I wasn’t ready to forgive her. Not that she even knew why I was mad. I’m not sure I even really knew why I was mad. I had my reasons and stories, but I could see her side too. I was too ashamed to admit that I was hurt, she was never going to apologize, and even if she did I can’t imagine how that would change things.
It’s not like I don’t know what the Bible says about forgiveness or realize that I’m supposed to do it. I guess it’s even good for me. The problem is that forgiveness both terrifies me and I don’t always know how to actually do it.
Forgiveness terrifies me. I’m afraid that when I forgive someone I’m not drawing the right boundaries, that I’m losing, that someone else is getting away with something, or that I’m not being true to myself. I fear that all my energy and forgiveness will be one sided or it won’t be worth the effort to rebuild trust afterward. It feels much easier to walk away, add some comfortable distance, hide my hurt, and decide that not having to think about a problem is the same thing as not having one.
Forgiveness is scary enough to me that I don’t really mind carrying the weight of bitterness, I could settle in and get downright comfortable with it. None of the positive things about forgiveness had ever been able to drive me through the pain, complexity, and effort required to forgive. Then I came across the alternative.
… And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. -2Corinthians 2:10-11 (NIV)
Unforgiveness isn’t just a comfortable hiding place from forgiveness, it is the Devil’s go-to little black dress. When we give in, he wins. Our annoyances are his greatest opportunities to convince us that community, friendship, and love aren’t worth the heartache. He could not be more wrong. Not only do we need each other, we need to learn to forgive each other. When we forgive one another we stretch our capacity for gratitude toward God and grace for one another. Jesus says our forgiveness of one another is directly linked to our love of God. Suddenly, I’m motivated. Forgiveness feels worth fighting for.
There’s still another problem.
I don’t always know how to forgive. There have been times that I wanted to forgive someone but couldn’t stop the burning feelings of frustration and looming mistrust whenever I saw them.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. -Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)
Focusing on how God has forgiven me, allowing myself to feel the freedom of his grace again and again has taught my emotions how to follow my forgiveness. When I look at myself as someone who needs forgiveness constantly, my posture changes to humility. When I see others as broken people who God is relentlessly pursuing, as souls he loved to the point of death, my posture changes to love. With humility and love I find forgiveness comes much more naturally, it loses some of it’s complexity. Forgiveness is not just a weight lifted off my shoulders, it is a mirror I become to the power and glory of God.
Fearless Hearts in Action: An invitation to invest 15 minutes in yourself on your journey to Fearless Friendship
Is there someone you need to forgive?
- Write down a list of the ways people have hurt you or offended you. Include on your list any of your relationships that feel distant or awkward.
- Spread your list on the floor.
- Pray to God our Psalm 34 prayer, to be unafraid and unashamed.
- Try to think about God’s heart of love and grace towards you. How do you know he loves you? Why is it important to him that he forgives you?
- Sit on the floor beside your list and tell God how you feel about each line.
- Recognize how each hurt is keeping you from fully loving God and others.
- Ask God to help you cross each item off the list that you are ready to forgive. It is okay to forgive someone before you talk to them. You may not need to talk to them at all. It is okay not to be able to cross off every line in one day.
- Is there a line on your list of something you are angry at God for?
- Talk it out.
- Cross it off when you are ready.
- Look at what is still on the list. Decide what your next steps may be. You might consider getting help from a wise friend or trained therapist to work through your deep and complex wounds.
- Take a breath.
- Find a way to celebrate your victory- listening to a song, drinking a cup of coffee slowly, walking outside, or however you can best enjoy a moment covered in the freedom of grace.
This is hard work, Sister! You are ROCKING it.
*This post is the 2nd post of a 5 day series, Fearless Friendship.