The Truth About Forgiveness

Forgiveness is an odd thing.  When I first became a Christian in 1996, I heard a great deal about forgiveness.  God wants us to forgive so we must do it. It’s easy.  Just ask Him to take it away & all will be right in your world.  Upon asking someone once to pray for me to help forgive, she said “I don’t know what your problem is.  God says to forgive & I just do it.”  That made me feel like God was disappointed in me & I was an awful person because I couldn’t “just do it.”

Nineteen years later,  I realize what rubbish all of that was.

While I most certainly agree God wants us to forgive since it says so in the Bible (Matthew 6:14, Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:31-2, etc), no one ever explained any other motivations to forgive.  Pleasing God certainly is a good one, naturally, but is that the only reason He wants us to forgive?  Some holy whim?

It took me years of being in relationship with Him & learning from Him to realize that forgiveness not only pleases God, but is good for the person doing the forgiving.  Carrying around anger & bitterness creates a plethora of health problems such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart disease & more.  It also can lead to a negative attitude (example- a wife’s husband cheats so she assumes all men are untrustworthy jerks) & depression.  The sooner you’re truly able to forgive, the better it is for your physical & mental health.

I had to learn too that forgiveness has nothing to do with the offender & everything to do with the one doing the forgiving.  It is very possible to completely forgive someone who is unrepentant.  To forgive someone requires you to want to do so.  It requires no actions on the other person’s part.  Certainly a repentant heart would make it much easier, but it’s not a necessity.

I also thought forgiveness meant to forget as well.  Forgive & forget as they say.  I disagree completely.  Sure, on small things such as your husband snapping at you after a bad day at work when normally he doesn’t do that, forgiving & forgetting is fine.  However, doing so with someone who is abusive?  Not smart.  That only sets you up for further abuse because you aren’t protecting yourself & also because you gave that person a free pass to abuse you by coming back for more.

No one ever told me that forgiveness takes time.  Ephesians 4:26 was quoted to me over & over in those early days of my walk with God.. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath,” (KJV)  I believed that I had to forgive my abusive mother & ex husband NOW or else I was not pleasing God.  It took many more years for me to learn that some things can be forgiven quickly & easily while others, such as suffering years of abuse, takes more time.  I believe that so long as you at least decide quickly that you will forgive, that is the most important thing.  It’s the first step towards forgiveness.

I didn’t know that to fully forgive, I needed to get angry, to feel that anger & get it out of me.  No one ever mentioned that tidbit!  I had to learn it from God.  Thankfully God helps me to do this.  He’s taught me different ways to get the anger out.  Journaling, writing it all out, works very well for me as does telling Him exactly how I feel & why.

Lastly, I learned that forgiveness doesn’t always mean you forgive everything someone has done to you- sometimes it means you may have to forgive them for some things individually.  For example, I thought I’d forgiven my ex husband for everything & was done with him.  Not necessarily so.. when someone wrecked her motorcycle in front of my house last June, it triggered a memory, something about my ex I’d totally forgotten.  I had my motorcycle learner’s permit when we were married.  After I had a small accident in 1994, which wasn’t my fault, he didn’t want me to go through with getting my license.  I was angry how manipulative he was about it, but had forgotten that until this lady wrecked her bike.  So although I was sure I’d forgiven him for everything, here I was, having to forgive him for yet one more thing…twenty one years later!

If you’re struggling with forgiveness & anger, Dear Reader, I pray this post helps you.  There isn’t a lot of really good, balanced teaching on the topic available, but if you ask God, He will teach you whatever you need to help you.  That is how I learned what I wrote here- God showed me all of these things.  🙂

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10 Comments

Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

10 responses to “The Truth About Forgiveness

  1. Interesting concept that in order to forgive, you have get past the anger. So it’s not the forgiveness that takes take, it’s getting over the anger that takes years. I certainly agree with this. Different strategies help but sometimes time helps too.

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  2. I agree that forgiveness is for us and that it does take time. It absolutely doesn’t mean forgetting, that is true too. I think people think being faithful means never being angry. That’s just not realistic. I think my faith helps me to forgive eventually and give it over to God. Be well!

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  3. A related idea that has helped me is that God gets angry–we read about it in the scriptures. And also, He never commands us to do things we are incapable of doing–anger is an automatic emotions triggered by our parasympathetic nervous symptom meant to protect us (the “fight” in “fight or flight”) and we don’t choose it, it just happens to us–because commandments we have no choice but to fail at wouldn’t be just or compassionate. I’ve come to believe that what He is commanding us to do is to not ACT DESTRUCTIVELY in anger–to not hurt others out of anger. We can feel emotions without acting on them. This has helped me in my work to forgive.

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  4. Yes,it really is a process you have to work thru.And when you have flashbacks,it can take even longer,imo

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