“I will never forgive her for what she did to me!”
“I’ll forgive him but I’m never going to forget how much he hurt me . . . and I’ll never let him forget it either!”
“She destroyed my life! How can you ask me to forgive her?”
We’ve all heard statements like these before, maybe even uttered them ourselves, but the truth of the matter is that God commands us to forgive others. It isn’t an option. In fact, it is a prerequisite to receiving His forgiveness ourselves.
Matt. 6:14-15 If you forgive people when they sin against you, then your Father will forgive you when you sin against Him and when you sin against your neighbor. But if you do not forgive your neighbor’s sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (The Voice)
Welcome to FREEDOM FRIDAY – A devotional, emotional, spiritual and sometimes hysterical series that I will be sharing on occasional Fridays, in addition to my regular Old Things New posts. Why? Because though once bound in chains Christ has set me free – FREE to live, to love, to dance, to sing, to be who God created me to be!
How do you write a short post about forgiveness? It is so complicated when there are levels of wounding in our lives. It is much easier to forgive my husband for forgetting to pick up my bar of Ghirardelli Sea Salt Soiree at the grocery store than it is to forgive someone who caused great emotional damage in my life.
This post is longer than usual and I won’t apologize for that because I really want you to get this! I see too many Christ followers living in bondage to unforgiveness and my deep desire is to see all set free to live life to the fullest! This message of hope and healing is pulled from the best of what I’ve learned through Freedom Session, my own studies on forgiveness, and from sitting under great Pastors!
So grab a beverage, get comfy, and let’s get started.
In the blog post entitled When You’re Not Enough, I talked about some of the steps I’ve taken to overcoming feelings of great inadequacy in my own life. One of the most dramatic breakthroughs I’ve had was my experience of self-forgiveness, which I shared in Forgiving Yourself. Today I want to talk about Forgiving Others.
Forgiveness is really the KEY to freedom. That’s why it is so important that we forgive those who’ve harmed us and that’s why God commands us to do so. When we refuse to forgive, we allow our enemy the devil to have a foothold in our lives (Foothold: a secure position from which further progress may be made). When we choose to forgive, Satan’s power is broken and we open the door for God to work fully in our lives.
So let’s talk about keys. We all know that a key is used to open locks. Living our lives with unforgiveness toward others causes us to be imprisoned behind a locked door. A prison filled with bitterness, anger, and resentment.
Believe me, I’m speaking from personal experience here. When I lived in my own prison of unforgiveness, each time a hurtful memory arose I’d rehash it, reliving the pain. The pain became anger which I felt quite justified in having. Sometimes I’d even bring my husband into the rehashing of the memory and get him to agree with me about how horribly I’d been treated. My poor hubby heard over and over about those who had wounded me, and since some of the same people had wounded him too, we gave some serious time to reliving our tales of woe. Yuck! To be honest, it felt good for awhile, with the release of pent up emotion, but the feelings resurfaced again and again until I chose forgiveness.
Here’s the TRUTH:
Now you may question why I would call unforgiveness a jail of your own making when the actions of another person are what caused the pain you feel. While it’s true that the pain was caused by someone else, continuing to live in the pain through unforgiveness is a choice. You hold the key of forgiveness in your hand and you make the choice to use or not to use that key.
When we live in a prison of unforgiveness we live with the ongoing personal effects of being hurt. Those hurts may cause us to feel like we aren’t enough or that we are unworthy. We may feel great rage at others, or even at ourselves for allowing ourselves to be hurt by another. I may feel that nothing good ever comes to me and that God cares about what happens to other people but He must not care about me.
It is a miserable and toxic environment that keeps our emotions in turmoil, often leading to mental disease, physical ailments, even death. In order to survive the pain we may try to mask it through drugs and alcohol, cutting, pornography, or more acceptable behaviors such as perfectionism, achievement, workaholism, or being a super worker at church!
The sad thing is, the person who hurt you may not even know that they hurt you, may not remember that they hurt you, or they may not remember YOU at all! But here you are, living with the consequences of their sin. My husband, master of witty phrases, says that, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
On the other hand:
So how do we forgive? Pastor Ken Dyck, writer and founder of Freedom Session International states that, “True forgiveness is always motivated by compassion.” Matthew 18:21-35 tells the story of the unmerciful servant who was forgiven by his master but refused to forgive one who owed him a debt. Verse 35 sums up the story by saying that forgiveness must come from the very depths of our hearts!
How do we feel compassion for those who’ve hurt us? That kind of compassion can only come from God and from having come to a place of realizing how much my own sin cost Father God and His son Jesus. Hopefully you’ve come to a place of agreeing with God that you are a sinner and you’ve accepted Him as your Savior, but have you ever experienced deep sorrow over the pain your actions caused Him? I’m not saying you need to go back into an attitude of shame and condemnation (I talked about how wrong that is in my last FF post). What I’m saying here is that coming to a heartfelt understanding of how great His mercy was to save you will help you to have a heart for forgiving others.
