“Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong; it makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free.” –davewillis.org
Without exception, the hardest work I’ve ever done is the work of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is difficult because – I don’t always want to forgive.
I’ve been hurt deeply.
My trust was betrayed.
My heart and mind cry out for justice.
It feels unforgiveable – yet I must forgive.
I know forgiveness is for me – so I won’t become bitter, angry and resentful. It keeps me from being swallowed by anger and injustice.
However, in laying aside the offense and letting them off the hook, they are well, off the hook. I don’t like that – I want them to get it.
Often the people I need to forgive don’t get it. They may not even feel they did anything wrong – never mind they’ve hurt and betrayed me while breaking my trust.
What I want is for them to feel my pain – you know, in ways that are legal.
I thought I understood forgiveness. I believed I forgave someone who devastated me. Yet I had this anger sitting just below the surface.
If it was triggered, run. for. cover.
I didn’t like the reaction – it’s not who I am or want to be. I prayed and asked the Lord to help me with my anger.
One day while I was praying, the Lord impressed upon me, “you hate them.”
Instantly, I recoiled – “I don’t hate anyone! I’m a Christian.” The thought remained so I decided to google “what it means to hate.”
Here’s what it said:
“To hate someone, means everything he/she does irritates you. You can’t tolerate them – you feel great hostility and their presence is annoying and aversive.”
My next thought was – “I do! I hate this person – oh no, I hate someone.”
The anger came from unforgiveness when truly I thought I forgave them.
In reality, I pushed the events down and decided not to think about it. The wound festered, turned to hate and as infections do, began to poison me.
I went to the Bible to read what God says about forgiveness and this scripture caught my attention:
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. –Colossians 3:13 NIV
Forgive as the Lord forgave me – completely – with no record of wrongs. This is how I am to forgive and I don’t know how.
In my Christian history, I’ve heard many sermons on the importance of forgiveness – I knew God commands me to forgive but I never learned how.
Before I share what I learned, I want to mention what forgiveness is not:
- Forgiveness does not mean what you did, how you hurt me is okay.
- Forgiveness does not mean I have to trust you again.
- Forgiveness does not mean I have to stay in relationship with you.
- Forgiveness does not mean I no longer feel pain over the offense.
- Forgiveness is not a one time event.
- Forgiveness is not a feeling.
- Forgiveness is not pretending the event never happened
Forgiveness does begin with a commitment. When I choose to forgive, I make a decision to surrender the person and event to God.
This means I hand it over to God and trust Him to deal with it.Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Click To Tweet
I trust God to handle things.
In the person.
To get to the place of freedom, I continue to make this choice every time the moment/person comes to mind.
When I choose to hang onto pain, bitterness, resentment and anger it poisons my mind, emotions and life.
Unforgiveness keeps me stuck and binds me to the person who hurt me – forgiveness sets me free.
I forgive because God in His perfect grace and mercy forgives me of so much more.
When I obey God and choose forgiveness, I embrace mercy and grace.
On December 14, 2012, Scarlett Lewis’ 6 year old son, Jesse, was killed by gunman Adam Lanza at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. She says:
“Forgiveness is central to my resilience. A social worker came to my house shortly after the incident. Kneeling down, she said, ‘I know how it feels; I’ve also lost my son and I’m here to tell you the pain will never get better.’ In that moment, I thought, ‘That is absolutely not going to be my journey.’
And so I chose the path of forgiveness. Initially, it felt as if the shooter was attached to me by some umbilical cord and all my energy was being sapped. Forgiveness felt like I was given a big pair of scissors to cut the tie. It started with a choice and then became a process with no neat ending. One day I can forgive and the next I may hear a detail of what happened in the classroom and feel anger all over again.” –theforgivenessproject.com
I made the choice to forgive – the choice was easy, the process was not.
In choosing to give God my pain and trusting Him to deal with the offender, I didn’t just release the other person – I freed myself.
What are some common misconceptions about forgiveness?