Faith,  Healthy Living

Forgiveness – it’s more complicated than we think.

Are you holding onto a grudge or feeling bitter towards someone in your life? Are you nursing a years-old wound, wishing the pain would disappear?

Given that we live in a fallen world and people can really suck sometimes, I would guess that you have been hurt or abused in some way. You may be carrying around immense pain, not even realizing the way it is affecting your every waking hour.

There are four types of abuse – physical, verbal, sexual, and spiritual – all four of which I have been subjected to over the course of my life. So as we discuss forgiveness, please realize that I am coming from a place where I truly believed I was unlovable, a complete failure in every way. I may not have your exact experience, but I am not merely speaking of forgiving someone for eating the last cookie or yelling during an argument.

So, let’s talk forgiveness and the change it can create in your life.

Holding onto bitterness doesn’t hurt the person you haven’t forgiven, it poisons your own heart and can turn you into someone you don’t even recognize. You may not even realize how much hurt you are holding on to until you really stop to think about it.

With the help of a trusted and godly counselor, I recently came to the realization that I was holding on to bitterness, anger, and hurt that spanned more than a decade of my life. That weight was not causing the other person pain, only me (and, consequently, my husband and kids). The pain ran deep, to the point that I thought I just wasn’t meant to be happy or joyful in life, but to be miserable.

What could be done about this festering wound? I needed to forgive that person. I needed to release the person who hurt me from any responsibility, take the pain on myself instead of blaming them, and allow God to take the pain away so I could be healed. Now, I didn’t just think to myself “I forgive so-and-so” and that was it – I prayed a slow and emotional prayer that addressed both my head and my heart.

Here’s an outline of the prayer (I elaborated and was more specific, and I encourage you to do so as well):

Lord, I choose to forgive (person’s name) for (what they did) causing me to feel (emotions and pain). I am willing to release (person’s name) from the emotional pain and consequences that (he/she) has caused me. I ask you, Lord Jesus, to take back the ground I gave to the enemy through my bitterness and I yield that ground to Your control. Amen.

This was very difficult to do, and I had to go through several “practice runs.” I had to admit that I didn’t actually want to forgive the person. I struggled and wrestled with it, and was reminded just how much I have been forgiven of. I am not any better than anyone else, I am not better than the person who I needed to forgive. I am a sinner, just like that person, in need of forgiveness. I have been forgiven of much by God, and I must extend that same forgiveness to others.

I was able to experience immediate physical and emotional relief from the angst I had carried with me for so long – it was incredible, truly a work of the Lord. This experience was life-changing. I am not the same as I was. I am healing from the hurt, and I am able to move forward in life without all that weight dragging me down.

Just to be clear – forgiveness does not mean that you forget what happened, and it doesn’t mean that you continue to trust that person. If someone has abused you, create the necessary boundaries so that you are safe mentally, physically, emotionally.

So, who do you need to forgive? What pain do you need to surrender? I have been freed from my self-created prison cell, and you can be free, too.

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