Recently, my feelings were hurt by someone close to me. Whether it's pain triggered by a loved one or a stranger, I am confronted with that pesky "F" word. There it is, taunting me, making demands of me that seem so unfair. That "F" word hits me like a ton of bricks, and I resist giving in to it. But the word persists in my mind, clinging to every memory of the hurt I suffered.
Forgive. Just saying the word seems to unleash power. Do I really want to surrender to it? Do I want to let go of my right to hold on to the hurt? Do I really want to extend my forgiveness to this person whose words or actions had me in knots and brought me to tears? What about those who hurt someone I love? Why should I extend forgiveness to them why they have brought injury and pain to my loved one? As a parent, this is a time when it is hardest for me to face the "F" word. Forgive someone who has caused pain in my child? Are you kidding me?? I want to cry out, "Give me five minutes alone with the jerk!"
But the longer I walk with God, the more I realize and understand that forgiveness may be a choice I have, but more importantly, it's my only good option. It doesn't matter that the offender doesn't deserve my forgiveness. It doesn't matter that they have not recognized the injury they caused or apologized for the pain. What matters is that I am called to forgive. It's that simple. God is pretty clear about this topic. He says we are to forgive a person seventy times seven, meaning we are to forgive EVERY person EVERY offense.
When I give greater attention to this command, I don't see a domineering God who is pointing a finger at me and yelling to me, "Forgive!". Instead, I see a very patient and tenderhearted God calling me to make this choice out of His deep love for me. You see, He knows that when I make the choice to forgive, I am releasing myself from the prison of bitterness and resentment, two highly toxic outcomes of holding on to injuries. I need to remember this truth! God isn't telling me to be a doormat and let people walk all over me. He is telling me that He wants me to be freed up from the fallout of carrying a grudge. He tells me, "Let it go. Forgive. Step out into freedom. Let Me heal your wounds." Wow.
When I am tempted to shrug off this call to forgive, I need to remember all that God has forgiven in me. He says to forgive others if you want to be forgiven. Those are powerful words. Do I want to have complete forgiveness for every impure thought...every unkind word...every sin, whether consciously committed or unintentional? Then I need to forgive EVERY offense against me, against a loved one, even against my children.
I also need to forgive myself. I can give myself a pretty harsh beating for mistakes I have made. There are times when I have to go back into the past and make the decision to forgive myself for something I said or did. Some mistakes I have to revisit over and over, and keep making the decision to forgive myself. This might be the most toxic fallout of unforgiveness...when we don't make the choice to love ourselves enough to forgive ourselves of things from our past. But I believe we cannot extend this grace to others until we learn to except it from ourselves.
But I don't FEEL forgiving! I am angry! I am hurting! Forgiveness isn't a feeling...it's a decision, a choice, a step toward freedom from the injury. My feelings still hurt. I still feel like crying. I still mourn the damage done to my relationship with this other person. But today, I choose forgiveness. I choose to let it go and step into freedom.
Will you join me? The freedom is exhilirating!
"To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and to discover that you are the prisoner set free." ~ Corrie Ten Boom