If you’re like a lot of people in today’s world, you have been deeply wounded or betrayed, abused or mistreated and to add insult to injury, it was most likely done at the hand of a loved one or trusted friend. The pain it has caused you will not go away and you are in an emotional prison as a result. It may be that over the course of time, justice has or will be served when or if those responsible are made to pay for the injustice or pain they inflicted on you. If not justice, perhaps, it may be that the consequences of their actions come back full circle to hurt them because of their actions. However, to believe that justice or retribution will bring the healing and peace of mind necessary to move on, is to be deceived and is a set-up for major disappointment.
And, what if justice is never served and those who failed you or inflicted such terrible pain, never pay for it in any way? What do you do then? Like it or not, the only way to true healing and restoration is through forgiveness. Surely, many will cringe at the very thought of forgiving the one responsible for so much pain in their lives. From a human or “rational” perspective, it makes no sense at all. Yet, there is no greater power to release us from the pain, inflicted by another, than to forgive the one who caused it.
Harboring unforgiveness is destructive and can lead to devastating results. It’s like a fire that smolders in the heart and smothers the soul. It is so insidious that one can be totally unaware of the damage it is doing, until it is too late. Unforgiving people live as victims and spend much of their time and energy justifying it. They are obsessed with the wrong done to them and quick to point out, to anyone who will listen, the lack of understanding people have regarding how much they have suffered or the agony they have endured. In truth, they are right. Most people cannot, nor will they ever, truly understand the suffering of another. Yet, what is the benefit of remaining in that misery and attempting to draw others into that misery along with them? Where is the healing in that?
Unforgiving people are quick to claim rights. They can be extremely sensitive to any wrongs done to them, regardless of how small or minuscule. They are obsessed with the bad things that happened to them in the past and are absolutely certain no one’s circumstances were as bad as theirs were. They take pleasure in the power their pain seems to give them over friends and enemies alike, as they require more and more pity and understanding. They are oblivious to the pain their unforgiveness inflicts on others not understanding or caring that dwelling on their pain only serves to make everyone else around them miserable. In short, unforgiving people are some of the most miserable people in the world.
All signs that could, if they were paying attention, alert them to the damage being done to their souls, as they choose to live out their unforgiveness. If unforgiveness is an issue for you, as it is for so many, what can be done about it? The first thing, is to recognize that God Himself has extended an offer of unconditional forgiveness to you, should you choose to receive it. You receive it by believing in His Son Jesus Christ and confessing that He is Lord and then asking for God’s forgiveness. The Bible says we are all sinners and in need of His forgiveness so that we may be reconciled to Him. Once you receive His forgiveness, the Bible tells us that you then receive the power of God, through His Holy Spirit now living in you, to do the things He asks you to do, like forgive others – no matter how awful the violation or abuse.
It does not mean you deny the wrongdoing or pain it caused or that you try to excuse it or justify it in any way. It would be disingenuous and demeaning not to recognize and acknowledge something terribly hurtful and inexcusable was done to you and that it never should have happened. To do so, would minimize the importance of forgiveness and its power to bring healing to a broken heart and a devastated soul. Forgiveness does not mean you forget. However, as the healing takes place, the memory of the incident will no longer trigger the raw emotions it once did. The memories instead will begin to fade and lose their hold. Instead of pushing all your buttons, the memory will be more about the time you forgave or the process of forgiveness you are committed to. Forgiveness is not just some positive feeling or altered emotion towards another. Forgiveness is an act of the will. We have the responsibility, and the authority as children of God, to offer to others the very forgiveness that God has given us. That is what Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:21-35, and be assured He would not tell us to do something we did not have the power to do through Him! Where does forgiveness begin, assuming the one need to forgive has been forgiven by God, is now in relationship with Him and has His power to offer it to another? This may come as a surprise, but the first step is to examine what happened to our heart following the wounding or offense. Did it result in deep-seated anger, bitterness or resentment? Did we speak unlovingly about them to others? Did we retaliate in some way? If so, we are just as guilty before God as our offender and we must confess that to Him. Regardless of what they originally did to us, we must confess our hatred, resentment or anger towards our offender. This does not in any way minimize or affirm their action. Its purpose is to allow our heart to be cleansed from our own sinful reaction to the offense, so that it is free to forgive and be healed.
Another powerful step to add in the forgiveness process is to bless your offender every time you think of what they did and they pain they caused you. I Peter 3:8-9 says; “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” When you bless others who have hurt or cursed you, God says, you will receive a blessing as a result.
Blessings promote healing, not only for you but also for those who have offended or hurt you. That is God’s ultimate desire, that all involved be healed, forgiven and restored. You can also write a letter – that you do not send – to the person who hurt you. Tell them everything they did that hurt you and how you feel as a result. If you are angry with them, tell them. Be very honest. Writing touches the emotional side of our brain and allows us to get in touch with what we are really feeling. It has been said that most Christians are stuck in their anger because they deny it exists. Get alone with God, once you’ve written everything you want to say and read it out loud to Him, making sure that no one else can hear you. After you have said (and yelled) everything you wanted to say (and yell), make a conscious choice to forgive, remembering that you can only truly forgive with God’s help and power. Then say, “In Jesus Name (because that’s where your power and authority comes from) I forgive you”. List the name(s of your offender) and what say specifically what you are forgiving them for. Follow that up with “I release you and I bless you.” When you bless them, try blessing them in every way you would like God to bless you. You will soon begin to notice that joy and blessings and love will start to flow in your heart and life again. Be sure and destroy the letter! While Restoration of a broken relationship is a worthy goal, there are circumstances and situations where it is not possible or realistic; like when the offender has died or is no longer mentally cognizant. Or when a person has been the victim of rape. Regardless of the crime or pain inflicted upon the victim, there will be no healing apart from forgiveness and there will be no forgiveness apart from the power of God to do so. God longs for you to be set free from the prison of unforgiveness and promises you the power to do it. Turn the key by asking Him and your prison doors could swing open today.
Let the transforming power of forgives flood your heart and you will never be the same. “And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on God’s. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.” – Corrie Ten Boom