Forgiveness is hard, in some situations it may seem nearly impossible. I have always wondered how people who did not know Christ could understand the meaning of forgiveness and how it could be demonstrated.
Forgiveness is often mistaken for meaning to forget. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, it also does not mean you are excusing wrongdoing.Forgiveness does not mean you have to continue a relationship with the person who has hurt you nor does it mean you have to verbally express to that person that you have forgiven them. In some cases this would be detrimental to the individuals mental health to approach the wrongdoer.
I am sure you have heard people say forgiveness is not for the other person but for yourself. It is true. Forgiveness allows you to let go of the pain and weight you have been carrying around. It frees your mind from being burdened with the negative emotions you have been carrying and feeling and allows you to focus on the present. Resentments keep you stuck and unable to move from hurt.
I have a lot of clients who have struggled with severe and traumatizing pain and are not yet ready to forgive those who have hurt them. This is understandable. It is difficult, especially in these circumstances.
Forgiveness is not something that should be rushed through and checked off a to do list. In these situations we know we should forgive and so it feels like there is a pressure there to be able to instantly say that you have forgiven the person who has wronged you. It needs to be genuine and you have to feel ready and act on letting go of those hurts, otherwise it is not effective.
Food for thought, and maybe something that will help you see forgiveness in a new light: What benefit do you have by not forgiving?
Most people think the individual does not deserve to be forgiven and if you have thought that you may be right. But by holding onto the weight, anger and resentment what does that add to your life?
In a biblical sense, we as sinners did not deserve to be forgiven by Christ, yet he gave up His life for us. It is by this example, we as Christians strive to live. Even if the individual does not deserve to be forgiven, the choice to hold onto that weight only burdens you.
At times forgiveness seems like it is out of the question and this is when we need to seek God for His strength and ability to move forward in forgiving those who have hurt us.
Ephesians 4:31-32 states, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
I don’t know about you but without Christ and His guidance this verse seems challenging and maybe even impossible in certain circumstances. It is only when I think of how undeserving I am of Christ’s love that I can then know I too should forgive others who have hurt me.
And even when I know I should sometimes forgive I still am not capable without God’s direction aiding me, giving me the wisdom, peace and strength to move forward. If we base our decision to forgive on a feeling we may never forgive, instead we base it on knowing it is what is best for ourselves.
Forgiveness does not make the other person right; instead, it sets you free.
Forgiving others can be tremendously hard but sometimes forgiving ourselves can be even harder. We as humans can be so critical of ourselves, expecting so much in challenging situations. We expect a lot of ourselves but when others are in similar situations we are able to see grace for that person’s decisions.
We beat ourselves up for our responses, actions and behaviors. We hold onto them and replay them in our heads, we have negative self talk and shame ourselves for being so ridiculous. We even question why did we not respond differently. We get caught up in the mistakes and forget the opportunity we have to do good in the present. God has already paid the price for our sins, He has forgiven us, we too shall forgive ourselves.
What about forgiving God? Seems like a strange concept, He is perfect and does no wrong but often as people we grow angry that God does not use his divine power or save us from our misery when we are hurting. We grow bitter and angry because He did not change our circumstances.
We have certain expectations of God and when he does not do the things we believe he should for us we grow angry. What does God owe us? He gave us life and forgive us through death on a cross. I have many clients who have gone through tragic things and have difficulty understanding where God was in their journey. They blame Him and distance themselves from a relationship with Him, they grow cold to His word and separate themselves from following Him.
Maybe you haven’t felt this strongly but you have drifted from Him in your anger. Confess this to Him, He already knows your inner thoughts. Ask Him to forgive you, heal you and give you understanding for your pain.
You may be struggling to forgive someone who hurt you, or struggling to forgive yourself or God for feeing like He left you, these all cause you to carry a heavy weight and dark emotions.
Seek Him, He will give you strength even when you are weak and feel you are not capable of forgiving in any of these scenarios. He will change your heart, help you see through the lenses of compassion and give you the ability to break the heavy weight that un-forgiveness has been holding you to.
So why is prayer one of the best things you can do to forgive, because forgiveness can be hard, at times seem nearly impossible and it takes God’s strength to help us be able to say, “I forgive you.” We may know we need to forgive but doing it alone may leave us unmoving.
God gives us the ability to extend compassion, seeing our offenders in a new perspective. He changes our hearts and allows us to do what he did for us as we were sinning against Him. So ask yourself this, what has holding onto my grudge done for me? What has it hurt? Am I stuck unmoving from my past blurring my present?
The joy from today is being taken by the hurts of the past. If you are struggling with personal hurt, anger or resentment reach out to a Christian mental health professional who can walk alongside you helping you to let go of the weights that are holding onto you. You are not alone. You do not have to be controlled any longer by the pain of the past. Instead choose to lay your heavy burdens at His feet. He wants to lead you to a place where you can find peace in Him.
“Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” — Matthew 6:9-13
Let God guide you to a place where your heart is no longer heavy and the aches of hurt have ceased. He always listens to our hearts and hears our cries. He is with you wherever you may go.
All photos taken by Leah Elliott, copyright 2019, used with permission. All rights reserved.