One of the hardest things we ever have to face is forgiveness.
Depending on what has happened, forgiving the person who has wronged us can be virtually impossible.
We are also faced at times with forgiving ourselves or seeking forgiveness from someone we have wronged.
What I experienced when faced with this dilemma as a young adult, forgiving the people was near impossible. Not because it was one person one time, but because it involved numerous people having betrayed me or abused me in numerous ways over a long period of time.
How do you possibly forgive someone, or people, who have done something to you which is horrendous?
Well, the answer is not an easy one. Sometimes, you may not actually ever forgive them.
I’ll share just one of my experiences with you:
When I was sixteen years old, I met a man who seemed dreamy to me. He had the lightest blue eyes I had ever seen! He was tall, skinny, hair shaved off, and came across as kind, funny, and confident. We were together for four years.
In the beginning, I didn’t notice how he treated me. I guess, it was no where near as bad as I had been copping from school bullies since I was eight. Others could see it and told me on a number of occasions, however, I told myself I knew him better than they did and so ignored them. We also were on again off again for the entire four years we were a couple.
However, slowly, I started to notice for myself. He was controlling, told me who I could hang around, where I could go, how long I could stay out for, what I could wear, how I had my hair styled, who I hung out with including family members, he controlled my bank account, denied me access to my bank account, spent my money, kept me isolated, ridiculed me, called me names, mocked my efforts, forbade me to get my licence, verbally abused me – went off his nut if I needed something which cost money and called me names such as bitch and slut, emotionally abused me – told me no one else would want me as well as threaten to leave me, told me he would kill me in my sleep, he strangled me, he tried to rape me, he put a pillow over my head many times, and eventually, he tried to kill me for real.
Finally, after he nearly robbed me of my life, I left him for good.
Then he went on to stalk me. I even had nightmares he would burn my house down while I was sleeping!
Hate is too mild a word to describe how I felt about him.
For years, I could not forgive this man. I hated him for so many reasons. I hated him for adding to the damage my cousin had already forced upon me. I hated him for undoing the healing progress I had made prior to meeting him. I hated him for compounding my issues. I hated him for stealing my money. I hated him for keeping me petrified of him. I hated him for the abuse he continuously dished out on me. I hated him for trying to separate me from my family. That’s not an exhausted list (before this man, my cousin sexually assaulted me when I was eight).
I continued hating him for fourteen years. Every time I thought about him and what he had done to me, I would imagine myself jumping and spitting on his grave in front of his family and friends if he died, or bashing the crap out of him until he could no longer move. I just hated him so much I could never imagine ever not feeling that intensely towards him. The hatred I harbored for him was greater than that which I harbored for my cousin.
I firmly believe the Bible (as a Christian) when it warns us that God says if we cannot forgive others, He will not forgive us. This is because what we have done against God is worse than anything anyone on Earth could ever do to us. Now that’s a big deal! Jesus died in our place in a most torturous way, standing before God wearing our sin as a cloak, God turning from Him because He couldn’t look upon sin, and went to Hell because of, and for us. And Jesus willingly laid down His life, God sacrificed His Son, because it was the only way for Humankind to restore relationship with God. Jesus is the bridge over the abyss between us and God.
(Let me say here, if you don’t believe in God, read this following part anyway, and where desired, replace God with whatever you do believe. Otherwise, if you keep reading, I promise there is a point which relates to all – religious and not religious).
So, it totally makes sense that if God can forgive me, who has committed all sorts of wrong in word, thought and deed against Him, one of millions who held Jesus to the cross, His beloved Son, then I should extend that same gesture to others – no matter what they have done!
Ouch! That stings!
As a Christian, I found it extremely difficult because it didn’t fit in well with my faith or idea of who God was in my mind. What if I couldn’t forgive them no matter what I did? Will God indeed look upon that with contempt? Will He truly not forgive me? It upset me considerably.
Then I remembered something incredibly important about His character….
God cares only what is in our heart.
He has always, does and will always look at where our hearts lie in relation to absolutely everything, including Jesus. A person may be able to hide their heart’s true intentions from people, but not from God. He knows all about you and sees what you do when you are on your own in private. Nothing is a surprise to Him because He has seen it all before. That means you won’t be the last person to do, say or think something coming from their heart. Needless to say, everything you do, say and think comes from the heart. There is no escaping it really.
Having reminded myself of this, I felt a bit better. I still wasn’t clear on how heart and forgiveness worked in regards to God forgiving me if I couldn’t forgive this man who caused so much destruction to me.
