Forgiveness may seem and feel like weakness. As if we are saying to the one that hurt us, “Stomp on me, really I love you anyway. Rip my heart out, I’ll forgive you. And by the way, I’m a sissy and a pushover.” That’s not an accurate view of forgiveness. Forgiveness is taking a higher road and getting well emotionally as well as spiritually. Forgiveness is moving on in a healthy way, despite what has happened to you.
If forgiveness benefits the ones who have been wronged, why is it so hard to do it? When someone does something that is heartbreaking, unjust and even plain mean, why is it so hard to get over it? Why can’t we just forgive?
Well, I have a few ideas. Love and expectations. And plain old-fashioned pride. Now, pride is obvious. Pride says, “I am right. I have done nothing wrong. I won’t let go of control or my superior opinion.” Pride is one big puff of smoke and I think love and expectations is the kindling that sparks the fire of pride. Pride, as it pertains to forgiveness, can be the result of hurt. Usually we need to forgive people we have loved deeply and thought highly of. Often, our expectations have been shattered and our hearts have been hurt. This, of course, doesn’t include the hurts that come from strangers or predators- that’s just as heartrending and awful as hurts from a loved one. Forgiveness requires something from us. And it’s more love. Here is where forgiveness has taken a turn for me. My traditional way of thinking about forgiveness meant I had to go back to “business as usual” in a relationship. I had to dig around in my heart and conjure up more love for the person who hurt me. That’s not the case. Forgiveness asks us to love more, yes, but not in the way I have typically thought. Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconnecting with people who have hurt or wronged you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you are saying what was done to you is okay. It doesn’t even mean we forget. Forgiveness is inviting an action into the heart that helps love grow for others and yourself. It doesn’t mean you walk back into a relationship for more unhealthy communicating or hurt. Don’t do that; forgiveness isn’t focused on the person who has hurt you.
I believe forgiveness is about our own heart. I’ve heard our friend Dwight say, “Unforgiveness is the poison you drink hoping someone else will die.” When we don’t forgive, we drink the poison. It’s like a slow, painful death. Not death of the person we are angry with or hurt by. We inflict the pain on ourselves when we chose not to forgive. We become the patient, the one in need of healing. Forgiveness also includes grieving a loss. Allowing yourself to grieve is a huge part of letting go of the hurt. Forgiveness requires hard work, sometimes even counseling.
Wondering if forgiveness is an issue for you? Here are some signs or signals if you are struggling with forgiveness and are unaware or even avoiding it. And these come from my trusted, clinical counselor “Mrs. Shrink:”
- Easily angered, even at little things.
- Feelings of anger and you can’t explain why.
- Feelings of sadness and grief don’t get better, they get worse.
- Communicating negativity, saying mean things about people- especially your offender.
- No compassion for the person who has wronged you.
- Express criticism about almost everything.
- Difficulty getting close to people and maintaining relationships.
Do any of those sound familiar to you? If so, consider talking to a professional counselor to start on a path to a healthier life.
To start, try this- ask God to help you forgive. Ask God to grow the love in your heart for yourself and for others, so that you can love in a healthy way. You may be very surprised where that leads you.
Stik a Fork into setting yourself free, growing your love and being led on a different path.
Published: September 19, 2011