At some stage in our lives we all come to understand that forgiving others is actually beneficial to us. So, from a selfish standpoint we should look forward to forgiving others since it ultimately serves our best interest, as long as they ask for our forgiveness.
As we grow a little more, we can see that we again benefit by using unilateral forgiveness when the other person does not ask for forgiveness. They may not think they did or even be aware they did anything wrong. In either case, forgiving them anyway, benefits us even though they did not ask.
Unilateral forgiveness asks a lot from us as individuals. It is not nearly as personally satisfying as the simple transaction where one person asks another for forgiveness and the other grants it and they both live happily ever after. Unilateral forgiveness asks the offended party to make a clear-cut decision to forgive and then proceed “as if” forgiveness had been asked for and given.
That “as if” condition means we have to then reject any internal voices that try to carry us back to the state of feeling offended. We have to then treat the other person with trust and resist the thoughts of un-trust that will pop up in our minds from time to time. We have to then treat the other person as if they are totally restored to good relationship with us. Hummm, that is difficult.
The highest level of forgiveness is what Jesus calls us to in the Gospels. We have to repeat those effort at forgiveness seventy times seven. Oh my, that is the ultimate. That means on-going forgiveness of someone who offends us over and over, and over again. One would have to be almost perfect to indulge another that many times.
The harder levels of forgiveness are also the most rewarding to us in the long run. So, let us call on God and His grace to enable us to forgive no matter what level of forgiveness is required of us. Jesus set the example. He died for us and is asking us to be more and more like Him in dying for others.