about a 8 minute read
Why am I writing this post and who is it for?
I am writing this post to discuss the Christ-like liberation one feels when forgiving someone is really a habit not just words. It is for the person who doesn’t have it in her to love that person/thing any more.
It is in this post where I will explore the term ‘forgive’ and what how I have seen the benefits of actually doing the act of forgiving.
I think I should make a disclaimer before I go further. There are so many different types of things that people want to cover up traumas with the word ‘forgive and forget’ and that’s not where I am heading towards nor do I want this post to be interpreted. There are vast scales of hurt and pain that I am not even going to touch in this post because certain issues needs professional help. I am addressing forgiveness from my own perspective and the things I’ve learnt that I may have inflicted or allowed others to inflict on me because of a deep desire I thought they could fill when really it was God who could do that.
Cancelling the debt: how have I learnt to look at my heart?
I’ve learnt that to forgive is to cancel an emotional or physical debt that the other party may never own up to through an apology or changing their ways. I’ll be honest that’s a big pill to swallow.
Forgiving the other party (or even myself) requires a choice for me: to hold onto what they’ve done (or what I’ve done) and continue to be the victim or to resolve the situation with God’s guidance and healing. I now have to recognise that if I take the latter option, my thoughts towards the other party (or myself) cannot be rooted in anger or any part of that emotional family. The reason is God has forgiven me when I have not done anything to deserve that kind of love (Matthew 6:14-15). That realisation made me look at my own heart and fix my heart on God which, when I sincerely do so, inevitably changes how I view people. This doesn’t mean I overlook things they’ve done (or currently do) but I am more able to address issues from a protected place; meaning, I do what is necessary be it pray and process in the likelihood (or unlikelihood) of speaking to the person. Also, it doesn’t just mean because I’ve been forgiven by God that I don’t need to actively forgive the other party; I still need to be very involved this is process.
I began to ask myself, what does this do for me to hold on to something that is finished? Over? In the past? Can’t be changed no matter how many times I replay it in my head? The other party has moved on with their life and I’m still living in the past caught up on the same emotion or expectation that did not come to pass as I wanted it to. Now, I’m bitter towards them and they’re not losing any sleep over me.
I was reminded of the scripture, Ephesians 4:31-32 –
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
That’s pretty difficult to even begin to address in a society where the first batch of these traits are in our faces on a daily basis. So how do you realistically and honestly look at our hearts in the face of being hurt?
I thought for the longest time that as long as I don’t think about the person who has upset me –i.e. ignoring the situation – would qualify them as being forgiven.
One day, I was challenged to review my thoughts and ask myself ‘do I pay attention to the thoughts that fall into my mind when that situation is presented in front of me?’ Recently, I have had ill thoughts towards a person that had caused some kind of heartbreak. (Note: heartbreak can come in the form of disappointment or expectation not met.) I had said I had forgiven them, but nothing added up. I would roll my eyes, grumble about them in my heart. I would live out the behaviours mentioned in the scripture above.
I didn’t just wake up one morning nor did I just get an “awakening” that I had an issue. It was months of this being aware my actions were not pleasing God – because I would feel it – I could tell something wasn’t right but I didn’t have words for it. I presented my rawest feelings to God and His answer, through sermons especially, highlighted just how much I have left my mind ‘as defenceless as a city with broken down walls’ (Proverbs 25:28). I lacked the self-control needed to do forgiveness; fight those thoughts of Death and replace them with Life; check those feelings of playing victim; instead I had just saying I had forgiven something.
If you know anything about ancient civilisations, you know that each city was protected by thick a wall surrounding it otherwise the civilians were vulnerable to attack. They had to guard their city and keep those walls maintained if not, a citywide attack was easy.
How much of that strategy can be applied to our minds? Especially when it comes to someone who has hurt us. Are we building those walls around our mind with the Word and maintaining them through regular meditation?
The Heart Check:
Do we walk around simply looking like a Christ follower or being a Christ follower?
