It’s not that I don’t want to forgive. It’s simply my sinful heart intervenes and my brain likes to remind me of the pain in my past. When someone hurts me my natural response is as easy as 1-2-3.
1. Get Defensive
This might look like, “Well, I MAY have done that BUT you DID XYZ which is way worse.” I may want to control you and my insecurities led me to look through your phone, but you talked to your ex-girlfriend and lied to me about it. I make sure to take the spotlight off my sin (jealously, insecurity, control) and shine that sucker right back at someone else (cheating and lying).
2. Seek Revenge
If I can’t be happy then you definitely don’t deserve to be happy. You hurt me. I will strategically think of ways to seek revenge. I don’t get mad. I get even. Sound familiar? Ideally, our happiness should not be dependent on our circumstance or people, but we are human and sometimes we find our happiness hangs on to another human. It doesn’t make it right. It’s just reality.
3. A Match Made in Misery
They say misery loves company. If you hurt me deeply I will go out of my way to make certain you are aware of the pain. Honestly, revenge is a game where no one comes out a winner. You end up diving deeper into your misery and it will eat you alive. EVENTUALLY. You might not even know it’s eating you alive right now because you have become comfortable with the feelings of anger, bitterness and resentment consuming your heart. If you want freedom learn to forgive fully. You might be thinking “I’m too afraid to forgive fully. That person will laugh at me. That person won’t accept my forgiveness. That person has moved on with their life.” Remember, forgiveness is for you and sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free. Be brave. Don’t be a prisoner of the pain in your past. Don’t be held captive of the cruelties that have been completed. Don’t be a hostage of the hurt and harm. When you let go of the past you let God into your today.
All it takes is a change in perspective and a scripture sucker-punch for me to realize if I don’t forgive fully I am being disobedient to God’s word.
Full forgiveness means there’s no trace of bitterness, resentment, anger, malice or revenge in your heart. I’m great at showing temporary forgiveness. I can shove my pride to the side to show grace and love, but that’s only suppressing the issue. God did not show us temporary forgiveness. He did not say I forgive you today, but tomorrow you are going to have to work for forgiveness. What’s forgiven is forgiven. End of story. We are called to practice the same forgiveness God has graciously shown us. Don’t panic. It doesn’t have to be done perfectly just from a pure heart wanting to glorify God in all areas of our lives.
How did I change my perspective?
I began to think back before Jesus and I were besties for the resties. I was broken and hurting consumed by shame, guilt and my painful past (a past that I refused to acknowledge as having any impact on my behavior). Hurting people hurt people. When someones hurts you. When you take a hit. You first must ask yourself is this person hurting? If you know that they are hurting deep inside then it’s easier to see them as wounded instead of intentionally trying to harm you. Seeing another person as wounded is easier for you to show compassion and grace instead of anger and frustration. When a wild animal is wounded in the wilderness and you try to heal it or take it somewhere to get healing most likely they will attack out of fear and defense. The same applies to us humans. Don’t wage a war on the wounded. Hurting people need help and healing not additional harm.
What scripture sucker punched me in the stomach?
Of course, I had to run across two verses that stopped me in my tracks.
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Well, there’s the truth in black and white. Not exactly a scripture that justifies an unforgiving heart. I do want to be clear that forgiveness does not mean you are required to be reconciled to that person. Some of you may need to forgive a family member that’s passed away or person from your past that’s physically hurt you or someone in your family. This does not mean you call them up to get coffee, or if they’ve passed away forgiveness can’t be found. This means you call out to God and ask him to show you how to give FULL FORGIVENESS. Ask him how you can live out Matthew 6:14-15 better in your daily life. At the heart of full forgiveness problems is a problem of the heart. Our hearts are deceitful. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9. Every day I am asking that He will expose the contents of my heart and that I will see blind spots in my life where I am being disobedient. Every day I ask him to renew me and grant my a pure and cleansed heart. Full forgiveness is a constant state of heart and mind. Forgiveness and grace all seem like good ideas until you are actually prompted to practice it and these words peer up at you from the pages of your Bible.
“Be kind to on another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Exchange your killer instincts for kindness, your tough heart for a tender heart and your fleeting forgiveness for full forgiveness. It won’t be easy. If it were easy everybody would do it. It will take a continuous effort to not revert back to revenge and to not build on your bitterness.
Fleeting Forgiveness to Full Forgiveness
Early I mentioned my natural response to hurt is as easy as 1-2-3 and now I leave you with a new not-so-natural 1-2-3 response that won’t be effortless but it will be blessed.
1. Good ol’ Fashion Catch and Release
Relinquish your right to get even. When you catch yourself boiling with bitterness or experiencing residual resentment release those thoughts and feelings to God. This might have to happen every minute, every hour or every day. Our minds like to remind us of the things God is trying to deliver us from. Don’t give in to the thought, “If he doesn’t pay for what he did he will never know any better!” It’s God’s job to see that justice is served whether here on earth or in Heaven. He’s not too happy when we attempt to do his job for him. He is the ultimate judge. Leave it to the expert in the field of forgiveness.
2. Refocus on what God wants for your life (emphasis on YOUR LIFE)
At the end of the day you are responsible for keeping your side of the street clean. You do not need to be concerned with trash on your friends street, your mom’s street, your coworker’s street, or your boyfriend’s street. Be so busy cleaning up the trash on your side of the street you don’t even have the time to glance over at your neighbor’s street to see if they are maintaining the mess. God wants you to focus on pleasing him and glorifying him through your words and actions.
3. Find victory over the enemy
The enemy I am referring to is not the one who hurt you even if they might FEEL like the enemy. The main enemy in your life is the devil. If you want to tick the devil off, which I happen to enjoy, then practice forgiving fully. Don’t let the enemy kill, steal and destroy your relationships. He wants nothing more then for you to break fellowship with believers. He wants nothing more then to destroy your family over the death of a loved one. He wants to be the kink in your link to loving lavishly. You can love the person without loving the sin. Let God restore those relationships in his time and in his perfect way. This might mean reconciliation, or this might just mean presenting your need to forgive yourself and others to God only. Forgiveness takes many forms.
Forgiveness does not mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily excuse their behavior, but it prevents that behavior from influencing the impact God wants us to make today. Blame will keep you broken and your wound open, but forgiveness heals completely. Imagine you are living in a jail cell. If you refuse to forgive fully each person that you are holding hostage in your heart joins you in your jail cell. Over the course of life you might have your neighbor, six past romantic relationships, your parents, your siblings, that preacher whose words rubbed you the wrong way, the guy in the car who cut you off in traffic, the woman who gave you a dirty look at the grocery store and this list goes on. You begin to get cramped and suffocate in your cell. Those blessings are on the other side of the bars. Sure, maybe small ones might creep in through the cracks, but to receive the full and abundant life you must break down the bars and set you and your captives free. I don’t usually like to end writing with quotes, but this is a quote from C.W. Lewis that resonates with me.
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
Here’s to finding and fostering forgiveness forever .