Hi. This feels like it might be a little disjointed. At the moment, it’s just sort of a jumble of thoughts pouring forth. Maybe by the end I’ll find some order in them. And here’s the thing: I love writing about nonsense. I’m pretty good at it. But hitting the publish button on a serious topic? That takes a lot more courage, and it makes my stomach hurt a little. It’s so much easier to put funny stuff out there for people to read. The serious is scary because it’s letting you see a little piece of what’s below the surface. So just know that this is a little scary for me from the get-go. 🙂 But here goes…
I have had forgiveness on my mind a lot lately. The how. The why. The who. When I have something on my mind and cannot reconcile it with reality, it helps to write out my thoughts. So I got a pen and started writing. I ended up with more questions than answers, but the one answer I got then, and still know is this: When someone has wronged me- whether it’s by my perception or a literal wrongdoing, intentional or unintentional- forgiveness? It has to be done.
Here is most of what I wrote several weeks ago…
I forgive you.
What is forgiveness?
How many times?
How often do I need to forgive and let go of the same thing?
How do I forgive and let go?
Can I forget?
When I remember, I need to forgive again.
Are there special “forgiveness words”?
Do I just say, “I forgive you” 1,000 times until I feel it?
Won’t the words eventually lose meaning if I do that?
I need help.
I can’t let go on my own.
Let go. Forgive. Be free.
If I have to forgive again, did I really forgive the first time? How do I know if it “took”?
“In fact, not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” –Anne Lamotte, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (I haven’t read this book; I had written down a similar quote, and just looked it up online to find the source and the correct quote.)
Do I need to say it aloud?
I don’t want to be angry and bitter. Not anymore. I don’t want to pretend.
Do I need to make a list of things I’m forgiving? And burn them?
I forgive you. But do I? Yes. I have to. I have no other choice.
(Also, I need to forgive ME.)
I reached the end with more questions than answers, but with absolute knowledge that I didn’t have a choice but to forgive. I then left it at that and went on my way.
Today, this subject was heavy on my mind again. I was mulling it over all afternoon, and tonight I decided to see exactly what Jesus had to say about forgiveness. (All references are from the Amplified Bible.)
Psalm 86:5 For you, O Lord, are good, and ready to forgive [our trespasses, sending them away, letting them go completely and forever]; and You are abundant in mercy and loving-kindness to all those who call upon You.
If God is so ready to forgive all of my sins and let them go forever, who am I to hold onto other people’s sins against me, as though they owe me more than I owe God? Who on earth do I think I am?
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.
Matthew 18:35 So also My heavenly Father will deal with every one of you if you do not freely forgive your brother from your heart his offenses.
Mark 11:25-26 And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your failings and shortcomings.
Guys? This leaves NO ROOM for unforgiveness anywhere. Ever. If I get to judgement day and find myself standing beside an unrepentant Timothy McVeigh or Adam Lanza with even a little bit of unforgiveness in my heart, I am no closer to getting into heaven than they are. It’s not going to happen. Jesus is very clear about this: If I do not freely forgive someone, from my heart, letting go of the resentment that I love to hang onto, God will not forgive me. But it feels so good to hang on! I can’t let go of ALL of it- I need something to come back to, to get out and polish a little now and then so I can remember how someone wronged me. Why would I want to remember these hurts anyway? Does it make me feel like I’m better than they are? And these verses do not say, “If the person who wronged you comes back and begs for your forgiveness on bended knee, go ahead and forgive them.” It says if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop. Whether they asked for it or not.
I’m not saying it will be easy. I know all too well, from numerous (possibly not wholehearted) attempts at forgiveness, that it is ridiculously hard sometimes. Even admitting that I’ve been hurt can sometimes be one of the hardest things to do. It feels weak, and I don’t want to acknowledge that I am capable of being hurt by someone’s words or actions. (Sticks and stones…) And as humans, I don’t think we can just forget and expect that it will be gone forever. I may need to forgive someone for the same thing again and again. Is that okay? Does that mean I didn’t do it right the first time? I think maybe even if we let it drop once, we just may need to let it go again and again. Maybe every day for a while. I need to want to let it go first, and eventually it could be every other day. And then once a week. And then one day in the future, I may forget it all together.
Luke 17:4 And even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and turns to you seven times and says, I repent [I am sorry], you must forgive him (give up resentment and consider the offense as recalled and annulled).
Every day. Seven times a day. (But who’s counting?)
1 Peter 4:8 Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offences of others].
And there’s the rub: intense and unfailing love for one another. If I don’t love my fellow man, how will I begin to forgive them? But if I do have an intense and unfailing love for everyone, forgiveness shouldn’t be far behind. Because it’s hard to carry a grudge against someone I really love.
I can’t do this alone. I can’t just wake up and decide that my human self can let go of any resentment I carry. I’m going to need help. And I know where to find it:
1 John 1:9 If we freely admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].
Jesus, cleanse me from anything that is not in conformity to Your will in purpose, thought, and action. Help me love everyone with Your love, and to pass on Your forgiveness to them so that You can forgive me for the oh-so-many things for which I need it.