Everyone has at some point, been hurt by someone else – whether it was intentional or random, violent or passive-aggressive, we have all had our experiences with hurt and pain. Sometimes these instances can come from the hands of those who were responsible for loving or caring for us, accepting us and making us feel welcome in their life. When we are hurt by those whom we are supposed to have good relations with, it can be extremely painful because it goes against our expectations of what life “should’ve” looked like with them. Its not in God’s design and purpose for us to have to experience pain and hurt caused by anyone, but especially from those who were strategically placed in life to be close to us.
Biblically, these situations call for us to forgive, no matter how horrible the offense.
It can be extremely hard to forgive someone who is unrepentant, who is bent on not wanting to change. There are probably instances in everyone’s life where we ourselves have hurt someone, and yet continue to go about life without ever realizing the pain we caused to the other person still affects them. They are then faced with having to forgive not only the offense, but also our ignorance of how much it really affected them.
Forgiveness is messy – life is messy – and if we’re ever going to live as real Christians, sometimes we have to be wiling to get into the mess of life, and do things that we know God wants us to do – even when we don’t feel like it.
Some things I’ve noticed about forgiveness over the years:
- You don’t have to wait until the other person apologizes to forgive them in your heart
- The person you can forgive doesn’t have to still be alive – even if they are gone, forgiveness will heal your heart as if they were still here
- If you wait until you “feel like it” you probably will never forgive people who have hurt you
- Forgiveness is a choice not a feeling, its a choice to follow God’s command
Forgiveness really isn’t about the other person, we are commanded by God (if you’re Christian) to forgive so that our own sins will be forgiven. Forgiveness is about freeing ourselves from the binds of being tethered to another person who may or may not even realize how much damage they did to our heart. You forgive so that you can heal and be freed. You forgive, for you.
I’m reminded of a friend I dearly love, she grew up in the most horrible home you can imagine, was sexually abused by her own father (her mother put her on birth control at 13 just to ensure that she wouldn’t get pregnant with her father’s offspring), her mother constantly let her know how much she hated having children, and how they ruined her life. Eventually she was placed in foster care, but when she was 18, her foster parents let her out into the world with no where to go, no money or resources, so she made the decision at that tender young age to turn to what she knew she could do – she turned to prostitution.
Years later when we became friends, she told me her story and how she has had to forgive parents who would never admit what they did to her was wrong (particularly her mom who seemingly got away with everything – her father was finally jailed for his actions). She would try desperately with her mother to reconcile, to get her to admit that they abused her so that she could move into a healthy and restored relationship with her. It still hasn’t happened, and my friend had to separate herself from her family so that she could focus on living life in a toxic-free environment, and have joy in Jesus.
Even though reconciliation wasn’t possible for her and her mother, her decision to forgive her family was still pivotal in her being able to break away from the circumstances and live a new life based on God’s restoration and ability to make all things new.
Forgiveness isn’t based on whether or not the person who hurt you is sorry, or anything they can do to “deserve” your forgiveness… no one deserves forgiveness, even ourselves! Having someone apologize and acknowledge their actions can be crucial to repairing a broken or sometimes toxic relationship, however, it has nothing to do with your decision to forgive.
If we have any hope of surviving in this world of wars, crises, and pain in our own families without becoming hardened and cynical, we have to be able to forgive others in our hearts. The only other option is to hold onto a grudge and forever be tied to those who have hurt us, as if we were chained to them and had to carry them around throughout life. (It sounds like the worst punishment imaginable!)
Forgiveness is breaking free from the ties to abusers, controllers, insensitive and hurtful people, so that we can live with abandoned joy in our new lives and be unaffected by their past actions against us.
Forgiveness is for you.
And no one deserves forgiveness.