I used to think forgiveness was what weak people did and strong folks were the ones who held onto hate and grudges. Ohhhh, sweet Jesus! I could not have been more wrong. The strength and faith it takes to forgive is HUGE! Most of my life I was simply not equipped to handle the task of forgiveness. However, in the past several years I have been able to free myself, with God’s help, from the bondage of holding grudges and hate. Learning to let go of old wounds and hurt has allowed me to be a better parent, friend, Christian and family member, more than I could have ever imagined. Here are three things I learned on my journey about forgiveness.
I. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. This was the hardest hurdle for me to jump. I felt like I could not forgive past hurts and wrong doings because it was like I was forgetting and glossing over the pain. I felt as if I was saying, “its ok if you treat me poorly, I am a fool and I will forgive you so you can do it again and again.” NOT TRUE! Forgiveness simply means you pardon someone for what they have done to you. In biblical terms it means to do the same. God pardon’s us for our sins and we should do the same with others. Forgiveness does not mean we forget what has been done to us. I have learned over time that forgiveness is the ultimate gift from God, to myself and to the ones who have wronged us. Try it and see what happens. I promise you will NOT be sorry you did.
II. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. Like I mentioned in the beginning I felt like forgiveness was for the weak and strong people held onto hate and grudges. NOPE! I was wrong….dead wrong. I have held onto anger like a greedy person holds onto money. I was Scrooge! I could not stand to be parted from my anger and resentment! I felt like if I left it unattended or dropped it I would lose something. Sadly, I felt like I had to hate in order to survive. One day a light went off (the Holy Spirit) and I finally realized how pathetic it was to hold onto hate for another person. I was the one loosing sleep, having stomach issues and headaches and in general I was a miserable person. My sweet boy was about 5 and I found myself yelling at him because a phone call had stirred up hate in my heart and could not forgive someone, I said to myself NO MORE! I let go and forgave the person and was instantly freed from the bondage of hate and anger.
III. Forgiveness helps you heal and move forward. After I let go of the anger and hurt and allowed myself to forgive the one who hurt me, I felt like a new person and mother. I was like I had gotten a new wardrobe when I took off the coat of hate and resentment. I am now clothed in love and grace (which are quite stylish and go with all my shoes). It made me look at other issues I had. Consequently I began to work on them as well. Funny enough, as I worked on myself I had little time to focus on what others had done or were doing to me. I was moving forward in my life and relationships. Something I had not been able to do in the past. It seems ironic that I was the one holding ME back but it was true. The ability to forgive is one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done for myself.
At the end of the day forgiveness is for the strongest of characters. It is for those that know that a life filled with hate, anger and resentment isn’t really living at all. It is for the ones that welcome the gift of grace and love and want to pass it on. The ability to forgive is for the individual that can look at another person who has hurt, harmed or wronged them in any way and say…”I forgive you!” It does not mean you condone the behavior or forget. So do what I did. Take a deep breath and let it go. You’ll find it really was not worth holding onto in the first place.