Monday, May 26, 2008

The Art Of Forgiveness

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Matthew 18:21-22

Yesterday I had a conversation (a highly emotionally charged conversation!) with a close friend of mine who is struggling with people who have hurt her deeply in the past, as well as those who continue to hurt her to this day. She was struggling with the concept of forgiveness and doubted her ability and willingness to do it. I completely get where she is coming from.

That conversation really got me thinking. Forgiveness is something I struggle with. Sometimes I just don't want to do it. Flat out don't want to do it. Some things just don't deserve forgiveness, right? How can we forgive someone, let them off the hook and have them think what they did was ok? If I forgive someone, doesn't that lessen my pain?

No.

What I have come to learn is that forgiveness, more often than not, has nothing to do with the person who hurt you. It's about you. It's giving yourself permission to let go and begin to heal. It isn't saying that what that person did was ok. It's simply allowing yourself to move forward.

Ian and I had to learn the art of forgiveness under incredibly difficult circumstances but don't think for a second that it came easily. We have survived a season of heartbreak that few people (I pray) will ever know. We are left with broken pieces to pick up, and forgiveness continues to be a work in progress. I prayed for warm, fuzzy feelings of forgiveness to wash over me. But they never came. I prayed for a forgiving heart. It didn't come. Finally I asked God what He wanted me to do and He softly spoke to my heart and told me to make the choice to forgive, and to trust in Him to bring the healing. So I did it. Even though every fibre of my being was screaming at me not to do it, His voice in my heart was loudest.

Last night I was doing my nightly devotions and it was about forgiveness. The author said that “forgiveness is giving up the right to punish”. That really hit me. It SO isn’t about letting the other person off the hook for what they did, nor is it telling them that you are ok with what they did. It’s giving yourself permission to move forward. There is such relief in putting down the anger and forgiving. Its so exhausting being angry, resentful and bitter.

I have many broken areas of my life that need grace and forgiveness. I have been hurt very deeply, many times. But to be completely truthful, I have hurt others as well. Sometimes more than once by doing the same things.

Another thing I have learned is that people will reap what they sow. We may not be around to see their reaping, but I know it happens. It isn't up to us to exact punishment for what someone else has done to us.

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21.


I know my day will come when I am face to face with my Redeemer and I will have to account for what I have done - both good and bad. Knowing that he took the weight of my sin onto Himself and forgave me, it is impossible for me not to extend that same grace to those who have sinned against me.

My friend is beaten down by years of being hurt. She is done with it. She has tried to fight back with kindness and love but the hurt just keeps on comin'. "Why do I even bother?" she shouted at me yesterday as she cried as though her heart would break. I told her that she "bothers" because God created her to, and He put a beautiful and loving heart inside her to help her. God created her that way. Isn't that just so beautiful?

People are going to be mean. Love them anyway. People are going to hurt you. Make the choice to forgive them and trust in our Heavenly Father to heal and restore us. He will not leave us or fail us. We can count on that.

7 comments:

  1. Everything that you have said is so true. Thank you for sharing your amazing thoughts.

    HUGS

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  2. Anonymous9:56 AM

    You're a pretty phenomenal woman, Katie. Glad I married you.

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  3. Thank you. I hope your words make as much of an impact on others as they did to me.

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  4. Anonymous9:12 PM

    Beautifully put!

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  5. Jennifer Ray7:06 AM

    Kate, I have just come across your blog page by way of your facebook link and I am so glad I did!
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, and your words are so eloquent! What a great treat to wake up to this morning! I am sure glad you are in my life as the dear friend you are!

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  6. Everything that you have said is so true. Thank you for sharing your amazing thoughts.

    HUGS

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jennifer Ray10:58 PM

    Kate, I have just come across your blog page by way of your facebook link and I am so glad I did!
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, and your words are so eloquent! What a great treat to wake up to this morning! I am sure glad you are in my life as the dear friend you are!

    ReplyDelete