Last week I talked about acceptance and how it’s such an important step in becoming free. I find that some stumble with this word. Some might think “I cannot accept what they did” or they have a negative reaction like “I accept that my life sucks and I’m stuck.”
Both reactions are devastatingly damaging.
Defeat is in fact always a choice. So is the next step in freedom… forgiveness.
It’s a bad word in some circles. I sit with some who are filled with anger over their past and refuse to even entertain a conversation about the “f” word. Many more don’t even know they have things to forgive. They feel as though they’ve forgiven because in some sense they’ve moved on in life… They’ve put those people and occasions behind them without realizing the effects of those events creep into their daily lives.
Here are some false assumptions about forgiveness:
Forgiveness says what they did is ok. – LIE
Forgiveness sets me up to let it happen to me again. – LIE
Forgiveness is a feeling. – LIE
Forgiveness is easy. – LIE
No, it isn’t easy… but it is a choice and a choice worth making.
Some won’t forgive because then they would have to admit what the person did was wrong. I have found this most prevalent with pastor’s kids. They protect the reputation of their parents. They know their parents are good people and they can’t bring themselves to admit that a parent was wrong. Good people do things they shouldn’t. Good people fall short and hurt others sometimes. Good people are imperfect like the rest of us.
(I really could spend a whole blog on this lie. Holding onto un-forgiveness is actually what draws many of us in to letting it happen again. Maybe next week.)
The bottom line here is forgiveness is for us. Forgiveness is like dropping a weight off your shoulders that you didn’t even know was there. I had moments when I had to forgive God. What?! I was so angry at him that he let my father die before I could have a good relationship with him. Had he not heard me crying to him all of those years to bring us together?! I didn’t even know I was angry. I was just so devastated. I felt betrayed.
I’ve had to forgive myself so many times. I’ve made so many poor decisions in the past. Shadows of guilt that haunted me for years. Humiliation loomed in the background.
I had to forgive my mother. She did her absolute best every day of her life. She came from intense brokenness and eventually rose above it but she failed me in a thousand ways. I was not nurtured, taught self-love, held when I cried, cheered on when I was good at something or listened to when I needed to share. She didn’t miss those things because she was bad. She missed them because she didn’t even know what they were. I still had to forgive her.
I look at her beauty sometimes, her drive to help others and her life-long perseverance and I know heaven literally delights in her. I still had to forgive her because she didn’t give me what I needed as a child. It wasn’t about her. It was about me. In forgiving her, I admitted I needed it and it set me free from the weight of not having received it.
Talking through the lack validates your need.
I needed to be nurtured. If I couldn’t validate that need, I wouldn’t have made room for nurture in my future.
Forgiveness put it back into my court. It was my job to create the future I was now learning about. Forgiveness is actually taking responsibility for your own future instead of letting the past govern your next move.
As long as you hold on to what happened you can’t truly be free.
Am I free from my past?
- I have memories come up from time to time that make me feel uneasy.
- I have people from my past that I had to remove from social media because seeing them has a negative effect on my emotions.
- I get angry sometimes and I know I’m angrier than the situation calls for.
- I tend to lose control of my emotions when I’m angry or say things I regret.
- When I’m trying something new, I feel anxiety.
- I sometimes disappear into a world of fantasy, either in books, tv or games to avoid the world or the people around me.
- There are things about my past I would never share with my significant other or best friend.
- I sometimes feel shame.
- I fear failure.
- I have had more unhealthy dating relationships than healthy ones.
- Long term relationships don’t sound appealing.
- I find myself defending my decisions over and over again to myself and/or others.
- I do not have positive things to say when I look in the mirror.
If any of these apply to you can I challenge you for a moment? Just quiet your thoughts, imagine the one that stood out. Ask yourself when that first started and ask yourself if there’s anyone you need to forgive.
This is what forgiveness looks like:
I choose to forgive Mary for the things that she said about me. I choose to forgive her for not valuing me in her words and actions. I wash off all of those things she said (use your imagination here and imagine yourself literally washing off). I set her free. She’s off the hook. She owes me nothing.
What?! She owes me “nothing?” Not even an apology?
Yep. Not even an apology.
This is what forgiveness feels like:
I’m looking at Mary and even though I remember what she did I no longer have a negative emotional response to what she did. I can literally say nice things to her and about her without any expectation of something in return.
Are the feelings instant? Nope. Sometimes we have to verbalize it over and over as we let go. Especially in times of deep wounding in our souls. However, when we practice the “letting go” of the past in this way we find deep freedom; we cut ties with all of the things that bind. Forgiveness is a process. A process worth venturing through and making part of our way of life.
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