Here’s a summary of my last two big posts.
“Be renewed in the spirit of your mind…let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification (building up,) that it may impart grace to the hearers …Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor (loud quarrelling,) and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:23-32.
Forgiving is hard. Yet, I wonder why? We all make mistakes and so why are we so hard on each other for making them? Maybe we want to see a fairness in others that we don’t possess in ourselves.
Let me be clear; by forgiving I don’t mean letting people get away with serious wrong doing. Nor do I mean living in a sort of denial that the damage other people’s words do to you, is not that bad. It is actually much worse than most of us know. Forgiveness is actually acknowledging they did wrong and letting it go. In the words of Stasi Eldredge “It was wrong, very wrong, and I release you.”
Forgiveness is actually more for us than the offenders. I did a little research on this (all credit for my scientific facts goes to Dr. Caroline Leaf and her discoveries)and I found out that when you don’t forgive there is a link between you and that person. Every negative thought they have about you, even from 10,000 miles away, affects you as much as if they were sitting right in front of you. This is science. I’m not making this up. Emotionally most of us have probably heard about the necessity of forgiveness. When you hold on to the actions of another, you build them into your brain. I don’t mean in a mind control sense. But when you hate someone you obsess over them, you think of them and the things they’ve said and done to you; if it’s someone close to you then you struggle with not having their approval on your life even as you despise their opinion. You feel indifferent to their pain and even glad when they suffer. You say you’ll forget them but you can’t, because you can’t let what they’ve done go. If you don’t remember who will? It won’t matter to anyone. And that is what scares us, that our pain won’t make a difference in anything. That we ourselves don’t matter. These people who hurt us were right about us then. The emotional and mental damage this does to us couldn’t be fully disclosed if we took hours and hours to talk about it. To not forgive is to agree with the people who hurt us and to sink to their level at the same time.
That is why the first step toward forgiving is admitting it was wrong and you were damaged. A lot of people don’t get this far. They won’t admit their weakness. Or in some cases they will only admit their weakness but never that they can overcome it. They wallow in their pain all their lives. I mentioned Elsa of Frozen in my last article. I want to quote one of her lines in her infamous song: “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see; be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don’t feel. Don’t let them know.” And we all have said this to ourselves. Keep it together. Don’t let them get to you. Show them. But it doesn’t work does it? We continue to get angry whenever someone hits a sore place in our hearts. Reread my opening quote. Doesn’t un-forgiveness cause all those things?
So, if you are willing to take step one and admit you have been hurt–bad (And someone may be thinking “I can so do that.” Well hold on.) What is step two? It varies. It may involve crying your heart out. Grieving the wound the Eldredges call it. (I highly recommend their books Wild at Heart or Captivating for more detail on this very important part.) In my own journey of forgiving, I cried several times; I shared my pain with trusted people–but don’t do it with the person who hurt you, that was always a disaster–I prayed about it. To which I attribute all progress I made. Pain can be scary because it is so deep. Sometimes we wish we’d left it alone in apathy and numbness. But really that’s even more frightening.
After sadness, or sometimes before it, will come anger. More anger. And fear. Here we face yet another choice, we can press on, releasing the anger and fear, or we can let it drive us back. At this point you will not feel like forgiving, nor will you feel like the person deserves it, it will be purely a choice. I suggest writing it down. Saying it. “I choose to forgive (insert their name)”
Let me return to science. If you begin to do this, you will get this person out of your head. You’ll be able to live your life without them being a weight on you psyche. It won’t happen all at once, but it’ll gradually lift off. Well, it depends. If it is merely an injustice, then one stroke or two might take care of it. If it is an emotional scar, then you will need to repeatedly make the choice until it is finished because the parts of your brain it has damaged will take time to heal. One thought at a time.
Jesus warned us that if we do not forgive our brother ( which means our fellow man) from our heart, our heavenly father will not forgive us, but blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy. George MacDonald speculated that the act of unforgiveness does not make God stop being merciful, but rather makes us unable to receive mercy. I think the idea has merit. You see, you tend to reciprocate the behavior of people you dislike, and if you can’t forgive them when they do something hurtful, then you can’t forgive yourself or believe God will if you make the same mistake. Because we demand justice, we force it upon ourselves. Jesus also warned us of this saying “judge not lest you be judged” and by the same measure we use it will be measured back to us. You may say “If God cared He would not have let it happen.” But look at what you are saying. If you demand justice from God it is only fair He judge you by the same standard as the other person. You may even protest that you have the right to act this way because they hurt you, but depend upon it, someone hurt them too. So you have put both yourself and them in the dock. Wouldn’t a fair God tell you not to accuse them when you have done the same thing? Or other things just as bad.
But if we show Mercy, God will forget our own sins, and we will be blessed for rising above our troubles. Jesus gave us one more piece of advice on this subject. Pray for those who mistreat you. If you do this, you will not only get them out of you head, but you will change the atmosphere around you, and prevent them from harming you anymore. In Elsa’s words “I don’t care, what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on.” In my next article I will talk about recovery and healing, the next step.
Until then, I hope you found this helpful–Natasha.