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  • Writer's pictureSarahHauer

Thoughts on Forgiveness



Forgiveness is the most under-utilized tool in the human heart. It can come with conditions, it can come with resentment, it can come with the agony of a shattered soul. Or, it can come with compassion, it can come with wholeheartedness, it can come with all the love of God Himself. But it can’t come on its own.


What is forgiveness? So many people think they have it figured out. We start out learning about it from our parents.


“Jenny, give your brother back his toy. Now, say you’re sorry for taking it. Michael, tell your sister you forgive her. Jenny, tell him you forgive him. Okay. It’s all over now.” And us parents go away believing we have done our jobs well.


Have we? Have we done our jobs well? Is it all over? Is everything better? Looking at the world, I would have to say no.


I hate the concept of forgive and forget. It is a lie. It is the basis by which many a victim of abuse has been forced to live with ongoing abuse with no protections. The person who forced the forgive and forget concept ends up in more need of forgiveness than the abuser and rarely gets it. It is a recipe for relational disaster. No one can be entirely forgiven without a change in attitude and behavior; until the person who has done the wrong is truly sorry. In the childhood scenario, how often does that happen?


Forget what happened? Then what did you learn? Nothing. Since when is naivete a virtue?


What about forgiving without the necessary apology? Is it necessary? Yes. But I just said a person cannot be entirely forgiven without a change in attitude and behavior? Yes. However, sometimes that change in attitude and behavior has to come from the victim and not the perpetrator.


This is not a victim attack. Not at all. This is a victim empowerment to not be a victim anymore. This is when forgiveness is for the hurt party, not the perpetrator of the hurt. This is when forgiveness comes with the added gift of grace. If anyone has ever forgiven you for a hurt you caused that you refuse to acknowledge or take responsibility for, you have been given the gift of grace few people are capable of giving. That kind of forgiveness requires a level of acceptance of a hurt they know may never be repaired otherwise. This is that person’s chance at emotional survival. I know. I’ve been there. More than once.


That type of forgiveness is painful. It’s soul-searching. It’s digging deep into childhood traumas no one wants to revisit ever. People who forgive like that know pain. People who forgive like that know spirituality. They know what it takes to look at an internal destruction and say, “I am better than this moment,” and they take steps to put things back together on their own if need be.


Those kind of people understand God loves the sinner as much as the saint. At the same time, they understand neither party is a saint. They get it. We all f*&$ up sometimes. All of us. All of us have a limit of what we can handle. Sometimes our mistakes are so bad, we are rendered incapable of making proper amends. At least for the time being. Maybe at a later date.


In the meantime, emotional survival must be reached. To do that, forgiveness must be offered accepted or not.


So, how do we teach our children? They aren’t capable of these deep conversations. As hard as we try to protect them, they still experience traumas that will affect how they process forgiveness given and accepted.


We look to ourselves. What are we doing? Are we forgiving? Are we harboring resentments? Are we saying one thing and doing another? We teach through example, through conversation, through daring to open ourselves up to the possibility of more hurt from rejection. And we teach them that this too shall pass no matter how painful it is. It passes away when we release it from our damaged souls.


What does it feel like to truly forgive when someone has deeply hurt you? It feels like ripping your heart out, handing it to the person who damaged it, and saying, “Here. This is for you. I am giving you all that I am in this moment so you can know that I still care about you.” That is trust not in that person but in a god that won't let the seed planted in that moment die by drought. He will water it.


Sometimes, the heart heals immediately. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes, it comes back in worse shape. But, over time, it always comes back better than it was. Because things change. Feelings change. Circumstances change. Relationships change. Time gives the opportunity for change.


Full healing cannot happen without forgiveness. Here is the good news. You can heal without the other person accepting your forgiveness. Should they refuse it, God will accept it on their behalf. It is never wasted.


I thank Lysa Terkeurst, Forgiving What You Can’t Forget; Brene Brown, Rising Strong; and God, The Bible for teaching me what I have learned so far on forgiveness. I couldn’t have gotten here without you.


Thanks for reading,


Sarah

Humor In Chaos


 

Follow me on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @ Humor in Chaos

 

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