I’ve had so many people write to me lately about forgiveness.
How to forgive when the pain still hurts so deep. How to move on when the person has caused so much loss. How to let go when what you really want to do is pull in close.
And believe me I have been in every one of these places.
When the pain of letting go seems more unbearable than the pain of holding on.
When punishing them tricks us into thinking we’re not just hurting ourselves.
Because the truth is the process of forgiveness does not come easy. It is not for those who cling tightly to pride.
And the older I get, the less I am sure of, but I am convinced that holding onto unforgiveness literally poisons ourselves.
And the further we try to run from our pain, the faster it sneaks up behind us.
Because it knows. You see, it’s our deepest fear.
And as much as I’ve gotten to the place of loving myself better, at times I am still my worst enemy.
Any moment I am liable to face plant.
One word, one memory, one half-hearted backstabbing hello and it’s over. Feet scrambling for solid footing I slide back into the memory of my wounds.
Feelings rush, and they’re not good leaders.
Soon we find the wounds are fresh, and the pain is real, and we realize we’re not getting any better.
Because unforgiveness doesn’t hurt the person who hurt us.
Chances are, they don’t even care.
They can’t hear or feel the anger that lives in our spirit. The venom that has become more potent over time, armed and ready for the next attack.
But the next attack is likely from the unassuming neighbor down the street, our child or husband or friend.
Because when we carry unforgiveness it doesn’t discriminate between who hurt us first, and who hurts us next.
It doesn’t care what really happened, but what it remembers happening.
It builds and becomes something beyond itself. It overshadows everything that was, and forbids what could ever be.
It consumes our mind until it is all we see. Every relationship, every situation what we see is the pain. The rejection, abandonment and betrayal that lies beneath the surface of our lives.
You see, when our hearts are hurting they hold us hostage.
And unforgiveness holds wounds wide open.
And we think we’re protecting ourselves continually wrapping our wounds, making excuses for our pain, that we forget that scars don’t still hurt.
We forget that time when we were broken and the bone healed stronger. That time we were abandoned and love rooted in us deeper.
Forgiving someone might not seem easy, but a lifetime of bitterness is much harder to bear.
And we have all seen and known and experienced people who harbor unforgiveness and nurture bitter, critical spirits. Because that is the default. That is what happens when we don’t choose another road.
Unforgiveness allows someone else to write the ending to your story. It gives them the power to determine your day and who you turn out to be.
Laying down pride might be hard in the moment but it’s grace lasts a lifetime.
The greatest challenges of my life have been to walk away from some of the people I have loved the most. To love them still and yet not hold on, walk with or stand by. Not hold out hope or expectation, but to let them be fully who they are no matter what they can give back to me. No matter how much they desire to hurt me.
Because you see we are all a product of our past. We are all carrying the by-products of our pain and most of us are just doing the best we can. Forgiveness means I get that, because I’ve been there too. I know how prone I am to my flesh that I can forgive when someone else falls prey to their own.
Because it’s never really about us. People hurt one another out of their own embroiled bitterness and pain. Out of their own unforgiveness of spirit.
And a spirit of unforgiveness cripples our hearts.
When we allow others to be free to be who they are, we get to be free to be who we are because they don’t hurt us anymore.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean walking back in. It doesn’t mean we’re sorry they left. It means they no longer have the right to influence our future.
Forgiveness is the conscious choice to remain soft in a hard world.
We no longer care what they meant for harm, but we’re grateful God had a plan to use it for our good.
Break free from the trap of unforgiveness and the wound that threatens to remain fresh.
When the memory fades and nothing remains but a scar, you will see it was worth it.
Because in setting them free, you will find yourself. Free.