Then I had a light bulb moment!
In my humanness, I may never be able to forgive the man who tried to kill me. But in God I can.
In my heart, I genuinely, and desperately, wanted to forgive him and petitioned to God multiple times during the day to give me His peace on the matter towards the man. Tears would stream down my face as I pleaded with God to release me from the torture of carrying this burden of hate.
For fourteen years I did this. Every time I remembered and the anger built up and the hatred would take over, I would turn to God and say,
“God, I know you say I have to forgive this person but I just can’t. Please forgive me for not being able to forgive him, and please give me your peace about it. I am not coping with it any of this. I know what you say, but I just can’t do it from within me. It has to come from You. You’re the only one who can give me the peace I need.”
Down in the very depths of my soul, I know God knew I meant every word, it was coming from my heart and desperation to cling to His ways, and that I was seeking to truly forgive a person. And as that is all that matters to God, our heart intent (is it real?), then I know if I had died without forgiving the man, God would not have held it against me.
God wants you to want to forgive – genuinely and desperately.
One day in 2007, I went to bed late, as usual, and as I sat on the edge of the bed, I remember this profound peace fell over me like water from my head to my toes. It was out of the blue and it surprised me. I asked God what this was about, and I saw in my mind’s eye a picture of the man who tried to kill me. When that happened, I didn’t feel anything towards this person – no hate, no anger, no wanting to hurt him or kill him. Just peace. It was in that moment I realised God had answered my prayer. After 14 years, I was finally free of the tormentuous memories and feelings which haunted me for all that time. I could barely believe it. I was excited and amazed!
As I laid down, I got this incredible urge to tell the man who tried to kill me that I had forgiven him.
What?! You’ve got to be kidding me!
Well, no. God wasn’t kidding. The urge didn’t go away. The only option I had at the time was to post a letter. After I had written the letter, I sat on it for a while. I knew God wanted me to send it, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to tell him so soon after forgiving him found me. During that time, though, I came across him on Facebook!
I stalked him for about a week, my hands shaking, my heart racing, and panic rising! Each time I looked at his picture, I felt sick. Was I really up to contacting him about all of this?
Eventually, I decided to send him a private message. My hands were shaking so much I had to try to type one handed while holding that arm with the other hand. I couldn’t see the keyboard through all the tears. I was petrified but I pushed through, writing only a few words, taking around 10 minutes or so to do it….
“Just want to tell you I forgive you. Don’t ask me to be your friend.”
Honestly, I don’t think there has been anything in my life, prior to then or since then, which has been as hard to do as that was.
I avoided Facebook for a few days because I was terrified he would respond, and if he did, how he would respond – admit to what he did or deny it.
What are the odds of someone admitting to the horrors of their own actions when confronted? It’s not common for a perpetrator to admit they did anything wrong. Especially when there are no witnesses to back up the victim.
Finally, I got the courage to go online, and low and behold, there was a message in my inbox from him! Again, panic, shaking and racing heart accompanied me to clicking the message open. What I read knocked me for a six – he admitted to what he did!! He went on to say that hearing this from me was a relief because he can’t forgive himself for how he treated me. We had a to-and-fro conversation that day, and regularly after that.
And then one day, I accepted his friend request.
The ultimate forgiveness is when you can actually be friends with the person you were previously unable to forgive. And I am living testament to that.
Despite my Christian input into this blog, the message is if you continue to hold onto the ugly hatred, the only person it hurts is yourself. The person you are angry at does not suffer for one second from your thoughts and feelings about them and what they did. They go on about their lives denying any wrong doing, claiming to be a victim and you go on with yours holding onto something which will, and probably is, making you sick.
Hatred is a poison which runs through our veins, slowly killing us from the inside out. Unforgiveness could be the root to many illnesses people get. It’s a stress our bodies store within itself which, if it’s anything like normal stress building up in our muscles causing illnesses and other issues, then it is not impossible for unforgiveness to manifest in us the same way.
At the end of the day, forgiveness isn’t about the other person. It is about you. You suffer more than you deserve or should at the hands of yourself through not being able to let go and move on. True. What they did was excruciating to endure. It was wrong, criminal, damaging, heartbreaking, and…..unforgivable! The reality of the long term, though, is….do you want to be like this forever, holding onto the hate and hurt and lack of justice until your deathbed, or beyond?
There is only one person standing in your way.
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