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I have a friend named Courtney. Some of you know her. And those of you who know her well know that her relationship with her other has been tumultuous to say the least. She’s openly shared some of their trials and at times I’ve cringed at some of the things that have transpired between the two of them, yet here she is once again nurturing her mother through another bout with cancer and doing it like an angel! I tell her all the time she is the epitome of forgiveness. So here’s what I have learned about forgiveness from watching her:
- Forgiveness is a decision. You have to make a choice to forgive. And when I say “choice” this is not to be misconstrued with the “snap decision” of saying you forgive someone just so you don’t have to face the wounds.
- Forgiveness is not a Band-Aid choice. It’s a stitches choices complete with mending, medicating (not drugs and alcohol, my dear non-coping friends), healing time, and scars. This choice doesn’t say “I disregard what you have done” but instead says, “I am letting go of my right to punish you for what you have done.”
- Forgiveness is intentional. This means you are deliberately choosing to listen to the voice that tells you to “repair” instead of the one that says “rip them apart.”
- Forgiveness is not doling out your own justice. The reality is, when we try to exact justice, we usually make the situation worse and extend the pain for ourselves and all parties involved. We start a ripple effect of heartache.
- Forgiveness is a sacrifice. You will sacrifice payback (which momentarily feels so good…until it doesn’t). You will sacrifice the comfort of concealing your pain. You give up avoiding your emotions. You relinquish your walls so that you can do some real work. You forego your anger to get down to the real reason you are wounded. You have to give up all the #pettyBetty ways that help you hide your true feelings. And sometimes the sacrifice is the relationship that is bringing you these constant betrayals. From time to time, you have to give up that person so that you can move forward. That does not mean you stop loving, praying for, and being genuinely concerned about the other party; it simply means you love them from a distance.
- Sometimes you need wise council to help you on the road to forgiveness. You forfeit gossiping about it with your superficial, bitter friends and instead turn to a person who can offer guidance in the most righteous way.
- Forgiveness means trusting that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). This is also a tough one because we all have more trust issues than Drake. Let’s just be honest. We don’t trust ourselves. We don’t trust our peers. We don’t trust God. And now you have to trust that this embarrassment, this hurt, this betrayal, this crappy situation is going to work out for your good?! You do. You have to believe that. And it’s not easy. We don’t like to be made to look like idiots. But when people say, “Oh, you just gonna take that?” Yes. All things are working together for my good. “You gonna let them just get away with that?” Yes. All things are working together for my good. “You gonna forgive someone who didn’t even apologize for what they did?” Yes. All things are working together for my good.
- Not forgiving is bad for your health! Yes! It’s true. Many people who are carrying around the hurt and bitterness overeat, drink way too much, and utilize other non-healthy ways to dampen the pain. All these bad habits lead to obesity, heart conditions, hypertension, stress, anxiety, and other ailments. In other words, if you let your spirit dwell in the dark, your body will look like it!
- Forgiveness is for you more than the forgivee. It’s your soul’s way of saying, ”I am worthy of being healed and being whole.” You still have to hold people accountable for their actions, but you don’t have to hold it over their heads. That hurts you. Your arms are the ones that will tire of carrying that weight.
- Lastly, forgiveness is a process. It does not happen overnight. Sometimes it’ll be easy. Other times the memories will be as fresh as the day it happened and you’ll want to go fifty shades of Cray on someone. It’s a process. Does it mean that you let bad things keep occurring to you while you wait or you just forget? It’s not forgetting. It’s transferring. It’s a conscious effort to transition from a focus on that person’s actions to a focus on your own attitude towards their actions. At the end of the day, the only mind you can change is your own. –Sean Johnson