No, not that one. Come on…really? I mean, I guess, I could write a post on THE F-word, but I’m not.
The F-word I’m talking about is “Forgive.” It’s not four-letters, but it might as well be. Don’t get me wrong. Forgiveness is a good thing. It heals, it restores and I really like receiving forgiveness. Yet, when I’m hurt and the bridge has been burned, let’s be real–I don’t want to rebuild the bridge, walk across it and offer my forgiveness. I don’t care if they say I don’t deserve forgiveness either so I should gladly offer it. I don’t want to–some people don’t deserve it.
Funny, it’s those very thoughts and actions that have left wounds open for so long that gangrene began to form. I found myself at a spiritual standstill years ago that allowed me to slowly slip away from God.
It hasn’t happened often. I’m not easily offended and I don’t usually wear my feelings on my sleeve. However, every once in while, someone I care about, respect or love, will swing a theoretical punch in my direction, knocking me to the ground. As I lay there on the ground, I sometimes feel as if the punches keep coming and there is a kick in my ribs. I slowly try to get up, surprised and jolted. As I push myself up, I’m met with spit in my face. I don’t understand what’s going on. What happened? This person I trusted, I dreamed with or shared life with has turned. I’m no longer safe.
And then my emotions begin to rise. As I approach the situation, I’m met with unkind words and unfair accusations. It is at that moment, that I take a step back. I recognize the danger of the situation and I run. As I run, I pour some gasoline across the bridge and throw a match upon it. I don’t want to be found. I don’t want to be reached.
I’m no longer safe. So, I retreat and I remember. I remember the sting of their words, the pain of their rejection and the wound gets deeper. Forgive? How could I forgive? If I forgive, won’t I be condoning their behavior? Will I open myself up to more pain and rejection? My thoughts race and I retreat again into the safety of myself and my hurt. I lick my wounds by finding validation as I report the offense to an ally. They confirm that I was, in fact, wronged. I should be mad, they say. So, I let the wound remain open. Healing would mean that I would forget the hurt. I might allow myself to be hurt again.
Have you been there? Have you lived this scenario? Because of those periodic seasons when I’ve lived this scenario, I know where it takes me. I know the damage it causes. And I also know that as scary and impossible as forgiveness may seem, healing comes when I release the transgression to God. Forgiveness doesn’t mean I forget, it means I am free. I am free from the chains that hold me captive to my offender. As long as I hold on to the offense, I hold on to the offender.
I went through a painful journey of forgiveness years ago. A wise man told me something that I’ll never forget. He said, “You think about your offender every day, multiple times during the day, do you not?” I agreed that was true. He said, “Do you think that person thinks of you that often?” I thought for a moment and was certain, they did not. The wise man went on and said, “then quit giving them so much control. Let go. Forgive and allow healing to begin.”
Wow! I had never thought of it like that. Replaying the story over and over in my mind meant that I had not forgiven and it also meant that I was trapped. I was the one being punished. Sure, I wanted the person to hurt. I thought that maybe by holding on to the pain, I was holding them captive. Yet, it turned out, I was the prisoner. If I was going to find healing, I had to relinquish the pain to my Healer. I had to forgive.
It isn’t easy and the process isn’t usually quick. Forgiveness isn’t just about letting your offender off the hook. It is about finding freedom to live a life freely.
Question: What offense are you holding on to? Who do you need to forgive even if they don’t deserve it? What wise words have been spoken into you that have helped you through the process of forgiveness?