139. HAVE YOU REALLY FORGIVEN? REALLY?
(The Single Woman Series – Batch 3)
Tonight, I was reading a book by a Christian author, which had been recommended to me by a fellow Christian sister, in an attempt to resolve some conflicts in my life. The author pointed out that in every case where he has sought to help people who were dealing with unresolved issues from their past, forgiveness was the issue that they had, which needed to be resolved.
I disagreed immediately with this statement. “Well you are wrong,” I said in a matter of fact way. “I am an exception, as I have not held on to unforgiveness in relation to anyone who has wronged me.”
As I continued reading, the author wrote about forgiveness and how it frees us, not the one who offended us. I agreed with this and many other things he mentioned, as I considered myself versed on the issue, having heard over and over again about the power of forgiveness and being convinced that I had forgiven everyone who had wronged me in my past.
The author mentioned something that I never really gave much thought to though, that even after we forgive, this does not make the consequence of what was done against us, disappear. He gave the example of a person who acknowledges that he has gossiped all over the town about you. You may forgive that person but the consequence or the effect of that gossip is a burden that you will have to bear. As a result of that gossip, you may find that people cast their nose down at you or maybe avoid speaking to you or even worse, spread what they heard further.
I believe though that once you forgive, even if the consequence remains for you to bear, you can ask the Lord Jesus to take the burden and bear it for you. He said in his Word, that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. When you do that, I believe that you become stronger and better equipped to move forward, even in the presence of the consequence. You become progressively liberated from the load of the consequence therefore, even if it remains forever. For example, a lady who has been raped and had a child as a result is stuck with the consequence of the offender, even after she forgives him. However, that forgiveness ushers her into a place of freedom and if she asks God for his help with the load, she will be able to handle the consequence more effectively, even learning to love the child.
The author of the book also said that in forgiving, we decide to let the offender off our hook, realizing that he or she has not been let off God’s hook.
However, I beg to differ. I think that forgiveness is more than that. For, it is possible to let someone off your hook with malicious satisfaction in the thought, that vengeance is the Lord’s and therefore he will get that person at some point. That to me is not forgiveness because deep down, you still desire to see the person hurt or for him or her to suffer in some way. Forgiveness in my view, exists when you no longer desire the hurt or downfall of the person who inflicted your pain or for that person to regret what he or she did, in light of some difficulty that he or she now faces. This is because when grace is truly extended (which is what forgiveness is), grace does not wish the offender evil. It does not seek to even the score.
I have realized, that at times, we say we have forgiven but our actions and how we feel when we see the person or hear his or her name mentioned, give us away. Gossiping about the person is a malicious act which we do, to injure or hurt the person’s reputation in the eyes of others, while gaining sympathy for our situation (even if we have convinced ourselves that this is not the case and that we are simply expressing our opinion). Nothing is wrong with having an opinion but why do we have to share it with others? Why can’t we keep it to ourselves? Why would we need to gain sympathy from another (even if the person did us much wrong), if we have forgiven him or her and let the issue go? Why would we hope that God gets them, inflicts some pain and suffering on them or teaches them a lesson, unless it was because we have not yet forgiven?
Why do our emotions do such somersaults whenever we see anything or anyone related to the person? Could we still be harbouring some resentment and bitterness, from the memory of how much what he or she did, had hurt us? If so, we have not yet forgiven.
I have realized that when we forgive someone, instead of us getting upset at the mention or sight of the person or something or someone linked to the person, we flood them with thoughts of mercy, genuinely desiring after the good of their welfare and that God would be gracious to them, even as he has been gracious to us.
When we don’t feel merciful towards someone who has wronged us and don’t want to see things turn out well for him or her with God’s help and his forgiveness, we are deluding ourselves and have not yet forgiven.
I have also learned that it is possible to forgive someone today but in repeatedly placing yourself in a particularly vulnerable environment where the pain you felt then is resurrected, you could relapse into a state of unforgiveness again. We have to therefore guard against this and be careful of the environment that may trigger wounds and past hurts. We want when we let go of something, that we do not place ourselves in a vulnerable position, so as to remember the past hurt and to become bitter again. For, bitterness leads to unforgiveness and unforgiveness seeks to keep us chained forever.
Having said all of that, it turned out that the author was right about unresolved issues always being the result of unforgiveness. In applying what I realized about what complete forgiveness means in relation to my life, I earned a passing grade in all the situations where I felt persons had wronged me but one. I had to be honest with God at the end of it all, as there was someone I had thought I was not holding a grudge against. However, in applying the test and even after many years, I realized I failed miserably.
I took some time though to figure out what exactly I had not forgiven this person for and with God’s help, I realized what it was: He had failed to see my value, which, given that I knew that I was valuable was something I still felt after many years, to have been like a slap in my face and downright insulting. It is one thing to not know your value. It is another to know it and someone be blinded to it.
I understood the spiritual reason why he had not seen it and could not see it back then and I am thankful that he did not. Yet, maybe, due to my ego or something, I was still nursing some resentment. Mind you, this was not at how things had turned out. I am elated that things turned out the way they did and grateful that he did not see my value, as God wished to take me into a totally different direction than the path of disobedience I was on and it meant that I was available for the one HE had reserved for me. Although I had absolutely no feelings anymore for the gentleman and had been healed of the pain years ago and know that he was very wrong for me and definitely not God’s will for my life, I realized that the insult of my having been rejected, when I had so much worth to boot, still gnawed at me, as if to say, “How dare he to have passed on this? How dare he to have turned his back on so much worth and value? How dare he to have looked elsewhere and even seen worth in other women but not me?”
I had to be honest with myself at that revelation and take the issue to the Lord in prayer. I admitted to him that I realized that I had not forgiven the person for the insult of the rejection I felt back then and for the fact that he passed on my worth and I asked him to help me to completely forgive him.
Shockingly, although I have always considered myself to be a very humble, I was suffering from a pride issue!
To be honest, I have also additionally realized, that some of how I felt was tied as well to my childhood and painful experiences I endured back then, in growing up. Rejection was something I took really hard, due to issues from back then, even when I wasn’t interested anymore in the person who rejected me in my adulthood. If I was to be honest, his rejection of me was a painful reminder of rejection I had experienced in my childhood, where people made me feel unwanted, unloved and unappreciated, so when I thought of what he had done, I thought back on that.
I know that forgiving the gentleman, wishing him well and that he seeks to be and become all that God wants him to be and become is absolutely necessary, if I am to walk boldly into the future that God has for me. I can’t afford to be stuck to anything or any memory from my past, whether due to my foolish pride, childhood hurts or otherwise.
I am not going to force the process of forgiveness because it cannot be forced. Instead, I am going to trust God to help me and to get me to the place quickly, where I have truly forgiven the person and can pass the test with flying colours.
I want God to forgive me when I do wrong. Therefore, I need to wipe the slate clean by forgiving, not with my words but with my heart.