I recently read about a woman whose young daughter had been murdered. The killer was caught and during his time in jail, the mother visited with him. She got to know him. She took him in as his own. When he got out of prison, he moved into the house next to her and they live now with a mother/son relationship. She forgave him. That's the most important thing about this story: her forgiveness. I cannot even begin to fathom forgiving someone who took my child away, let alone loving them and living in relationship with them.
Sometimes, when I tell people my own story, I get asked how I can be so forgiving (and believe me. What I consider "my story" isn't nearly as tragic as some of the stories that make up friends' lives). Now, don't get me wrong -(and for once, I'm not trying to toot my own horn here.)-I think we all know the Mere Mere knows how to hold a grudge. I don't have a problem cutting people out of my life. If you have hurt me enough, I will cut you out. I believe the people we choose to surround ourselves with should bring us up. While they should hold us accountable, they should not bring us down. And when I feel as though someone is bringing me down, and doesn't want what is really best for me, then I cut them out of my life. That doesn't mean I want bad things to happen to that person. That doesn't mean I don't forgive them for hurting me. Cutting someone out of your life does not mean forgiveness hasn't taken place. I will be the first to admit that when someone hurts me, my first thought is what I can do to really show them, to really get them back for what they did to me. I want to hurt them one million fold. I would be lying if I didn't sometimes look at someone who has hurt me, scrutinize their life, and then say "welp. they made their bed. and I don't want them to just lie in it. I want them to freaking wallow in it."
But, I've always said that forgiveness wasn't between me and the person who wronged me but rather between me and the big man upstairs.
I've also always said forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting. We are human and we don't forget things. And if you tell me you can forget the greatest hurts of your life, then I say you're a fraud.
I had an ex boyfriend who really hurt me. He opened up a lot of old wounds and really just brought me back to a negative place. When I finally got to the point where I had had enough, I cut him out of my life. We had talked at length about forgiveness and how he couldn't forgive some of the people in his own life who had hurt him so whether or not he was going to forgive me wasn't something I was even concerned about, especially since I already knew the answer. When I cut him out of my life, he sent me an email filled with links to internet articles about forgiveness and the detriment it can cause to your health if you go through life being unforgiving. I just responded that forgiving doesn't mean forgetting, and it doesn't mean excusing. Somewhere along the way, we got to a place where forgiveness went from being something we are called to do as Christians to being something that the world expects of us.
When did forgiveness become synonymous with excusing? And when did forgiveness become expected?
I don't think people can change. I struggle with that often in my life as I am reunited with people who have hurt me, and whom I have hurt, somewhere along the way. But, if I am not holding up my end of the deal and offering them grace and forgiveness, then why should anyone else offer me grace and forgiveness when I continue to mess up? Steven Furtick wrote in one of my favorite devotionals of all time that "refusing to forgive someone until they ask for it is like refusing to breathe to prove a point." This makes TOTAL sense. Why would you just not forgive someone? To prove a point to them? To prove a point to someone who already doesn't care about you enough to not hurt you greatly? I may be going out on a limb here but I just really feel like the person who hurt you to the extent that choosing to forgive them is even a question probably isn't going to care whether or not you forgive them.
Which is exactly why forgiveness is between me and the man upstairs. My forgiveness is how I respond to my faith. If I really and truly believe that Jesus died on that cross for me, and that I am already forgiven for the things I have done and have yet to do, then why would the same not be the person who hurt me? Jesus died for them in the exact same way He died for me. And the truth of the matter is, not forgiving someone really does have harmful health side affects. So, if I don't forgive, then I'm not responding to my faith and I'm also harming my health. I eat enough McDoubles to know that I don't need to add any extra health harmies. Forgiveness is like a freebie health check. And it's one I like to take advantage of.
I'm not saying you should run around and hurt me, or anyone else, on purpose. But I am saying that when it comes to forgiveness and matters of the heart, we have a choice. We can either really show someone and give them what we think they deserve. Or we can step up to the plate and show them grace and give them what has already been given to us.