Last year the movie “Frozen” became a national phenomenon. Everywhere in America, children and adults sang the songs from “Frozen,” especially “Let It Go.” For the character Elsa, the song represents a desire to put the past behind her, a kind of running away from painful memories. The song sounds like liberation, but in the end Elsa secludes herself in a castle of ice.

I struggle sometimes with the capacity to let things go. Someone may say a harsh word, or do something that angers me, and I struggle to put this out of my mind. I play the offense again and again in my head, trying to convince myself that I am right or justified in my anger, or thinking that somehow the conflict will resolve if I replay it enough. I may lose sleep, waking early with the conflict in mind.

Ultimately, this pattern demonstrates two areas of my life that need to change.

When I don’t forgive, I fail to recognize how much I have been forgiven, and only hurt myself.
First, as a person of faith, the pattern demonstrates a lack of trust. I don’t trust God to work out the conflict. Rather than asking for God’s perspective on the situation, and for help to see the best in the person, I would prefer to keep the person in my head as an enemy. This habit reveals that I don’t have the mind of Jesus, who always loved his enemies and trusted God to ultimately vindicate Him.

Second, my way of not letting things go demonstrates a lack of forgiveness. Colossians 3:13 advises, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, The Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” This suggests a regular, immediate state of the heart to let go of wrongs, just as Jesus taught his disciples that forgiveness must be a daily practice. When I don’t forgive, I fail to recognize how much I have been forgiven, and only hurt myself.

I know it’s not just me. Almost every person struggles to forgive and to let things remain in the past. So how can we learn to forgive and let go?

First, we have to remember that forgiveness is a choice and practice. When we forgive, we pay the cost of reconciliation. It’s an intentional act of grace. Second, we commit to resolve things quickly and lovingly. If someone wrongs us, we seek him out immediately to talk things through. We don’t let the sun go down on our anger. Third, we strive to be peacemakers in every relationship, from our closest family members to the grocery store checkout person.

Of course, some wounds go deeper, requiring not just one-time forgiveness, but a steady, humble posture to love someone who has wronged us, or even continues to hurt us. It’s always tempting to isolate, to think that if we ignore our problems, then we can move on. That rarely works. Our problems and past conflicts have a way of following us. And the longer we hold onto them, the colder we become.