When I came back into the fold of Christianity after being away for a while I started reading the Bible. I have to admit I could relate to Peter on many things. When Peter asked the Lord about forgiveness (cf. Matthew 18:21-22) the Lord’s answer stopped me in my tracks. I was still at the “eye for an eye” thinking and wasn’t quite sure if I was ready to make such a commitment to his ways.

Once I decided to go all-in I thought perhaps he needed to hear me out on this forgiveness thing. I felt a need that I would have to reiterate the wrongs done to me, just in case he hadn’t heard me correctly. I would even go so far as to set the scene like an act in a play with me playing the part of Poor Pitiful Pearl. He listened and promptly closed down my play to give me more time to read and learn the lines.  I guess he wanted to make sure I heard him correctly!

A Hard Pill to Swallow

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it.
Mark Twain

Forgiveness can, at times, be a hard pill to swallow especially if you are the one who needs to do the forgiving.

Has forgiving someone been difficult for you? I really try to live a good and honest life, to be fair and kind to others. Then when I least expect it, someone either does something to me to make my nostrils flare or an incident is brought up from long ago by someone who wants to stir the pot. Sound familiar? Do you turn the other cheek or in your best Southern accent say, “Well, bless your heart!” I wish I could say I just let it slide off my back, but, I am still at a work in progress stage. Something starts to rise in me that I thought was well buried or that I had gotten over.

Practical Steps

Through trial and error, I have learned forgiving isn’t forgetting, it’s being able to move on without anger or to be shackled to the wrong done to you. So how do I deal with this? I am someone who believes that God has given us all kinds of emotions, some are healthy and some not so. So, I once again believe he must be okay with me expressing the occasional unhealthy emotions (just go with me on this one!). When the unhealthy emotions surface, I allow myself a minimum amount of time to express them, within my confines and away from others. I call this allowing these feelings to just “visit.” No setting up permanent residence. When I have decided it is time to show the unhealthy visitor to the door I do just that. I say, aloud, “It’s time for you to leave, now, get out!” I actually open my back door. This may sound a little strange for some, but I am a very visual person and it works for me. It helps clear the head.

Another way that helps me with dealing with the unhealthy emotions is to call on the Lord. I let him know I really need a one-on-one talk.

Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer.
Psalm 19:15 (NAB)

He is the best one to calm me down and to remind me how far I have come from the old me. I also keep my Bible and spiritual books nearby to not feed the anger which could lead to not feeling very forgiving.  Is it easy? No! At least not for me. I do have to remind myself that God has a plan for me and it does not involve my ugly attitude.

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NAB)

Another way is that I remember the many, and I mean many, times the Lord has had to forgive me. Thinking of those times I take a humble pill. It is getting easier as I remind myself I am not perfect and neither are those with whom I come into contact. I have learned many people act the way they do perhaps because someone has done something to them. They haven’t learned how to sift through what they have gone through. Everyone usually has a background to their story.

Forgiving Ourselves

I have spoken to many people who have had trouble forgiving themselves. Something has happened in their past life that has made them feel shame or beaten down. They want to move forward, but they do not feel they are worthy of being forgiven or an old friend reminds them of who they were to just fuel the fire.

I think if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than him.
C.S. Lewis

It may be difficult but those are the times you may have to separate yourself from anyone who wants to tear down and not build up. I had to do this with some who were close to me. This doesn’t mean you must stay away forever, but at least until you are strong enough to say, “That’s not who I am now, I choose to not go back there.”

Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they may be crimson red, they may become white as wool.
Isaiah 1:18 (NAB)

The Isaiah verse helped me tremendously. With the Lord’s help, I could shed layers of guilt, hurts, and shame that I had piled on myself. He let me see the woman he had created me to be.

Questions for Reflection

Now let’s give some thought to some questions.

1) Am I holding onto unforgiveness to punish someone?
Speaking from experience, people are usually unaware you are still holding onto the unforgiveness and they are going about their business. The “I’ll show them” attitude is being wasted. What it is doing is putting the burden strictly on your shoulders. Once again, from experience, that’s a heavy weight to carry around.

2) Do I need to get real and face the truth about why I am not letting go of the unhealthy emotions that comes with unforgiveness?
No matter how many ways we try to justify it, it comes down to what Jesus said to Peter, “No,” Jesus replied, “not seven times; I say seventy times seven times.” Yep, I wasn’t crazy about that either!

3) Do I really want to be set free to live the best life that God wants for me?
If you answer “yes” to that question why not sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with the Lord. It’s okay to just let loose about how you are feeling. You can scream, throw a tantrum, and even cry your heart out. He can take it.

4) Am I allowing the unforgiveness to grow like a cancer that it is making me sick emotionally, spiritually, and even physically?
Holding onto unforgiveness eventually makes one bitter. And that is not what you want growing inside you. Just like cancer it needs to be cut out. By doing nothing you keep yourself from stepping onto the path the Lord has for you.

Those are the same questions I had to ask myself. I decided I wanted what he wanted for me. It has been hard work, I won’t lie to you, but knowing he is with me every step of the way being my motivator urges me on.

Peace is My Gift to You

I am still a work in progress, but I can change gears quicker than before to place myself back into my peaceful zone, look at the situation, and at times find myself a little more forgiving.

Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you; I do not give it to you as the world gives peace. Do not be distressed or fearful.
John 14:27 (NAB)

I find these words from the Lord so comforting. Knowing how much he loves me I can show and tell others how he picked me up, dusted me off, and set me on the road he wants me to follow. He will do the same for you. He will show you the way that leads to his Light and that you, too, have within your grasp his peace and happiness.