“Forgiveness is the scent that the rose leaves on the heel that crushes it.” Anonymous
Forgiveness is something that we all desire from God and something that we should all do for ourselves, when hurt by others. Many of us can think of situations where we were mistreated, abused, rejected or victimized by someone else. When those hurtful situations occurred, we felt many different emotions: hurt, anger, sadness, fear, confusion or maybe even hunger for revenge. It is only natural when hurt to feel negative emotions initially but the questions are: how do you forgive, when should you forgive and what do you do if the feelings come back?
I have experienced three major events in my life that caused me to seek God and stay in His presence in order for my heart to get to the place of restoration and true forgiveness. I will speak of two in this post.
The first event occurred ten years ago. A lady at my childhood church made up viscous lies about me and spread them around the church. She slammed my character and made others look at me in a light that was completely untrue. The leadership at my church never met with me to explore the accusations or to counsel me regarding the situation. Most just whispered about me behind my back. It’s safe to say that I had hate in my heart for her and distrust for those at the church until I gave that situation to God.
I was learning about forgiveness at church and at my campus ministry GPhiG. My parents where by my side throughout the situation and they continued to remind me that I had to forgive because the bible commanded me too but also because I didn’t want to walk around with anger and hate in my heart. I had to forgive her for myself, for my freedom and healing.
Forgiving someone who used to be my friend, that humiliated me and tore me down to others for no known reason to me, was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. But after a year or less from when the incident occurred, I went up to her after church and I repented to her. I told her that “I was sorry for the part I played in the drama and I was sorry for the anger and hate that I had been holding in my heart towards her.” She embraced me and she said she accepted my apology. She did not apologize to me BUT I did not care. I had already given my pain to the Lord and in my obedience, He healed my heart. I felt a million pounds lighter and my relationship with God grew leaps and bounds. Do I ever think about her and that situation? Hardly ever now but back then I did. When I felt myself getting angry or upset, I said a prayer for her and asked God to continue to heal me. Over time with prayer, my heart was healed because I gave the situation to Him. I also trusted what the word of God was telling me to do and I believed it. Thank you Lord for honoring my obedience!
The second situation was the rape. I left my old church and joined Word of Faith in 2002. I was sitting in a service and someone was ministering on forgiveness. At this point I still hadn’t told many people about the rape, I couldn’t say the word rape out loud and I was still struggling to cope day-to-day. The minster kept saying, “you have to forgive, even if he raped you, you must forgive and get free. It’s for your own good, you must do it.” I cried the entire service. I had no idea how I was going to forgive and I did not think it was fair that I had to. I knew that I needed to but at the time it seemed impossible.
After seeking counseling, sharing with those who loved me what occurred and drawing closer to Christ, I became stronger, happier, more confident and free. Forgiveness was a long process but I am happy to say that God heard my prayers and He is faithful. I prayed for the man who raped me, even when I wanted to curse him. It was just a simple prayer “Lord bless him and save him, amen.” I journaled, talked through my feelings with my counselor and others and I prayed in the natural and in the Holy Ghost. I was determined to give my hurt to God and allow Him to cleanse me of the fear, anger, hate and pain.
Right before I graduated in 2003, I was given the opportunity to speak to my attacker on the phone, we were both college students at the same school. He tried to play dumb about the rape and when I didn’t let him off the hook, he began to make excuses and apologize. I calmly told him, “thank you for your apology but I don’t need it. I’ve already forgiven you. I am no longer afraid of you and I no longer hate you. I have a relationship with Jesus Christ and He has healed me. I encourage you to get to know Him and change from your wicked ways.” After that the call was over and I felt so good! Words can’t describe it. That was my test and I had passed. I didn’t curse the man who had harmed me and robbed me of so much. It no longer mattered what he said or did because he had no more power of me. God was in control and in Him, I had/have joy, peace, boldness, confidence in the Word of God and restoration.
These seven myths/truths about forgiveness below were very helpful to me throughout my healing process. I pray they are a blessing to you also.
Real Solutions For Forgiving the Unforgivable by David Stoop
Chapter two: Myths and Truths About Forgiveness
1) When forgiving, I should always try to forgive and forget. False
- We need to forgive and remember, for when the hurt is deep, we need to learn something in the process about how to protect ourselves and those we love from having the same thing happen to them.
- It is so painful to remember, however, that we don’t like to do it. When we experience real forgiveness, there is more to remember than the pain. We are reminded of what God has done and is doing in our lives through his forgiving us and our forgiving others!
2) It’s good to get angry when I’m trying to forgive. True
- Anger is a necessary part of the forgiving process.
- The deep hurts and injuries that seem impossible to forgive are neither quick nor easy to get over. We have a lot of emotions to process. We must grieve over what we’ve lost.
- Denial, anger, sadness then acceptance. In order to process our grief, we must experience both anger and sadness, and in order to forgive, we must grieve. Anger is part of the process of forgiving.
3) Should I give up all hard feelings towards the person I forgive? True
- Webster says forgiveness means we “cease to feel resentment toward” the person who has hurt us.
- The mark of forgiveness is that we no longer feel ill will toward the other person.
- This doesn’t mean that there won’t be times when the feelings won’t come back. It also doesn’t mean that you didn’t forgive that person the first time.
- We simply need to work through the forgiveness again at this new level of hurt. It does not negate what we have done before; it’s just that there’s more work that needs to be done.
4) I should try to forgive others quickly and completely. False
- Taking our time to forgive, and our grieving over our loss through anger and sadness, helps us understand how serious the offense was.
- We don’t want to take it lightly. In face, forgiveness offered too quickly is not really forgiveness it’s excusing. And when we excuse hurtful behavior, we invite it to continue in our lives.
5) Over time, my hurt will go away and my forgiveness of the other person, will take care of itself. False
- forgiveness doesn’t just happen. It always begins with a choice that leads us into the process of forgiveness.
- Doing nothing merely represses our pain until a later time or another place. It has not gone away, it’s just gone into hiding.
- Desensitization and repression are not forgiveness, however, they do provide the resolution and release from the past necessary for deep healing, which only comes through the process of forgiveness.
6) If I forgive, I am in some way saying that what happened to me didn’t matter. False
- The depth of our sadness and anger is directly related to the seriousness of the injustice that has been done to us. Only by recognizing our sadness, pain and anger are we able to move forward in the forgiving process.
- Forgiveness has never meant that sin is ok. (Romans 6:1-2) So if God’s forgiveness doesn’t condone sin, why would our forgiveness of a wrong done to us in some way condone the evil, hurtful event? It doesn’t!
- Our forgiving the other person does not in any way benefit of let him or her off the hook. It allow us to cancel the debt they owe us, which in all possibility, they can never pay anyway.
- WE are the ones who are freed, from the expectation of restitution for the wrongs done to us.
7) I should forgive even if the person who hurt me does not repent. True
- Forgiveness is not optional in the Christian life, the choice to forgive must lie completely within me and not even partially in some other person.
- God can help me forgive without the cooperation of anyone else.
- Forgiveness is an act done for the one who was hurt. The offender owes us, but he or she may never be able to repay even if he or she wants to.
- Placing the power in the hands of the offender might work if he or she would acknowledge the wrong and repent, but if he or she refused, we would have been victimized not once but twice.
**Questions** What did you think about the 7 myths/facts about forgiveness? Were there any that you strongly agreed or disagreed with? Have you ever experienced a time when you had to walk out the principles above regarding a hurtful situation? Did the principles work?
What the bible says about forgiveness
Matthew 6:14-15 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
Acts 13:38-39 Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.
Psalm 86:5 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.