Problems with forgiveness? That just seems unfathomable. Forgiveness is freedom for the forgiver and the receiver. Forgiveness is releasing. One hundred percent of the time our forgiveness is waiting upon our forgiving. There is power in forgiveness.
Those weights are lifted off our shoulders and the steps we walk are lightened. We see things differently, in a new light. Our expectations from others are no longer self-serving. We no longer seek to have our voids filled from others. And trying to fill our voids is draining. They never get filled.
Christ said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” He knew we are not capable of carrying around the weights of hurts and offenses for long. He knew they would suffocate our joy and peace. He knew they would hinder our relationship with Him and block our prayers from being answered. He knew and strongly taught the dependence of our sins being forgiven depended upon us forgiving others.
Forgiveness is not a matter to take lightly; especially when you have been wronged in such a way that the course of your life is dramatically altered. Mine is such a case. A case where I allowed others to get the best of me and let my faith go.
In those years I could never drink enough nor starve myself enough by holding onto un-forgiveness. The personal attacks I underwent were relentless and constant for almost 5 years. They stole from me things that I cherished and worked to establish and build. As a result the very home I had just begun to build was beginning to crumble under the ruthless assaults. Ever been tested to the point that your whole being was shaken to the core? Mine was. To the point to where bitterness and resentment consumed me. But they weren’t just towards my attackers. The impact had caused walls to build up and divisions to grow within my own home.
I could tell you all about the power of un-forgiveness and its problems. I could tell you how I started drinking and the trouble it got me into because of my anger. I could tell you how I felt so controlled like some kind of puppet buy multiple attackers. So controlled that I developed an eating disorder. Somehow I felt that it was the only form of control I had in my life, but even that was a lie. I could tell you how I caused problems in my marriage and home because of my bitterness and anger. I could tell you how I expected everyone else to change and then I would be happy and change. Give me the opportunity to complain and I would take advantage. Oh yes, I could tell you all about the problems with un-forgiveness. But the problems with forgiveness, now that’s another story?
Every so often for various writings and times that I look back on the past to reflect on where Christ has brought me from I will look through my journals. The past years are like comparing night to day. Just a little over three years ago on September 11, 2009 I wrote these words in my journal:
“I don’t think I even know where the struggle to drink lies within my mind. I know I seek to drink to escape, starve to control, seclude to protect. But what do I try to escape from what exactly? Or what do I seek to control? And what more do I have to protect myself from? I do know it’s wearing me out. That I need to change. Am I selfish, or am I just trying to get a handle on things? Perhaps survive.”
That’s the problem of un-forgiveness.
There is reluctance when it comes to forgiveness. Have you ever noticed that when someone talks about the need to forgive, immediately there is resistance? There is unwillingness and defensiveness. Maybe you’ve heard the words, “but you just don’t understand.” Yet when we ourselves have mistakenly done someone wrong we justify our misdeeds and proclaim, “they should just need to get over it.”
If you have ever held onto a grudge or resentment, past experiences can almost prove there was a small support group cheering you on feeding your bitterness. I mean, who doesn’t want a cheerleading squad? Chances are your little entourage was just as miserable as you, and rather than having your true best interest at heart, they themselves were feeding off the anger, resentment, bitterness and unforgiving heart you clung on to so tightly. It was a mesh of unhealthy relationships feeding off of each other. It’s a comfortable relationship to all parties. It satisfies and meets our psychological and emotional desires.
Besides, isn’t vengeance and putting someone in their place cool? Doesn’t being un-forgiving make us a strong person? Otherwise we’re weak to someone who gets the best of us.
Forgiveness has become old news. It’s outdated. It might make for a good movie on Lifetime but here in the real world you can leave that sissy stuff on TV. Besides isn’t it in those action movies where the plot revolves around someone getting payback that makes millions of dollars just on opening weekend alone because people are willing to dish out their money to see someone get their “settle the score” on? And they look so satisfied.
But then our eyes are opened to the requirement of what Christ said, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtor.” Here Christ sums up the truth of, “if we forgive men their trespasses, our heavenly Father will also forgive us. But if we do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will our Father forgive our trespasses.” Christ is also saying that with as much measure as we forgive others we are allowing God the same amount of measure to forgive us. We receive that power of forgiveness and give it. Our joy and peace is restored. We are free to focus on moving forward. Our relationship with Christ is being restored.
But what about our environment that we have surrounded ourselves in like a cocoon? We still hang with our friends and family even though they haven’t changed their hearts. They know about our problems. We no longer speak the language. They are still fluent in it. It’s awkward. Almost aggravating when every conversation in a meeting or get together turns negative or pessimistic about the very things we have worked so hard to forgive. It’s as if they don’t want you to move on and let go of the very things that have kept you bound and drained the life from you. There is a fear in being left behind.
It annoys people when we forgive others. The bigger the offence, the stronger the grudge that should be held, and it shouldn’t be let go according to the world. For the longest time I’ve wondered why forgiving someone would make others angry. I thought, “what do you care, especially since I’m a better person for it?” But the more I’ve interacted with them after forgiving and interacting with the one who had inflicted me the most pain on me in my entire life, I think I can see it’s not because they have my best interest at heart. Far from it. They have their own interest at heart. They are angry and want to hold onto their own resentments and angers and refuse to forgive. For whatever reason for the un-forgiveness, those on the way side become threatened. But threatened by what? It can be any number of things and more than likely a combination of things.
For some having someone to share their angers and resentments with is empowering. It provides validation for their own faults and point of views. Think about that. When it comes to advice have you ever noticed how people tend to seek out other people that will tell them what they want to hear? Don’t we all do that? Facing someone who will challenge us when we feel in the right whether or not we’ve been wronged is not in our human nature. Watching others grow, whether it’s physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, etc. around us shines a light on our lack of progress leaving us feeling exposed for everyone to see. “If I’m not willing to grow then I don’t want you to and make me look bad.” It’s one thing to have some kind of roadblock in our life, but it’s another to shine in the spotlight refusing to make changes.
The most important thing to remember about someone who hasn’t forgiven is that they just haven’t reached that level of forgiveness you have. They haven’t always been unforgiving and those that have forgiven are no better. Just like you something happened. We have to remember what Christ says about God’s forgiveness. As irritating as it gets when someone starts bad mouthing the people or situation you forgave and those attitudes have been dropped, we have to give them just as much grace.
Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.