I have a confession to make; I struggle with forgiveness.
Many people do. It’s complicated, it’s messy, our emotions are involved and it can sometimes feel like too much to bear.
The word alone is almost like dropping an F-bomb. It stirs up a lot of emotions and uncomfortable feelings.
Can you relate?
So what is forgiveness? How do you do it? How do you know when it’s done properly? I’m no expert but I have walked a journey of forgiveness for several years now and I’d like to share some of the wisdom I’ve gained from my experience with you. When I first embarked upon the study of forgiveness I had so many misconceptions. Here are some truths I learned along the way.
Forgiveness is ongoing
Jesus said forgive your brother 70 times 7. I used to think that meant that if my brother sins against me 70 times 7 then I forgive him each time he sins. However, I think it also means that if my brother only sins against me once in his lifetime but for 70 more years I remember that one sin because is was so hurtful/traumatizing or whatever I can choose to forgive him each time the memory comes back to haunt me.
Forgiving someone 70 times 7 may not mean the person continues to hurt you 70 more times. You might have to forgive that same offense 70 times 7 in your heart.
How many of you know we can carry around the same offense from one initial incident for years? Yeah, forgive each time that memory comes back to haunt you.
Forgiveness is a process
And not an overnight one. I think a lot of times when we’re hurt we don’t take the time to experience the emotions, process them and pursue healing before we rush to forgive the person. You hear the phrase forgive and forget but it leaves out the real work of healing that’s often needed. Some offenses are larger than others. But I know there are a lot of hurt people running around in society hurting other people so that lets me know we’re not too good at pursuing healing. Ask God how to begin that process today.
Forgiveness is proactive
Don’t wait for someone to apologize to you before you forgive. Otherwise you may be waiting for an eternity and putting your healing on hold. I decided a while ago that even if I never get an apology for offenses (either real or perceived) that I am going to work towards forgiveness. My healing and life is too precious to hold on to offenses waiting for someone to one day come around begging for forgiveness. Ain’t no body got time for that!
It’s about maintaining ownership of your power. As long as you wait for someone to ask for forgiveness you hold on to the offense and allow them to control your happiness. No one deserves that much control.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you never speak up for yourself or become a door mat.
I used to get so confused about forgiveness, I thought it meant that you had to allow the bad behavior to continue out of love. That’s simply not true. Don’t let stuff go under the guise of forgiveness because you are afraid to speak up and address a matter.
Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation.
You can forgive a person but that doesn’t always mean you have to let him or her back into your life and heart. For example an ex; you can forgive the person but a lot of time it’s not healthy for the relationship to continue. There are some cases where dis-continuing the relationship with an individual is best for everyone’s overall well-being or safety. Or it could just be that that person is not part of the future God has for you, it doesn’t mean there’s bad blood between you two.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean the absence of consequences.
Sometimes forgiveness needs to include a healthy boundary or consequence, for example, let’s say a couple is recovering from an affair; a spouse may require they both seek marital counseling as a result. Forgiveness is offered but there is now a boundary in place as the relationship moves forward.
So you see friend’s forgiveness means a lot of things. It is up to you to decide what it means for you and how to apply it in your life. Forgiveness does not change our past but it does release our future. It’s a journey, it’s a process and it’s ongoing.
Do you struggle with forgiveness? What helps you to forgive?
Need more help with forgiveness? Read my other blog here.