It’s so easy to tell people they ought to forgive and forget. That little cliché just sort of rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Just do it, we say. Let it go. Forget about it.

And then a co-worker drags your name through the mud.

A bully picks on your kid.

Someone slaps your cheek.

What seemed so easy for someone else to do suddenly becomes incredibly difficult. Now it’s personal, and the pain is real. Yet God still says to do it.

In fact, it’s hard to think about how Jesus could’ve said it differently to emphasize that this really, really matters.

God’s forgiving us hinges on our forgiving others . . . isn’t that what Jesus says here?

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).

When we close our eyes to pray, God wants us to think horizontally before we think vertically.

Am I angry with someone?

Am I bitter toward my spouse, a friend, a fellow Christian, an enemy?

If so, I ought to begin by asking God to work on my heart, asking him to remove all of my ill will. Holding a grudge is never worth it because it hurts you much more than it does the one you’re holding it against.

As you pray today, ask God to examine your heart. Ask him to show you the bitterness and anger that you’ve hidden deep within your soul. And then ask him to get rid of all of it. Ask him to give you a heart of forgiveness and kindness.

He’ll do it, of course, but maybe not immediately. It’ll be something you’ll need to pray again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next . . .

But over time you’ll notice your heart becoming less concerned with others’ sins and more about your own.

And that, in turn, will open the door for God to overwhelm you with the forgiveness he wants you to enjoy.