On Forgiveness

Published November 26, 2012 by Elspeth

Forgiveness is a hard thing. I used to think I had a monopoly on the struggle to forgive because some of the hurts from my past were so deep and damaging. I’ve since learned that people hate other people for years over something as minor as a failure to repay a $20 loan. I always scoffed at that kind of thing because, well, I know what it is to be truly hurt. I do tend to let minor offenses go pretty easily.

Unfortunately God doesn’t offer free passes to those of us who have been “really hurt.” We are commanded to forgive. And it is hard. I had a light bulb moment a few years ago that helps me when I am tempted to nurse my hurts or slight those I believe have hurt me. I’m going to share it with you now because I realized recently that the holiday season, which often forces us together with extended family we purposefully avoid the rest of the year, provide the perfect opening for us to nurse old wounds and hurts. Are you ready? Okay, here it is:

No matter how badly I have been hurt, there is no way the person who hurt me can fully comprehend my pain, because it’s mine. I have to deal with it. Even if they wanted to take back what they did, they can’t. Even if they want to give back what was stolen, they can’t. I have done and said things I wish I could take back and can’t. The reality of that grieves me, and it probably grieves my offenders too. But if it doesn’t, what’s done is done. I have to let it go. The anger, that is, if I want God to extend His grace to me.

 

Hope you enjoyed your family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday.

 

 

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5 comments on “On Forgiveness

  • Excellent post. There can never be too many reminders – preferably good ones like this, that hit you where you live – that we are, as Christians, obligated to forgive.

  • Good thought, Terry.

    Forgiveness is definitely not a “natural” human attitude. We so need God’s grace and strength in order to see things His way. And we need to be humble enough to recognize the position we really are in with regard to forgiveness.
    I am often reminded of the parable of the servant who was forgiven an astronomical amount of debt by his compassionate and generous king–but, he didn’t appreciate the freedom he had been gifted and immediately demanded a much smaller (eventually payable) amount from a fellow servant. The fact that it made the king so angry that he threw the first servant in prison until he had paid back all of his own debt is pretty sobering!

  • @ Hearthie:

    Thanks!

    @ Heather:

    You’re right. It’s not natural and it is hard. In fact, it was my need to fight the urge to recapture anger over something very hurtful from my childhood that inspired this post.

    Another thing I wonder about is how much stock we should put in how forgiving (or forgiven) we feel. But that’s a topic for another day.

  • You might remember me from Haley’s… I’ve been reading here for a while and there’s a great deal here that I really like. This post is no exception. Forgiveness has historically been my elephant in the room, if you will. That concept of having been “truly hurt” resonates with me. I can’t say I know whether my old wounds would measure up to that standard in your estimation, but I can definitely relate to the sentiment.

    In my case, as you may have already guessed, it was rooted in my history with women, particularly my sisters in Christ. Having fought the wider world “all alone” throughout school, I met fellow Christians of the female persuasion at college and naively trusted them to guard my back, with the result that some of them stabbed it instead…or so it seemed to me. Of all those at whose hands I suffered, I found it hardest to forgive them and the men they interacted with through whom my pain was amplified. There was a time when vengeance dominated my every waking thought. Physical symptoms followed. I’m convinced that bitterness will literally shorten your life if you let it. If my experience is an indicator, there are physical benefits to be gained by letting go. When I finally learned to honestly forgive, I immediately began feeling better and one unexpected apology a few months later left me feeling positively stellar. It was like having a decade added to my lifespan. It’s tempting sometimes to fall back into the old habit of assuming the worst and holding grudges, but it’s easier to resist than it used to be and getting easier. You have been a great help in this regard. I may be a bit late, but thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for speaking up as you have.

  • Thanks for sharing your story with me Franz. For the record, I have learned how foolish it is to diminish other people’s pain. It’s a self-centered way of living. If you say you’ve been truly hurt then you have been.

    One of the things rehearsing my forgiveness epiphany helped me with was learning to trust. Life is really a misery when you don’t feel you can trust anyone. I tired of living that way so as a young bride who wanted desperately to give my whole heart to my husband I began to do some soul searching and hard work. Oh, and prayer. It paid off.

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