Learning to Forgive

WE HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON

We’ve all been there.

We have felt the pain from a parent who disappointed us. We have felt shocked by that friend who betrayed us. We have felt the sting of an emotional wound caused by our spouse. We have felt cheated, denied, saddened, and slighted. Oftentimes, these emotions have been caused by the people closest to us - people who we love. After the offense, we are left feeling angered, asking ourselves, “Now what?” Do we seek revenge? Never talk to them again? Be passive aggressive? Seriously, what course of action do we take?

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Growing up, I learned the Lord’s Prayer. My parents had a wooden plaque hanging in our kitchen with those familiar words, “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…” (Matthew 6:9-13). Once I learned how to read, I felt so accomplished as a wee little girl, being able to read such long words. Admittedly, even though I could read them, I didn’t exactly know what all of them meant. Now, as an adult, I know what they mean, but I’m left wondering just how earnest my prayer really is.

Asking God for my daily bread…check. That one’s easy. Your will be done…things start to get a little bit more challenging here (especially when His interests don’t match my own). Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…oh, this one’s a doozie. Yes, I want and need God’s forgiveness for the MANY ways in which I fall short. But does the part about forgiving others really apply? Does it have to? It’s just too hard sometimes. Undeserved, even.

LESSON LEARNED

What I’ve been learning (and have been astonished about over and over again) is that nothing in God’s plans is accidental. Everything – the good, the bad and everything in between – happens because he is trying to grow us or show us something. And there’s a reason why Jesus, in the book of Matthew, talks about how and what to pray to our Creator and loving Father. The inclusion of forgiving others is absolutely vital during our brief time in this life. As difficult as it may be, it deepens our character and it shows God that we are able to love in the same manner that He loves us. Withholding forgiveness is the opposite of what our amazing God wants for us. Speaking from experience, not forgiving someone else immediately took me to a black hole of grief and resentment. It was an awful, ugly place to be. It made the pain that I felt even greater. I allowed rage and confusion to engulf me. Until…..I stopped. I stopped and opted for something different.
 
I had to really dive into this forgiveness thing. I didn’t know how to go about it. What does it really mean to forgive? So I sought help. I read a lot. And finally, it became clear. Forgiveness isn’t necessarily an act of absolution, freeing someone from blame. Nor is it about forgetting that the wrongdoing ever happened. And it definitely doesn’t mean that you are willing to “sweep things under the rug.” Forgiveness has more to do with the act of deciding not to carry that burden and hurt around anymore; to no longer allow it to weigh you down. And it is one of the most courageous acts you will ever do in your life. You can decide to forgive, and still choose not to engage with that person (especially if it’s a toxic relationship). Forgiveness has more to do with you and less to do with them. There’s no way that I could change the past, but I didn’t want to relive the hurt by holding onto that bitterness. I realized it was unhealthy and not in my best interest.

 
 

What happened after I decided to forgive was nothing short of godly. With His help, I started to feel peace, lightness, reassurance, and closure. You might be thinking to yourself, “Yeah, nice story. But that’s never gonna happen for me and my situation.” But I’m here to tell you the truth: With God, anything is possible.

Valerie admires truth-seekers, yearns to learn more about God and herself through life's circumstances, and believes that good food plus good wine plus good company equals happiness.  She and her husband are high school sweethearts, and they have the privilege of raising two beautiful daughters.  She is not a huge fan of talking on the phone, but would much rather catch up with someone in person.  Most days, you'll find her in yoga pants and a ponytail.