This was my question as I sat in my quiet time after being convicted of my unforgiving and bitter heart and attitude. This blog is not for the ones who have made it up in their minds that they are not going to forgive the person that hurt them or someone near and dear to them, but this is for the one who really wants to let these negative emotions go because you have realized it has not only drained the life out of you, but it effects every area of your life and relationships. It has done exactly what the Bible says it will do…”Defile many” (Hebrews 12:15). You really want to let this go and forgive but not feeling able to release. Your grip has been tight on that situation or offense so long that it seems you need pliers to take your hands and heart off of it. You may be like me and you want to forgive but every time you think about that person, the memories replay over and over. THAT conversation. THAT comment. THAT offense. THAT argument. THAT betrayal. THAT thing. You want to forgive, but the person isn’t even sorry or is playing the victim in a situation they created. You may want to forgive but they keep doing THAT thing over and over again. Keep reading, because this blog is for YOU! So many people talk about forgiving that person, but you don’t know how to forgive that person. Here are 6 things that helped me through the process of forgiving.
- Confess your unforgiveness as sin. Yep…unforgiveness and it’s baby bitterness is not only a sin but it is a very costly sin because if we do not forgive He will not forgive us. (Matthew 6:15). You may have already done this. You may have went to your quiet time with this time and time again truly trying to forgive. If that is you then #2 may be for you.
- Deal with the hurt and the wound and allow God to heal it. (Psalm 147:3) If you have prayed many times to forgive this person yet you still struggle with forgiving them then you may have actually forgiven the person but still haven’t dealt with the hurt of the situation. You are human and us humans feel, hurt, and cry. So it is okay to say THAT thing hurt you, it is okay to cry over that loss, it is okay to cry because of how you felt when they violated you, it is okay to cry because of that rejection, and it is okay to cry because your feelings were hurt. It is OKAY Forgiveness and healing are two different things but forgiveness is needed as a preliminary for the healing to begin. Just because it still hurts doesn’t mean it is not healing. I just came out of a season where I knew I was healing but at times it still hurt just as it did the moment it happened. I felt I was not progressing but like rubbing alcohol or peroxide on that cut, just because it stings doesn’t mean it is not healing. Sometimes the healing process HURTS! So if you have been crying out to God to forgive, start crying out to God to heal your heart and the wound that caused it until it doesn’t hurt anymore.
- Understand God is the only righteous judge & Vengeance belongs to Him . (Romans 12:19) Sometimes our unforgiveness comes from pride because we feel like we are great judges based on what that person has done or the magnitude of our hurt. We all are going to be judged one day so we have to make sure WE are right before God with our own heart. I recently was talking to someone about their step father who she obviously still hated. Her stepfather used to beat her mother and other things that she didn’t go into detail about. As she continued to talk about this man I saw the anger, hurt, and calm but obvious rage in her eyes and I also heard it in her voice as she said, “I know that man isn’t in heaven.” I was shocked because her stepfather had been dead for almost 15 years and I had no idea she hated this man so much. She would never ever receive a sorry, nor is there any chance of reconciliation with her stepfather. Her hurt was validated because he did a hurtful evil towards her and her mother but her harboring 60 year old unforgiveness which turned into obvious bitterness was not. Her judging whether or not he is in heaven or hell was not either. What if he was in heaven? What if he turned to God with a broken spirit and now he is in heaven? There are some people in heaven right now that in their lives on earth had committed some of the most gross and hurtful actions but because they repented and changed, they are rejoicing right now. What if I get stuck in a situation that happened decades ago and now I am full of rage, unrepentant, and hateful towards them… what would God say about me? Leave vengeance to God and pray for peace.
- Trust that all things work together for your good, even that evil thing done against you. (Romans 8:28) This is hard to believe when you are going through it, because if you are like me you feel like it is working for your bad. You are hurt, frustrated, broken, and more. When you are going through it, hearing that promise in the Word is one of the hardest things to believe along with He will never forsake you. I recently read a story about a man named Walter Everett who forgave the man who killed his 24 year old son years prior. He talked about how he struggled with anger and all the emotions that came from that tragedy and the crippling effect it had on him and his marriage. As he went through the emotions of anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness he knew that he needed to let it go eventually in order to heal. I cringed as I read it and seemed to feel so many emotions as I put myself in his shoes as he walked in the courtroom and heard the killer ask for his forgiveness for killing his son. My heart filled with grief and anger and it wasn’t even my son! But in the end after a process, he chose forgiveness. Now him and the man who killed his son now speaks across the country TOGETHER. I am sure his heart was hurting but he forgave something that some people are still holding onto 25+ years later eating them up inside and the hate is still festering. After he gave the hurt over to God and asked God to help him, even that thing that brought him so much grief worked for his good.
- Pray for the person. The bible has a lot to say about how we are to treat our enemies and it is completely opposite of how we want to treat our enemies. We are instructed to pray for those who persecute us and do good to those who spitefully use us. Although it is hard to pray for a person that does wrong towards you, I have noticed that when I obey and pray for that person who hurt me I became more soft towards them, empathetic, and was less on the edge. But when I refused to pray for them; I was bitter, short, and angry at them. Yes set boundaries if you must if they are toxic to your life and well being (intimacy, relationship, and reconciliation is not the same as forgiveness) but forgiving and praying for them even when it hurts produces an inner peace on our end. I think when I realized that my enemy is not a human being, but a spiritual being I was able to look past what they were doing and pray that they be set free of whatever influences them to hurt others.
- Pray for yourself! – pray that God would continue to heal your heart, memory, and soul. Pray that He will give you strength to endure this process of forgiveness, and pray that you will be able to use this past hurt to strengthen another person. Think of all the people you can be helping with your story. Understand that you were justified in your hurt, but you are never justified in your bitter and unforgiving heart so pray until He heals the hurt and your heart. You may not feel it the first time but after a while you will look back and realize that you are healed from that trauma, hurt, or gross wrong done to you back then. Pray that in place of the hate, He will give you love. In place of the turmoil in your mind He will give you peace. Pray that He will free you from the poison and prison of unforgiveness so that you can LIVE.
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