forgiveness.

“It’s been how long — 3 1/2 years? And I was still bitter. Still sore. Still holding onto my ‘right’ to be angry — a right I’d never had in the first place. So tonight I decided to make things right. . . I didn’t ask what had happened, because I don’t feel like I need to know. If I can forgive her and have peace about the situation, I don’t see a need to bring it up again. Demanding ‘why’ is another right that I don’t have. I am only called to forgive, and forgiveness is not conditional on explanations.” — a privileged peek into my journal from february 10th

“I can’t hold a pet grudge and stay angry. I have no right to stay angry. And I find that the more I practice forgiveness, the easier it becomes.” — a privileged peek into my journal from march 13th

I feel like God’s been teaching me a lot about forgiveness lately — three basic concepts in particular.

1) Forgiveness is about humility.

I think we tend to look at forgiveness as some abstract concept that’s difficult to grasp. How do we “let go” when we “can’t help how we feel”? And the truth is that we can’t help feeling hurt, but we can help being angry.

Anger is all about us, and our pride, and our rights. When someone hurts you, you feel like they’ve trampled your rights. Your pride rebels at the thought of letting them get away with it (“If I forgive him, it’ll make me look like a doormat!”).

It’s also an issue of control. Anger stems from a lack of control; we get angry with someone because we feel like they took some control away from us. To make up for the insecurity that we feel, we demand back what little control we can get: the right to be angry.

But was it ever really our right in the first place? Are we as Christians not called to surrender all of our rights — including our “right” to control and our “right” to anger and our “right” to hold a grudge?

To forgive is to lay down our pride and admit that we don’t have the right to be angry, but rather a commandment to love.

2) Forgiveness does not ignore the problem.

We’re called to forgive even if no apology or explanation is forthcoming. But even when the person who hurt you tries to make things right, it’s still hard to forgive. Our natural tendency is to avoid conflict and brush the offense under the rug with, “It’s fine, don’t worry about it.” But that doesn’t solve the problem in the long run, because you might say “it’s okay” just to get the awkward conversation over with, but you’re still steaming inside from what they did to you. And they go away thinking everything’s okay between you while you’re still harboring bitterness in your heart.

When you clear things up with someone, I think it’s really important both to acknowledge and address the problem. None of it should carry a tone of anger (“if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”, a.k.a. wait till you’ve forgiven them to talk about it), but I think sometimes both people’s feelings need to be gotten out in the open. If you let them know that you feel hurt and explain what they did to make you feel that way, you’re being open and honest. You’re both on the same page instead of trying to cover up your feelings and play guessing games.

3) The more you practice forgiveness, the easier it becomes.

Making a deliberate choice to lay down your “rights” at the feet of Jesus and forgive somebody is a hard thing. You feel exposed without your protective covering of pride. The more times you do it, though, the easier it gets. You learn that it feels better not to carry around the heavy resentment anymore.

Cleaning all the built-up anger out of your life for the first time can be a long and painful process. But once it becomes a routine of flushing out resentment before it takes root, it’s healing. Grudges can be very heavy things. If you make it a habit to forgive as soon as you’re hurt instead of waiting around for an apology that may or may not ever come, you learn to free yourself. It makes you invincible in a way, which is kind of cool. And Christ-like.

So, uh… what age-old grudge do you need to go take care of? Who do you need to call or facebook? I know you just said to yourself “It doesn’t even matter anymore.” But it totally does. Remember the first journal entry at the beginning of this post? I’d fought with myself over that for so long and tried to convince myself that it wasn’t important and nobody cared and I had a happy life even without resolution. But I was never truly content with the situation. So I decided that, whatever the result, I needed to man up and take care of it. And after nearly 4 years of stony silence… I can legitimately say that I have peace. So forgive. Just do it. It’s so worth it.

Oh, and when you do… shoot me an email and let me know how it turns out. Praying for my courageous readers.

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Published in: on March 13, 2012 at 11:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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