If I asked you to forgive one person today, who would it be? What would you say? What excuses would you make to not forgive this person?
I remember one day at a women’s conference they talked about forgiveness. We were asked to think of someone who we needed to forgive and why. At that moment I felt so much anger inside. So much resentment and hurt came to my mind. Memories of my childhood flashed in front of me. Every tear, every word, and all the fear came to me at once as I started to cry.
“How?” I thought. “How can a person have hurt me so bad to cause this much hate. How can I feel so much pain from remembering everything this person caused in my life? How could this person have so much influence on my attitude?”
I felt the reason I had so many emotional problems was because of what I had lived with this person. I blamed this person for everything that was wrong with my life and my attitude.
As I was sitting there crying, the person giving the conference asked us to forgive that person. Again I thought, “But how? How could I forgive someone who hurt me so deeply? This person doesn’t deserve it! This person doesn’t deserve respect from me and I blame this person for my misery!”
This is when we were told that forgiveness is not a feeling. It’s an action. It’s a choice we make to bring peace to our hearts. It is about letting go of what hurts and about living a life of joy. It is about being set free from being prisoners of hate and resentment. Forgiveness is about and for YOU!
So here I was, confronted with forgiveness. We were told to say their name and what we forgave them for and so I started my list. I finally said the words. “I forgive you _______. I forgive you for the words you spoke to me. I forgive you for your treatment towards me. I forgive you for the way you made me feel. I forgive you for causing me fear. For hurting me, for mistreating me, for the tears you caused, for embarrassing me, for not loving me enough.” It was an endless list of hurts!
As I did this I was shaking and sobbing. It was painful! I was reliving every event with this person as I said what I forgave them for. I had mixed emotions of knowing I should forgive but at the same time would tell myself that they didn’t deserve it.
Then I thought, “If I was forgiven by my God, than who am I to not forgive this person who hurt me so much? Plus, who am I to not forgive when I have hurt others who I’ve wanted forgiveness from?”
When I was done stating all the reasons I forgave this person for, I slowly started to calm down. I started to sympathize with that person and understand more of why they hurt me. I wasn’t excusing the person’s behaviors. But I came to understand that this person’s actions were based on the way they grew up. They were based on their past hurts and what they saw.
I know, what we have lived doesn’t excuse our behaviors. It really doesn’t. We have a choice of being the complete opposite of what we lived. But sadly, many people don’t. Many people don’t learn self-control of their emotions and attitudes and that’s when they hurt us, or we hurt others. They make us their victims of their words, their treatment, and their abuse. When we choose to forgive them, we aren’t doing it to excuse their behavior, but we do it to protect our hearts from being destroyed.
We didn’t deserve that treatment, but it happened. But we have to understand that some of these people probably didn’t want to hurt us. Some are living with guilt and shame from how they treated you. Maybe some aren’t. We will never know the true feelings deep in their hearts. But forgiveness is mostly for you.
In my case, I knew this person chose the wrong path. This person didn’t have guidance or a positive example in life as to how to treat people. I had to understand that this person didn’t mean or want to hurt me. This person didn’t have self-control. I could tell this person was filled with guilt and shame. I could tell this person regretted their mistakes.
We need to learn to be the complete opposite of these people who hurt us. Some people have done horrible things to us that definitely don’t seem to deserve forgiveness. But forgiveness in reality will release YOU from all the poison you have felt. All the anger, hate, resentment, hurt, pain will be the poison you get rid of. Therefore, you will start healing your spirit by filling it with love, respect, and joy. You can learn to have self-control over the way you treat people so that you don’t make the same mistakes.
Now, when I was done forgiving, I felt much better. It didn’t remove the memories or events. But it did start bringing healing to my life. And as time passes, I catch myself when I make myself victim and I remind myself I have forgiven and move on. There are many people I keep forgiving and many people who forgive me when I make mistakes.
Once again, forgiving someone doesn’t excuse their behavior or their fault, but it releases you from the jail of hurt and pain that you have lived in. It takes off the chains that are binding you to this person and the hurt they caused. Forgiveness is not just about saying, “I forgive this person.” It is about saying it and truly meaning it! Truly forgiving is about never using that person as an excuse for your attitude ever again! No more being victim.
You might say, “If you only knew what I have to forgive. You haven’t been hurt like me.” Perhaps. Maybe your journey has been tougher than mine. Just maybe. But I have been hurt deep enough with lies, abuse, abandonment, betrayal, loss and more. I have been hurt deep enough that it caused hatred, bitterness, and fear.
But I tell you, we are all capable of forgiving because it is an action we choose to take. It’s not a feeling! I never just felt like forgiving the people who have hurt me. No! I chose to forgive. I didn’t want to. I still have to choose to forgive when I am hurt by someone. My joy will be based on my action to forgive and what I fill my heart with. I don’t want to fill it with resentment and hate. Forgiveness is for ME. I forgive in order to live a joyous life.
When you forgive you are set free from the prison you were living in. A prison of pain, anger, resentment, and bitterness.
By forgiving I gained peace, got rid of bitterness, learned to forgive others, restored relationships, and removed my victim mentality.
I ask you again. Think about it. If you could forgive someone today, who would it be? Can you forgive this person? Are you ready to be set free from the prison of hate and resentment? Do you want to have a life filled with peace and joy? Start today.
You don’t need to see this person to forgive them. Just pretend they are there with you now and start telling them why you forgive them. And if you can actually say it to them physically, through a note, email, or a phone call do so. You might discover that they have wanted forgiveness all along, like I did with the person who hurt me.
May you be set free today!
“Not forgiving is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”