Yikes! That pesky little word always turns up at the exact moment someone cuts you off in traffic…especially by your toddler who just learned in Sunday school that Jesus told us to forgive everyone. Wait…Everyone? Even that person who lied to cover their deceit, or that person who slandered you, or mocked you. What about that best friend that gossiped and told your deepest secrets in an effort to seek “prayer”? How about the person who abused you, slapped you, or gave you the middle finger for not driving fast enough. Maybe the husband who divorced you after 20 years of marriage or the parent who rejected you when you were eight? What about that terrorist that may have killed your loved one…Ouch!…yeah, that one hit home.
I’m sure at some point, we have all had to forgive “someone”. Or maybe we haven’t yet because they don’t “deserve” it. After Sam died, I struggled greatly with this. I struggled so greatly I tried to read every book I could on the subject. I remember so vividly reading a book called Total Forgiveness that basically said forgiveness is wishing the person who hurt you well, and being happy for them if the prosper (Kendall, 2007). Yeah, I’m not quite there yet. Maybe you are. I have been able to forgive people who probably don’t even think they did anything wrong. The best part about that, is that it free’s us from the curse of bitterness and resentment. It allows us to move forward when we are constantly wondering why God hasn’t “handled them” yet. That place of un-forgiveness is really a place of self-righteousness where we think we never did anything as bad as them. Perhaps that may be true, but it won’t allow you to walk in love towards those that are closest to you.
If you remember my brief post about “truth” on social media…well, I had a point. And my point is, is that once you face truth, you need to let go and forgive. You may ask, “how do I do that? What does that look like?” My advice is to search your heart and really think about what you have to lose if you do, or if you don’t. You see, when I was consumed with un-forgiveness, I struggled with anxiety, poor self-worth, wondering if God really saw me or if He even loved me. I wondered if I could ever be happy. It wasn’t until I made the choice to forgive (and I had ALOT I had to forgive), that I was free to dream again, to experience joy, and live a life for my husband and children that I couldn’t do before…because I was consumed with wanting to “get even”.
Grief is complicated and it can bring out the worst in people or it can bring out the best if you allow it. I’ve seen many people do wonderful things for other people because of walking through trauma and tragedy. If your not there yet, that’s ok. Look, it took me 6 years to even tell my story. I’m approaching 7 years since my brother died, which I still can’t believe.
Do I still struggle? I do at times. Forgiveness is a very hard thing. That’s why Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven, because it will always rear it’s ugly head. Jesus knew that. He knew we couldn’t be truly free until we learned to forgive those that hurt us. Have you ever heard that saying that un-forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven (Matt 18: 21-22)
One time, I got a phone call that someone I knew and was close to was slandering my brother after his death. This person was saying horrible things about him (which I knew weren’t true), but it took me years to let that go. Even still, when I think of those words I have to let it go over and over. My brother was a man of honor, and I knew what was said wasn’t true, but I wondered how someone could have been so cruel. The truth is, is I don’t know. But, that is not my problem. My gut was to want to punch someone who talks about my bro, just like he would have done for me. Instead, I walked away and wondered what else had been a lie. Again, that is not my problem either.
I am not sixteen anymore. I am a mom and a wife. I am an example to my kids and if I don’t show that I can forgive others, then I can’t expect them to forgive either…or each other. There is nothing worse than having three arguing kids in a vehicle, blaming others, and everyone has crossed arms because no one wants to forgive. Guess who is miserable? Everyone.
I realize this can be a very difficult subject to talk about. You may be thinking, “but you don’t know what they did?” Your right, I don’t. I do know what it’s like to hurt and have pain. Maybe not like yours. It’s an ongoing struggle that we just have to keep bringing to Jesus. You may not have warm fuzzy feelings when you forgive. I didn’t. I just keep asking God to help me and to help me see things from a different perspective. He will show you things if you ask Him.
I would love to hear from you and pray for you if you are struggling in this area. Please know I am not perfect at this, I just know what it’s like to be there.
You may be wondering, have I forgiven that terrorist that shot my brother…well, that’s between me and God. I’m still a work in progress.
Kendall, R. T. (2007). Total Forgiveness.Lake Mary: Charisma House.