Forgiveness- a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group.
Such a tough thing to do. Feels almost impossible in some circumstances. Especially the circumstances that we feel are non-negotiable. I’ve learned a lot in my life about forgiveness, mostly in church, some by culture. And a lot of those beliefs were actually unhealthy and untrue. Let me explain, I love Jesus and I stand on his word for everything he says to us regarding forgiving others, but some of us are not reading his word in the proper context, therefore we are out here bitter inside while trying to fake a smile on the outside. That is not true forgiveness. It was not until recently that I realized that I had it all wrong when it came to the actual facts about forgiveness. I was given a book by someone in my therapy group called ‘Forgiving what you’ll NEVER forget by Dr. David Stoop.’ SO GOOD.
By the way, since I brought up the taboo topic of going to therapy while being a christian, YES, you can love Jesus and go to therapy too! I honestly feel that both are needed living in this broken world to stay sane! Caring what others think so much to that you are afraid to seek out therapy because you wonder how it looks to others will keep you in bondage. Don’t nobody got time for that! Go get free sis! Therapy was the BEST decision I’ve EVER made regarding putting myself first and practicing the ultimate self-care. It has helped me grow, heal and be set free in many areas. I’m investing in myself by taking care of me.
Anyway, back to forgiveness, because I will advocate for therapy all day. In this amazing book Dr. Stoop has a brilliant format of popular statements made about forgiveness. He has them all stated next to true or false circles for you to quiz yourself on your knowledge of true forgiveness. Essentially he is asking you what you personally believe is true or false about forgiveness. Then he gives the actual answers with scripture and research to back it up. Needless to say I got a lot of the questions wrong and it made me think “Wow, I wonder how many other people had it wrong like me?” I’m only going to share one of the statements that stood out to me. I wont have enough time to go over them all, plus you should really just buy his book to get the full picture of all the wisdom he shares.
The first statement was “When forgiving I should always try to forgive and forget” and the answer was FALSE. He then explains why it is false and gives biblical proof to back it up. I started to think how many people sit in churches under leadership that deny their anger and hurt all in the name of “you need to forgive and forget like Jesus if you want to be a true christian”. That’s actually not really true. Yes we do need to get to a place of forgiveness so WE can be FREE of bitterness, rage, and vengeance. But that is a process, not an immediate thing. Telling others they need to forget DEEP offenses quickly is neither godly or healthy. That stuff takes TIME, months, years even and it has to be intentional, because time heals nothing if you are avoiding doing the work to heal. Dr. Stoop makes the point that God is omniscient, therefore he has the power being GOD, to forgive and actually really forget quickly the things we do. (Jeremiah 31:34) We are mere human beings, even though those of us who have given our hearts to God, we have the power of God IN us to do things others may say is impossible, we are still NOT omniscient. And if you don’t know what that means here you go: Omniscient- all knowing, all-wise, all-seeing. We don’t operate in that way because we are sinful human beings. We are not all knowing, all wise or all seeing and we don’t have the power to completely erase deep hurt from our hearts or memories.
My point is forgiveness for us human beings takes time and effort and that process can’t be rushed. It is also important to note that forgiveness does NOT mean you have to reconcile. You are not less of a christian if you PROTECT yourself from being around someone who has proven to be untrustworthy, unrepentant or capable of offending repeatedly without care. That’s wisdom to keep your distance from that person! A lot of us need to “Forgive and remember” as Dr. Stoop puts it. He makes this point to say that forgiving someone frees you from bitterness but remembering what they did protects you from trusting them again naively. Forgiveness and gaining back trust are too totally different things. Yes I can forgive you for stepping on my shoe, that’s minor and I will forget that in a matter of minutes, but forgiving you for betraying me, gossiping about my personal business to others, murder, sexual abuse, etc that is different. In those major categories forgiveness is hopefully given at some point in our hearts (not instant) but the relationship dynamic completely changes because trust has been broken.
“We need to forgive and remember, for when the hurt is deep, we need to learn something in the process about how to protect ourselves and those we love from having the same thing happen to them”.Dr. David Stoop
Stop telling others to quickly forgive and forget when people have done some super shady stuff to them. Its NOT healthy to tell them to brush it off, its NOT healthy to encourage them to reconcile with that person (depending on the circumstance). It’s NOT healthy to force the process! Denying someone to go through the process of acknowledging real hurt, sadness and anger is toxic. Unfortunately I see a lot of this forced behavior in church. Making people sit next to each other after major offenses, forcing them to co-exist and reconcile quickly. This creates fake Christians. This creates people who literally are carrying around hatred in their hearts towards others but walking around saying “God is good, girl!” with a big fake smile. Allow people to have a process, allow people to forgive and not have anything to do with the person anymore, allow people to forgive and protect themselves and their loved ones from that person.
For there to be genuine reconciliation, I need to forgive, and the other person needs to show godly sorrow over what he or she has done. Forgiveness is required of us as believers, but reconciliation is optional and depends on the attitude of the offender.Dr. David Stoop
This is a hard subject and I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of how difficult it can be to truly forgive. In our culture cutting people off and slandering them is celebrated. It is seen as a sign of strength. Forgiveness is seen as weakness. What I usually see in those circumstances is someone who is deeply wounded and either too immature, or too hurt to try to truly understand GODLY forgiveness. They have tricked themselves into believing that they have the upper-hand by being negative and bitter when in reality unforgiveness is like them drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Truth is unforgiveness is like a cancer that eats away at your soul. You slowly die in the process holding on to offenses and deep hurts. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you wont have feelings of hatred from time to time, it doesn’t mean you forget it all ever happened, it doesn’t mean that you are saying what happened to you didn’t matter, it doesn’t mean that it is a one time decision in the moment, it doesn’t mean that you have to get an apology from the person. These are hard truths to swallow.
In all honesty NONE OF US deserve forgiveness but God so gracious and lovingly gave it to us through his son Jesus! I’m forever thankful! When I came to Christ at the age of 18 I had to really learn to soak in the truth that God forgave me and died for me. Sometimes when we have done so much wrong in our life we feel as if we can never be forgiven, we feel broken and as if no one could ever love us or accept us. That is not true. God does! He loves us and forgives us! That should set someone free! Knowing the TRUTH about God and his word on forgiveness should set you FREE! Also, knowing the things we have done to hurt others should humble us and help us have grace to forgive. Here are a few scriptures on forgiveness: (Colossians 3:13) (Psalm 130:3-4) (Matthew 6:14-15) (Mark 11:25) (Luke 6:37)
I’m currently still working on this myself in a few areas, but I’m doing the work! I’m reading this great book, I’m in therapy, I’m in a women’s ministry. I pray, I’m authentic and honest, I allow myself to go through the emotions, the process. I give myself time while intentionally ridding my heart of any form of bitterness. And for me, this is stuff from my childhood all the way to adulthood. So my encouragement to you is go get free! Go get the help you need to be free and to live healthy and whole. Don’t allow unforgiveness to control your life. Learn what true forgiveness is! Don’t rush the process or force unhealthy reconciliation. As always I hope that I was able to shine light in darkness and bring truth to this area. If I inspired one person to work on forgiveness, go to therapy or to even start the conversation around it in their life then I have done my job.
Please be free, others need you to be happy, healthy and whole. And as you have been forgiven through Christ ask him to give you the strength to rid your heart of unforgiveness towards others.