Forgiveness. It’s not a word we use often. As people, when someone hurts us, we often tell ourselves to “let it go” and “get over it.” We wash down our self-dialogue with a “they suck anyway” and a long list of reasons why they are morally failures.
Perhaps we are right. Perhaps we’ve pointed out correctly all the flaws of our antagonists.
It is in fact possible that they deserve all the nasty things we have been wishing upon them. Plausible is the notion that getting over them by proving how our life is superior [and they are hence meaningless to us] will improve our life.
May I suggest that to be right and to be free, are two wholly different things.
In our attempt to get over the hurt someone has caused us, we allow our hearts to harden. It’s easier to be angry at someone and dwell on how much we hate them, than to actually move on. Somehow it feels as though we are getting even by rehashing past events and reassuring ourselves that that person is terrible...what a looser!
The Complications Pile Up
During this process, we wade through hatred, self-pity and self-righteousness. If we allow this to continue it can reach a stage of mild obsession. All the while the person we’re fussing over is out living their life not knowing/caring about how hurt we are!
Choosing to wallow in this scene set with hurt and anger doesn’t get revenge on, or affect our adversaries.
Instead, it creates rough scar tissue as we repeatedly pick at the same old wounds. Our hearts, calloused, become grumpy – instead of flourishing with new life, we find ourselves stuck in the past.
Forgiveness Takes the Stage
So; please enter the solution from stage left – am I right?
I propose that forgiveness is the heroic protagonist in stories such as these. The release from the heaviness we’ve been straining under. The deep breath of fresh air taken, as we step out of the captivity we’ve been imprisoned in for so long. Forgiveness sets our hearts free.
Freedom. Such a sweet word isn’t it?
The Application of Grace
So; what does it look like to forgive someone?
Forgiveness isn’t easy. It is a surrender of our rights to being bitter towards another person. It is the decision to lay down desires of payback. A choice to bless the person who hurt us rather than curse.
This concept is so wildly counter-cultural. We stop being “right” and start being free. Instead of pronouncing someone a ‘jerk’ we extend grace, calling them ‘beloved of God.’ Rather than glaring every time we bump into them, we smile – and then get on with our day.
Forgiveness is not validifying someone’s wrong behaviour. Sin is sin! On the contrary – what makes forgiveness so powerful is that it is a display of mercy in the face of wrong doing. We all need grace, therefore we should all extend the same grace to others.
When we forgive someone, it’s like signing a contract which states that we will leave the past behind. A large part of that means not thinking about it – at all. Having emptied your mind from negativity, you must refill it with positive (and unrelated) thoughts to truly move on.
Navigating the Aftermath
The beauty of forgiveness is that it can restore and strengthen beneficial relationships. However, in some cases, we must distance ourselves from others if connection to them is producing negative fruit. We can’t and shouldn’t cut ourselves off from everyone who causes us pain. But healthy boundaries are absolutely okay.
It’s easy to think that when we forgive someone we have to keep our relationship with them the same as it previously was. However, I would argue that this is not always the case.
If you’re playing with a dog and it viciously bites you, you may forgive the dog i.e. choose not to put it down (especially if it belongs to a friend). Then, in wisdom, decide not to play with the dog again! Sometimes we ought to apply this same wisdom with people too.
It can be tricky to tell whether we should or shouldn’t take distance where hurt feelings are involved. Luckily, we can ask God for wisdom and discernment on how to move forward in relationships. As in all situations, if we follow his guidance; we’ll find the most peace.
That’s a Wrap
To conclude, the moral here is, you guessed it - don’t hold onto bitterness - forgive! There are so many adventures to come - amazing plot points and exciting things coming right up ahead in the story of your life. So; look forward and don’t look back!
Lucy Miles can often be found singing or dancing her way through any one particular moment. Such joyous expression is brought forth from her love of the Lord, learning and people. She currently lives in Switzerland and is enrolled in a Ministry and Leadership Development School with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) and is excited to step into a staff role in January of next year.