Things to think about regarding forgiveness:
- We must come into agreement with God that UNforgiveness is WRONG.
- Understand that forgiveness is required even if the person who harmed you is not sorry.
- Know that forgiveness is a choice – because you won’t feel like doing it.
- Understand that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. God has the ability to forget but we don’t. Pastor Ken Dyck states that, “Sadness, not bitterness, is the appropriate emotion to recall, in my memory, of the painful things that have happened to me.”
- Complete forgiveness includes releasing our “judgments” against others. Ex. “I’ve forgiven Sally but she will always be a liar.” This is in effect holding Sally captive by our judgment about who she is rather than seeing her as God does.
- Stop having negative expectations of others or expecting them to do wrong.
- Forgive even if the person who wronged you hasn’t asked for forgiveness. Christ’s example to those who crucified him was to say, “Father forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
- Don’t carry expectations that the person you’ve forgiven will come to you and make things right.
- Stop the “instant replay” of the incident, or the sin against you. Pastor Roy Geesey of Outreach Church says, “You can spend your whole life dwelling on what’s been done to you or choose to dwell on the ONE thing that was done for you.”. So take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ – II Cor. 10:5, and choose to dwell on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy – Phil. 4:8
- Determine in your heart that Christ in you is stronger than your memory.
- Ask God to give you His view of the people who harmed you, to see them the way He sees them. It is likely that their sin against you is a result of their own brokenness.
- Ask God to work in your heart, releasing the pain you’ve held onto and letting Him fill you with more of Him. “The deeper you’ve been wounded the more freedom you will experience when you begin to forgive.” (Pastor Ken Dyck)
- It takes time, but His love will replace bitterness and pain and His Spirit will change your way of thinking. As the memories and the feelings arise again to haunt you, remember that it is the enemies goal to keep you and me in a prison of unforgiveness. By choosing forgiveness we choose freedom!
- “Yeah . . . but . . .” Yeah but nothing! We need to stop trying to justify our perceived right to be offended. Jesus didn’t give us that right. It only keeps us in a place of fear, bitterness and pain and from living in the the fullness of God!
- As we walk in intimacy with Jesus, taking on Christ’s nature, forgiveness becomes easier, especially in light of all He has done for you and ME!
*PRAYER OF FORGIVENESS:
Lord, I forgive…_____________(name the person)
for…______________________(describe the offense)
which made me feel…______________(verbalize painful feelings)
- name and describe everything the person did to you that hurt you. Tell God how much it hurt and what you were longing for…
- Pray the exact same prayer for each offense you feel that person committed against you.
Then, continue with a prayer such as…
But now, I choose to forgive_______________and release him/her into Your care/accountability. I choose to bear the consequences of their sin against me without bitterness, knowing that You already paid for it on the cross.
Please forgive me for how I’ve sought to protect my heart from being hurt again. I acknowledge that You alone are the protector of my heart & I choose to trust You.
Fill this area in my life with Your Holy Spirit and heal this wound.
Thank You for freeing me from the poison of bitterness.
I relinquish my perceived right to seek revenge or blame this person for any dysfunction or present pain in life as I take responsibility for my own life choices. They owe me nothing! I ask You to heal my damaged emotions from this memory.
I now ask You to bless this person and to pour Your love into my heart for this person & I commit myself to follow You in any steps of reconciliation You ask me to take.
Note: Stay with each person until all the offenses have been dealt with. Stay with that person until you’ve released all your anger and bitterness. You may need to forgive one person for many events.
Offer a prayer of praise to God for the freedom you will experience and practice forgiveness as a lifestyle to maintain your freedom.
*Taken from Freedom Session – 6 Steps from Darkness to Light, p.148, © 2013 Freedom Session Resources, Vancouver Canada. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Question: Was God’s name on your list of those to forgive?
Hmmm . . . maybe that’s another post, for another day.
FINAL NOTE: I haven’t discussed those who may still be “dangerous” to you or those who are toxic in your life. That is a whole different topic. Joyce Meyer shares in her testimony how she forgave her father for repeated sexual abuse that happened while she was a child. She even invited him into her home to live when he became ill. THAT is amazing, and THAT is what ultimate forgiveness looks like! It takes much growth in forgiveness to do something like that, but what an amazing testimony she has to share of the power of God to heal and set us free when we choose to forgive.
Dear readers, if you are living in unforgiveness, please consider how you’re harming yourselves! As I write these Freedom Friday posts I always ask God to pour His heart into the words I say. He is faithful and He always does. So if you’re questioning whether or not God cares about you, you can believe that these words, written from my heart, are also from God’s heart to yours.
All photos were taken in Alaska by the incredibly talented Mr. Old Things New.
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