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Forgiveness is hard. But sitting in a place of un-forgiveness is harder. Read on to learn why forgiveness is necessary, while reconciliation is not.
Disclaimer: We want to acknowledge that forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation. There are times where it may not be safe to continue a relationship with an individual for various reasons. Forgiveness is necessary, reconciliation is not. Lean on the Lord in these circumstances and ask for his guidance and judgment about what to do in these situations.
Let’s take it back to the Gospels, where we get first-hand accounts from Jesus’ disciples on what He was up to at that time. I’m thinking particularly of Luke 6 when Jesus is standing on a mountainside and speaking down to a vast crowd below him of people who desperately want to hear what he has to say. It is in this famous sermon where we are called to love, bless, and pray for all.
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” – Luke 6:27
That is truly an outrageous request when you think about it. That is so counterculture to today! Why would anyone want to do good to someone who hated them? Or bless the people who curse them? It doesn’t make any sense. But Jesus isn’t about making sense to our earthly concepts. He presents us with these divine concepts that shatter how we view the world. With this radical teaching in mind, let’s talk about forgiving those who have hurt you.
The first step to forgiving someone who has hurt you is to channel Jesus. It is against human nature to wish good things upon those people who have ridiculed you. In order to begin the journey of forgiving someone, pray for a soft heart towards them. Pray for God to make you a little bit more like Jesus by giving you the strength to understand this person and a true desire to forgive them. I know that feeling of fury when you realize someone has gone behind your back, when they’ve told your secret, or gossiped about you, or purposely hurt you. That is not a good feeling at all. It is painful and very consuming. When you’re deep in that pain, it can feel absurd to hear that you should bless the person who caused it. But that’s what Jesus calls us to do. He tells us to set that pain and hurt aside and pray for good upon that person. It takes desiring with your entire being to be more like Jesus to practice what He preaches.
When forgiving someone, or starting that journey, it is best done in the presence of one another. I do want to acknowledge that sometimes there are people it is unsafe for you to be near, or it is not possible to see them face to face. In these situations, lean on the Lord for guidance. Hearing gossip from other folks about how one another is feeling or acting is only harmful to the situation. Facts get misrepresented and stories often get warped. To understand what really happened and the intentions behind that action, go straight to the source. Ask to meet up with them and talk about the tension between you two. Take out the middleman and be honest with one another. Often during these conversations, you realize how much quicker the argument would have been resolved had you just gone to each other in the first place with your feelings. Being face to face with another person humanizes the experience. It is easier to forgive a tangible person who made a mistake than a blue iMessage bubble that says “sorry :/”. In this time with one another, ask questions about what happened and why they acted how they did. But do this with grace and a kind heart. Ask not with the intention to disprove them or argue, but with the desire to understand where they are coming from. When you understand another person’s history, their actions start to make more sense.
Dwelling in your own frustration and letting that anger consume you is the perfect opportunity for the devil to jump in and grab the wheel. Do not let him control you! Move quickly so that gossip cannot spread, and the facts of what happened are still fresh. Time does not heal most wounds! If not addressed and simply left to fester, time increases the likelihood of infection. Do not let the mistake of someone ruin your peace of mind and heart. Promptly reach out to them and make space for you two to talk. It is so damaging to let the anger devour you. All of a sudden you become a slave to that feeling. It dictates how you live towards other people and you are no longer yourself. Ask the Lord for His timing and grace to guide you in this decision, but I do believe that acting quickly when someone has hurt you avoids the potential of a situation getting far out of hand.
This sounds cliché, but I promise it’s not. You’ve probably heard the saying “forgive and don’t forget, so you can’t be burned again.” But think of the grace that God has given you.
What if God “forgave” us, but when we messed up again and came back asking for His grace He said, “No, remember last time?” There is no real forgiveness there! Instead, we are met with unlimited tries. We are given grace that has no boundaries at all. When forgiving someone, do it wholeheartedly and let that situation go. Learn from it, but do not let any residual pain remain. Once you’ve given forgiveness, you’re all in. You don’t get to keep any chips to cash in later. There is no weakness in forgiving people who have hurt you. That is exactly what the Lord calls us to do. You should absolutely stand up for yourself and say how you feel; but once all is said and done, you are called to forgive. They have a clean slate. They can try again. Just as the Lord lets us try again every single day.
Forgiveness is not easy! But try it out. I think you’ll be amazed at how free you feel once you forgive and let go of that anger. Even if it’s been a while, reach out to that person that’s been in the back of your head since you started reading this. Sometimes you don’t even know the weight that’s holding you down until you’re relieved from it.
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