The Importance of Forgiveness
Have you ever known you need to forgive someone, but you don’t feel like you can? I’m sure you have. And I’m sure that it happens quite often.
I struggle with forgiveness, and while I wish I didn’t, I know it’s a struggle for the majority of the human race.
Forgiveness is a profound concept. It’s basically giving someone a second chance, even if they don’t deserve it. It’s grace, at its best. And the most beautiful thing about it, it’s going to heal your heart, as well as strengthen your relationship with the person who wronged you.
Why unforgiveness will hold us back
My husband looked at me the other day and expressed to me that it seemed as though I was holding back. That I wasn’t giving him all of me.
How did this happen? After the hardest years of our marriage, I felt we had come out stronger than ever before - so what was I missing? I had forgiven him; he had forgiven me. How were my actions giving him the impression that I wasn’t giving him all of me?
I wanted to consider what he said, so, I took to a more in-depth look. And when I did, I found that he was right.
I had recently started reading a book about healing from your past pain and hurt. It was a great book, but it covered all of the things I had done a year or so ago, in efforts to heal from the difficult season of struggle in our marriage.
As I was reading this book, I realized that all of the things I had already healed through, were still holding on by a thread. I was, in my mind from time to time, reliving my past hurts, and this book wasn’t helping me let them go. I believe it was a way for me to think I could control not being hurt again.
You see, it’s very common that after we have forgiven someone, especially if it’s fresh, we revert back to feeding our minds with the hurt that person had caused us. It keeps us just distant enough, that if it happens again, we won’t be as affected by it.
So, even though I knew I had forgiven my husband, I was reliving it every time I read this book. I was feeding my need for control. Instead of giving it to God, and moving forward, I was using it to justify my actions - even if it was subconsciously.
There is a difference between forgiving to move forward, and forgiving, yet continuing to wallow. This book made me wallow in what I had already dealt with - so, I decided to stop reading it. My past doesn't need to be dealt with more than once unless it wasn't dealt with the first time. All it will do, is give me more fuel to feed my justifications to holding back. What I DID need to deal with, was self-control in letting my mind relive the past.
We all struggle with forgiveness. It's probably one of the hardest things a human can do, especially if the offense is great in our eyes. Yet most of us know, to move on with our lives, forgiveness is an essential part of being human.
How do you forgive, even when you don’t feel like it?
First, let me cover what forgiveness is NOT. Forgiveness is not…
· Going to release your offender of any consequences of what they did to you.
· Forgetting what happened to you. Unfortunately, the wounds in our lives will leave scars.
· Forgiving only when asked for forgiveness.
· Forgiving only when we feel like it.
Let's look more in-depth about the forgetting part.
Remembering a past offense does not mean we didn't forgive. At the same time, forgiving someone, will not make you forget the offense. Make sense?
If someone hurts you, and that hurt causes a wound, and that wound will take time to heal. Also, forgiving that person will always be a choice, not a feeling - which brings me to my next point.
If we forgave people based on our feelings, it would mean that on a good day we forgave them. On a bad day, we took it back. Doesn't work.
Forgiveness, in my opinion, is a living, breathing, verb that always requires action. Over time, as you continually remind yourself that you've forgiven that person, the offense will eventually be a jaded and faded distant memory, no longer taking control over your feelings.
The great thing about forgiveness, is that once you do it, you can be free. Also, now that you know it isn’t a feeling, you don’t have to wait around for your feelings to align with your very conscious CHOICE to forgive.
If you start to FEEL anger towards that person who wronged you, even though you have previously forgiven them, it doesn’t mean that you didn’t forgive them - it means that you’re sad about what happened, and that’s okay. Just remember, what you do with that thought is very important. Dwelling and wallowing on that hurt will do you no good. Do this instead - remind yourself that you’ve forgiven them, and then pray. Ask God to help your feelings align with your choice. Do that as may times as you have to.
Also, reliving a past offense is feeding your mind with the past. Since we cannot change the past, it will bring nothing good, but only help you build up walls towards the person who wronged you.
List of things you can do when a past hurt surfaces.
1. Remember that you've forgiven that person.
Writing things down has always been, for me, a therapeutic process, most times ending in a resolve. To gather myself after an offense has surfaced in my mind, I first do one of a few things. I write down and remind myself that...
I am not perfect either.
This thought will not produce anything productive or useful.
I have already forgiven and can ask God to align my feelings with my choices.
2. Distract yourself.
I know this sounds like you're avoiding a feeling, but bear with me. Many times, my emotions get the best of me. My thoughts are not always good. They sometimes take me through a whirlwind of trouble that ends in bitterness and stress.
It's okay to say..." nope, I am not going to think about what is past. I have forgiven," and then go make some cookies and eat the whole batch. No, don't do that. But...
Sometimes it's as simple as that - doing something different to divert your attention elsewhere.
3. Quote scripture.
A past hurt surfacing is nothing other than a temptation. What did Jesus do in the desert when he was tempted? He quoted scripture.
I have written out in my journal some scriptures that relate to the problem I am facing. When that problem surfaces, I go to my verse list and go to town.
4. Remember the good things.
If this person that you have forgiven is always in your life, then it's essential to fill your mind with the good things about this person, than to continue to relive the bad. It will do you no good in moving forward in forgiveness to feed your mind with their mistakes.
5. Focus on what you need to change.
Moving forward and forgiving someone, also requires work on our part to TRUST again. Check out my blog post about trust. Often, we get so focused on how others should be better, different, that we lose sight of what we have going on in our hearts.
Don't let unforgiveness prohibit you from growing personally.
6. Let it become a personal challenge.
Sometimes I challenge myself. For example...
Can you go one day without thinking about an offense from someone?
Then try two days, then three, and so on.
Soon, the hurt dissipates, and I can live my life.
Fast forward to checking myself after my husband shared his heart.
I took to heart what he said. I looked within, and finally decided to allow my feelings to match my choices. To let forgiveness dictate my love and how I saw him, not my remembrance of his failures.
That is what God does for us. He forgives us, then puts it behind Him.
There is a time in your life when you will have to allow yourself to live. To love fully, and to not hold grudges. I’m pretty sure it’s called…maturity/humility, and it’s FREAKING HARD. But once you stop letting your unforgiveness control you, your relationship reach beyond what you had ever anticipated.