Forgiveness. Is it possible, relevant, or necessary? The resounding answer is YES!
Yet all of us struggle with how to forgive and whether others can forgive us.
I’ve read a lot of books, listened to many sermons and songs, and yet I have found there is nothing easy about forgiving, especially if the pain is deep enough.
Instead, we feel the need for revenge, which is the opposite of forgiveness. We wonder if our hurt will ever stop, and we want to do something about it. Choosing to overcome your need for revenge is at the very heart of forgiveness.
If we’re going to move towards forgiveness, we have to know what it is. I’ve heard many things about what forgiveness is, including:
- A decision to free yourself from anger, resentment, and hate.
- A change of heart.
- Responding to unjust hurt with compassion.
- Moving beyond bitterness.
But what resonates with me is, forgiveness is release.
Some of you may have heard the line spoken by Jesus that says, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
A different way of saying that might be, “Release and you will be released.”
The word release gives me a better picture of how to forgive.
- I release someone for causing me pain.
- I release someone for speaking untruth about me.
- I release someone for hurting me deeply in word or deed.
The other side of that would be:
- Being released from an offense I have created.
- Being released from the hurt I have caused.
- Being released from the trauma I’ve inflicted on others.
To be forgiven or released is a relief to our souls. When I forgive or release, I am relieved of the burden I carry. I no longer seek vengeance.
The way we view forgiveness will vary from person to person.
The way you think and believe about forgiveness is greatly impacted by your upbringing. Your education, the things you learned along the way, and experiences are what drives the process.
Churches of any denomination teach us to believe it is necessary to forgive. This might even make you feel guilty for not immediately forgiving after being hurt.
Or, maybe you weren’t taught to forgive when you were a child, and at some point, you become an angry person and may not even know forgiveness is an option.
My husband, Jonas, wrote a book about forgiveness called Think No Evil. A professor who read his book commented, “Our students need to know that forgiveness is an option. They really don’t know there is an alternative to their anger.”
Spiritually, forgiveness is a command according to God’s word. However, our human nature resists the thought of forgiveness and argues that it can’t be done.
While it’s true it can’t be done with our effort alone, God would never ask us to do something impossible.
Forgiveness is a decision on your part but also supernatural.
Unforgiveness leads to anger and resentment, which can take us to a very dark ending.
Many years ago, I read an article that, at the time, I felt was a bit extreme. It was before I experienced my real-life hurt and anger. Now I fully understand the results of carrying bitterness and anger.
The article states:
Hurt leads to resentment
Resentment to bitterness
Bitterness to hatred
Hatred to rebellion
Rebellion to deception
Deception to perversion
Perversion to murder
It was during that same time when every news channel was covering the story about a mother who drove her car into a river drowning her two children. The story was shocking and unbelievable! How could any mother do this to her children? The article was suddenly more believable.
Jonas and I talked about this mother and what must have happened that led her to murder her two children.
She must have lived with the agonizing question, “Will the hurt ever go away?” She wasn’t able to release those who hurt her and, in the end, murdered her two children.
To write about this story today is a stark reminder of the desperation of my past. During my darkest years, I wanted to take my own life.
Growing up in a loving, faith-filled home and finding myself in such a dark place where I wanted to end it all was a very long path. I could never have imagined it.
My life became a downward spiral, and I could not find it in my heart to forgive those who hurt me.
You may have had similar feelings of darkness and despair, believing there is no way out. Or you may read this and say to yourself, “I can’t relate.” You may not be able to relate, but the truth is, you probably know someone who can relate and might be on the edge of a cliff ready to jump.
We have to remember – Forgiveness truly is an option!
It was a very long, slow process for me, but eventually, I was willing to forgive those who had hurt me.
I grew up knowing and believing in the power of forgiveness. I was taught about the forgiveness of a loving God, and I knew I was forgiven. That was good enough for me for a long time.
However, it was when I experienced forgiveness after my own life went into a spiral of darkness, that I began to believe more and more that forgiveness is a viable option and it gives life in place of death.
Forgiveness gives hope in place of despair.
Is it possible to be forgiven? Yes.
Is it possible to forgive? Yes, but it might be more difficult.
I asked myself many times, “What made me willing to forgive?”
My honest confession is that I was SO tired of being angry.
Not only was I angry at God, my abuser, and my husband, but being mad at myself was the ultimate betrayal.
I could no longer live with who I had become.
Maybe back then, I wasn’t sure forgiveness was possible, and I didn’t think it was relevant, but I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt it was NECESSARY for my well being.
Some people are taught to hate, others are taught to forgive, and others have had no teaching and learn on their own.
I’m grateful for the teaching of forgiveness by my parents and my culture, which kept me from jumping off the cliff.
The foundation of forgiveness was like a rock I was standing on my entire life. When the storms of life came, the rock of forgiveness never moved.
I’m going to continue sharing about forgiveness, but if you’re asking yourself, “Where do I begin?”, start with willingness. When we’re willing to forgive, we can discover there is LIFE on the other side of forgiveness.
With God and your willing heart, forgiveness is possible, relevant, and necessary.