget that and live like I have accomplished something. I never want to have a self-righteous attitude (though I do at times) about Spiritual maturity. God changed me. I did nothing but let Him… and even that looked more like Him dragging me kicking and screaming toward the throne.

Remember Your Sin

There is a great illustration of this kind of humility that leads to maturity and forgiveness in Ezekiel 16. In the passage, God is talking to the Israelites about how much He had done for them. He says that He is angry at all their sin and the sin they will keep committing… 

“Because you have not remembered the days of your youth…” (Ezekiel 16:43 NASB)

Remembering all that God has forgiven me of is one of the biggest things that helps me forgive others. I mean really forgive them, not just pretending everything is okay while silently harboring bitterness and resentment. I can forgive because I know what God has forgiven me from…

How To Forgive Others

These five characteristics of Spiritual maturity really do prepare our hearts to forgive. But how do we put them into action?

By now you know I am not giving you some forgive others Bible verse to read or memorize and walk away from feeling good about yourself. Nope, the work of forgiveness is hard. You have to do something with this to get something out of it.

  1. Face time with God
  2. Remember your sin
  3. Thank God for growth
  4. Ask for revelation
  5. Pick an area to grow

Get Face Time With God

How do you meet with Him? Pray, sing praise, and get in a special place for the two of you… get in His presence. He promises that if you draw near to Him He will draw near to you.

Remember Your Past and Current Sin Struggles

He saved you from something. What? Remember. You still sin. Be honest with yourself here.

Thank God for Growth

How have you grown since salvation? Thank Him. Acknowledge the change and glorify Him for working it in you. Be re-affirmed in your confidence that He can grow you more because He has grown you.

Ask for Revelation

Ask Him to show you which of the 5 traits you need to grow into.

  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience

Pick one and focus on that for a few days or weeks.

Ask Him to help you see others humbly, knowing they are still in the process of growing, just like you. 

Pray through the five character traits of a mature believer that we talked about. Honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. 

Pick One Area to Focus on

Pick one of them where you are weakest and begin praying through it. 

Look up Bible verses talking about that trait. Find Bible characters who grew in it and learn from them. And begin praying that thing out as a battle plan against the enemy in this area of your life.

Will You Put on These 5 Characteristics of Spiritual Maturity Required to Forgive Others?

I know this is not where you want to start. We are five chapters into the process of forgiveness and you probably expected it to begin with lots of praying…

  • Chapter 1: Forgive Others Verses
  • Chapter 2: Forgiveness Prayer for Others
  • Chapter 3: Prayer to Forgive Others who Hurt You The Most

Of course, we need to pray to forgive others, but if it were that simple you would not be here. Learning to forgive others is hard work. Period. The reward is well worth the investment, but there are no shortcuts.

Spiritual maturity is required, but that doesn’t mean you can’t forgive until you attain perfection. Remember, God only wants your heart to stay in the process with Him. Will you stay in the process today?

Will you clothe yourself in righteousness, the clothes of the redeemed? It will be beautiful on you and lead you down the path of forgiveness, genuine forgiveness!

I called this chapter, How to Forgive Others because this is the first step. You can’t forgive if you are not maturing. Will you take this next step?

in HIS love,

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Tiffany Montgomery

Tiffany of Hope Joy in Christ inspires Christian Women to grow in faith, live out Biblical Marriage Principles and raise Godly Children.  Join the Wives Only Facebook Group here or keep up with her through Pinterest.