It seems forgiveness is a gift I love to receive, yet I can struggle to give.
I was raised by good parents who taught good things, but I never remember being taught how to forgive.
When that moment came in my adult life, that moment I recognized I was a sinner, forgiveness was the sweetest experience of all.
Recently, my mind has been replaying hurts –not a good thing. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we go back over and over to those painful places that hurt us? There’s nothing good that comes from that…nothing.
I’ve learned there are times forgiveness needs to be applied daily, and sometimes hourly. (Us girls are notorious for batting around a thousand ugly thoughts back and forth–minute by minute forgiveness and grace is the prescription.)
What Forgiveness Really Means
Rose Sweet, author of The Woman’s Guide to Healing the Heartbreak of Divorce, shares seventeen fantastic points about forgiveness I know I need to hear. Which ones below cause you a little pinch?
- Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should still hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions.
- Forgiveness is returning to God the right to take care of justice. By refusing to transfer the right to exact punishment or revenge, we are telling God we don’t trust him to take care of matters.
- Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again. We don’t have to tolerate, nor should we keep ourselves open to, lack of respect or any form of abuse.
- Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not saying, “What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me.” Nor is it playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.
- Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we never can get along with him again.
- Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. As soon as we can, we should decide to forgive, but it probably is not going to happen right after a tragic divorce. That’s okay.
- We have to forgive every time. If we find ourselves constantly forgiving, though, we might need to take a look at the dance we are doing with the other person that sets us up to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused.
- Forgetting does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses. Some people are obnoxious, mean-spirited, apathetic, or unreliable. They never will change. We need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.
- Forgiveness is not based on others’ actions but on our attitude. People will continue to hurt us through life. We either can look outward at them or stay stuck and angry, or we can begin to keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is good.
- If they don’t repent, we still have to forgive. Even if they never ask, we need to forgive. We should memorize and repeat over and over: Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.
- We don’t always have to tell them we have forgiven them. Self-righteously announcing our gracious forgiveness to someone who has not asked to be forgiven may be a manipulation to make them feel guilty. It also is a form of pride.
- Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive.
- We might have to forgive more than the divorce. Post-divorce problems related to money, the kids, and schedules might result in the need to forgive again and to seek forgiveness ourselves.
- We might forgive too quickly to avoid pain or to manipulate the situation. Forgiveness releases pain and frees us from focusing on the other person. Too often when we’re in the midst of the turmoil after a divorce, we desperately look for a quick fix to make it all go away. Some women want to “hurry up” and forgive so the pain will end, or so they can get along with the other person. We have to be careful not to simply cover our wounds and retard the healing process.
- We might be pressured into false forgiveness before we are ready. When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it’s not true forgiveness — it’s a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, “I want to forgive you, but right now I’m struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it.”
- Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurts occur, it’s what we do with them that counts. When we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we can learn to say, “Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is.”
- Forgiveness starts with a mental decision. The emotional part of forgiveness is finally being able to let go of the resentment. Emotional healing may or may not follow quickly after we forgive.
Forgiveness is not an elective in the curriculum of servanthood. It is a required course, and the exams are always tough to pass. – Charles Swindoll
How about you join me today in breaking free from bitterness and unforgiveness?
Let’s begin with baby steps.
- Dont use memories as weapons. Stop reruns of painful memories. Don’t play them over and over in your mind. Those thoughts are seeds that only grow bitterness and regret, resentment and selfishness.
- Do think about the person that hurt us in good ways. Example: God loves them. God wants a relationship with them.
- Don’t think too much of yourself. All this time you’re thinking about an offense and the offender–guess what? They probably aren’t thinking about the situation much at all. Don’t waste time. God only gives us so much.
- Turn thoughts into prayers. Take each negative thought captive and twist them into a prayer of healing.
- Don’t confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. Sometimes forgiving someone you love means keeping strong boundaries in place even long after you’ve pardoned them.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV