Susie Larson’s blog post on forgiveness brought up this topic for me again. We all have to forgive and be forgiven, but sometimes we have huge, ongoing things to forgive, and so many complications are involved. But besides destroying earthly relationships and affecting our own emotional and physical well-being, unforgiveness stands in the way of our relationship with God, and for that reason alone, can't be avoided.
Forgiveness... when I started picking it apart, I realized that I didn't know exactly what it was. I needed to know what it "looked it" in the life of the forgiver. At that point, there was only one thing I knew about forgiveness - simply saying the words "I forgive" didn't accomplish it. Constantly barraging yourself with all the reasons why you should forgive doesn't necessarily accomplish it, either.
So I hit the internet, choosing some of the Christian websites I trust, to see what this thing called forgiveness really was, and how to go about doing it in one's heart. I found a few interesting points, some helpful, some not so helpful.
One site stated that if someone has not asked you to forgive them, you don't owe them forgiveness. This statement was based on the fact that God tells us to confess and repent, and then He will forgive, but that we need to confess and repent first. If the perpetrator isn't sorry, and doesn't want our forgiveness bad enough to ask for it, then we don't owe it to them. That might be fine when you're forgiving for the sake of the one who hurt you, but when it's you carrying around a heavy load because of the situation, it doesn't help much.
What are the actual steps you take to forgive someone? I couldn't find any particular set of steps or suggestions that could get a person from "here" to "there."
What does true forgiveness look like on a daily basis? Forgiving someone who has hurt you in the past is one thing, but forgiving someone whose bad behavior continues is another. Does true forgiveness demand that you continue to give trust to someone who continually abuses it? Does it mean that the hurts of the past aren't supposed to hurt anymore? Do we all just pretend that painful events never happened? What does forgiveness look like on a practical, not theoretical, basis?
I finally found the answer in the grocery store parking lot. The bags of food weren't my only heavy burden that day; this issue was weighing me down as well, and it took a desperate, heartfelt prayer - the first of many - to tell God I have tried, but I can't do this, and how I need Him to show me what's next. Well, He did. As I sat there in my car thinking and praying, with my ice cream melting, I got a different perspective on the whole situation. It took many more prayers to completely come to grips with the situation, but I was able to do it when I quit trying to do it on my own. This heart may be beating in my body, but I can't change it on my own. Thank God I know someone who can.