I've read all these different viewpoints of what forgiveness is and how to do it, and more importantly, why we should do it. The main points standing out to me right at this moment are:
- If we don't forgive, we eventually become bitter. I feel like I can't let go of that bitterness until my offender knows what they did wrong to me and apologizes, or even has to "pay" for it. But guess what? In most cases, our offenders don't give a damn. Or don't know, and if they did know, still wouldn't give a damn. So, who really is that bitterness hurting? That's right. Me. The one holding onto the bitterness.
- Bitterness causes many bad things to happen, not just to me but to those around me. As a result of my bitterness, I have become untrustful (that's also partly because people I trusted backstabbed me, and also because I felt like God didn't have my back either). I have also become negative, withdrawn, depressed more than usual, provoked to anger more easily, unloving toward my husband who I felt also didn't have my back. I have stopped enjoying church, and don't go if I don't have to. My kids no longer memorize scripture and we no longer resemble a Christian household for most purposes. We don't really talk about Christ and we don't pray like we used to. And I've been in situations where I've had to lie about my feelings, or else tell them truths that may turn them away from what I want them so badly to believe better than I do. We have all suffered from my hurt and from my unforgiveness. I don't trust other Christians. I also no longer take communion. All because I'm bitter at God and some of His people that hurt me deeper than I've ever been hurt before. And they don't even know or care. So I circle back to...who is this bitterness hurting, me or my offenders?
- Unforgiveness is a sin. We are commanded to forgive and to trust God to see to the justice part of our lives. Hard to do when I don't trust God. Hard to care about my sin when I don't see the people who hurt me paying for THEIR sin. Hard to do when I feel hatred toward those people (oh, and isn't that actually akin to murder?) Arrgh. This is where we circle back to...do I love Jesus? (Yes.) Do I want to let go of all this? (Sorta. Mostly. Okay, YES!) Do I want to have fellowship with God again? (Yes. But not the God I thought I knew. I want the real God. The one who preaches more Love than Judgement, more Grace than Law, more Forgiveness than Unforg...wait, what?? Oh....) Yes, that's right. I want what I won't give. Hmm...thinking on that one.
My final question, posed to you handful that actually read my musings, is this. For years, I have felt that my forgiveness can only truly be worked through if I let the other person know. In some cases, it's because I too feel like perhaps I should apologize for a few things as well as let the person know I was hurt. But in others, it's because the justice seeker in me feels that it is so unfair that some people go through life without knowing that they have offended another person. I think I know the answer to this one, but what say you, oh unbiased jury? Let them know or not?
I leave with this quote, as I go to ponder on my findings and make big decisions.
"We attach our feelings to the moment when we were hurt, endowing it with immortality. And we let it assault us every time it comes to mind. It travels with us, sleeps with us, hovers over us while we make love, and broods over us while we die. Our hate does not even have the decency to die when those we hate die--for it is a parasite sucking OUR blood, not theirs. There is only one remedy for it. [forgiveness]
"All the years you have waited for them to "make it up to you" and all the energy you expended trying to make them change (or make them pay) kept the old wounds from healing and gave pain from the past free rein to shape and even damage your life. And still they may not have changed. Nothing you have done has made them change. Indeed, they may never change. Inner peace is found by changing yourself, not the people who hurt you. And you change yourself for yourself, for the joy, serenity, peace of mind, understanding, compassion, laughter, and bright future that you get."
Lewis B. Smedes - The Art of Forgiving: When You Need To Forgive And Don't Know How