As well as bringing close friends to help you look at this situation, there’s an element of ‘you-time’ where you’d need to be honest with yourself what is crippling you in bitterness. This by no means is a time to look at your flaws and scream ‘woe is me, I’m no good at this, that or the other!’ Let me be clear, this heart check cannot be done without going to God prayerfully (alone or with friends who love God) and intentionally looking for Him.
Back in 2014, I was meditating on Psalm 139 but it was the last two verses that stood out to me. I heard a pastor talk about praying the scripture over our life; I began to pray Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Let’s look at David’s heart in these closing verses of Psalm 139:
- He wants a raw look at his heart and mind through God’s lens
- David gives God permission to point out his offences
- He will not make a move without God taking the lead
- He encourages God to expose those dark areas of his heart
Look at those verbs I’ve purposely italicised. This scripture is a call to action for both parties; God and for us. It means my complacency will be ruffled; my comforts be destroyed; my secrets uprooted.
You may be wondering what this has to do with forgiving others – it has everything. In order for our process to begin, it’d help to know where, how or why these issues began to take root in your heart – big or small.
As I pray this over myself and intentionally leave this prayer open to listen to what Holy Spirit has to say, I begin to hear or see just where my heart is regarding forgiving that person/thing. I wondered how I actually forgive. How do I know the action is complete? if speaking it into existence is only a portion of the process.
‘Pray the things you want to see in your life over them.’- John Bevere
I write this post as if you have allowed yourself to grieve the thing that has hurt you. But once you have allowed yourself to mourn what do you do with that hollow space that is now filled with a descendant of bitterness?
Two questions you can ask yourself to begin forgiving others
- What did they do that cut you deep?
- Seriously reflect on this question. You’ve got to go and search it out. I personally like to go for walks, write, literally to talk myself in my apartment. What’s your way of processing? In that time, ask Holy Spirit to unlock that door of darkness you’ve been trying to keep shut. He knows how much you can bear so He’ll reveal it to you in ways YOU can handle. (1 Corinthians 10:13) It’ll be messy though.
- Has this pain got anything to do with unresolved issues in your own heart? This is a big one and it’ll mean you’d have to take an honest hard look at yourself as well as getting friends who love God to pray for you. I experienced a type of social exclusion. I got hurt by some people, who, frankly did not care about my existence and even found me a nuisance but in the same breath felt “compelled” to have me stick by so it didn’t look bad to others in the surrounding circles of other cliques. I kept going back to that circle of people until one day I stopped out of anger. Close people around me had been pointing out my generosity nor presence were never reciprocated. I can definitely say that they had played a role in hurting me but I can own up and say I wanted to be acknowledged as a ‘cool kid.’ I had little self-worth and so I matched my self-esteem and value to what they were handing me and settled for that. It was pretty low, if existed at all. Holy Spirit had been nudging me for a while and I, one day, took a good look at what He was revealing about my heart. Jesus had paid way too much for me to chill at others’ expectation of me. It would take a long while to realise that ‘[I am] complete through [my] union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority’ (Colossians 2:10). So I ask you, what’s the Holy Spirit revealing about you today? Is there an unresolved issue affecting many if not all areas of your life?
- Have I brought Christ into this situation for His guidance?
- Guarding your heart could not be more essential in this time of shaky grounds. You are literally on unchartered territories when you’ve fully allowed Christ into the chaos so situation will go His way.
- Guarding our hearts doesn’t mean we won’t get hurt again. It redirects the source. When we try and guard our [insert something to be guarded] there is much effort to be done to keep it safe, maintained etc. etc. but as we allow Christ into that position, we no longer have to try and sustain that guidance ourselves – redirecting the source.
I think that there are lots of damages that can be acknowledged by Jesus in a deep way and I don’t want anyone to use these suggestions instead of visiting professional help when necessary. There’s no shame in that. There isn’t a one size fits all nor is there a process that happens instantly. It is a process. It. Will. Take. Time.
The thing I noticed is that forgiving someone comes in stages or waves. You’d get through the first wave and be like cool – we’re done. Then, if you see them on a daily or regular basis (or you’ll see them on social media or a thought of them comes to mind) and then you could end up back to square one again…so please understand the title – forgiveness the action.
Credits: Photo by Lukas from Pexels