To love means loving the unlovable.
To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.
Faith means believing the unbelievable.
Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
~Gilbert Keith Chesterton
Trust God’s love. His perfect love.
Don’t fear he will discover your past. He already has.
Don’t fear disappointing him in the future. He can show you the chapter in which you will. With perfect knowledge of the past and perfect vision of the future, he loves you perfectly in spite of both.
There was a question asked in one small group a few weeks back:
“Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. And that all His disciples would abandon him. Why did He still wash their feet? Why did He still serve them bread and wine??“
It’s as if He forgave them already, for all they were about to do. And actually…that was, and continues to be, the Truth. It took a little bit of time for that to sink in because I certainly haven’t thought about it that way. Additional teaching on Forgiveness from our pastor enlarged my understanding of what forgiveness is about.
- The path of forgiveness involves understanding others, why they offend :: You can’t truly forgive what you don’t understand and understanding “why” keeps our emotions in check. To understand why someone offended/hurt you doesn’t mean you condone that behavior. It just sets your frame of mind.
Jesus had perfect understanding of all our misconceptions, insecurities, fears and unreasonable expectations….so He could hang on the cross and say “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Yes, they denied, rejected, betrayed, mocked, spat on, abused, neglected, conspired, framed, sold out, abandoned and ultimately killed Him. But He understood why. They were afraid for their lives, they feared loss of power and influence, they sought greater power, they ultimately, misunderstood Jesus.
- Forgiveness needs understanding about ourselves :: Understanding ourselves, or having the right expectations of ourselves, also means we must be humble and not think too highly or too lowly of ourselves. The more secure we are in our identity and value in God, the easier to forgive others. Only what God thinks of us matters…but to have that, we must know God loves us on a visceral level. If in our gut we doubt or don’t trust His love, then we hold onto unforgiveness as a way of “controling” the hurtful situation.
- When we understand them, we can adjust our expectations of them :: It’s our inappropriate expectations of others that gets us hurt….and we hurt others for the same reasons. This reminds me of the “distorted or definitive” view of anger to help us sort out whether or not we should get angry or hurt by something.
- Forgiveness frees us to act :: It frees us from needing to seek revenge or lay blame…whether of others or ourselves. Setting good boundaries is necessary to prevent getting hurt but be gracious too, and compassionate. Try to speak truth without anger, adjust expectations as their informed by understanding and then move forward in love. Fear is actually the opposite of Love…we hate what we fear and that leads to unforgiveness. Fight the fear we have of others, have courage and forgive.
So the questions we were left with were these which I’ll ask you:
Who do you need to forgive?
And who do you need to receive forgiveness from?
It’s Good Friday…for all that’s been forgiven of us, our offenses to each other as well as to God, I need to take a good look at myself and check that unforgiveness doesn’t have a root in my heart lest I remain unforgiven before God.
Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.
A short while ago I wrote on Apologizing…and how I will apologize for what “I” believe is wrong….which is problematic if I didn’t see anything wrong with my action but my spouse does see something wrong with it. Or vice versa. Has that happened to anyone? Yes?
Sometimes we run into a situation where our spouse is saying “I don’t understand why that made you hurt/angry…I wouldn’t be if I was in your situation.” Maybe that stops us….or maybe that makes us even more hurt/angry. At an Anger workshop lead by Dr Gary Chapman, we learned a few principles to help sort this out.
First thing he addressed was the purpose of anger. Yes there is a purpose for it! Anger in itself is not wrong…it’s an emotion received being created in God’s image. Recall the story of Jesus overthrowing tables and kicking money changers out of the Temple. He was furious at the people who were supposed to be enabling God’s people to worship but were instead cheating them through inflated pricing and taxes. Anger comes when a sense of “right” has been violated and should serve as a catalyst or motivator to drive positive change. Probably all social reforms or humanitarian or justice organizations grew out of someone’s anger over the oppression, plight or injustices others faced. Boiling it down, anger should fuel restoration and reconciliation.
There are two types of human anger (God’s anger is always right and just): Definitive and Distorted
Definitive anger is where an actual wrong has been done as defined and derived from the principles in the Bible. It’s something that God would be angry about…things like abuse, cheating, deceit, hypocrisy, selfishness, oppression, etc. Distorted anger is where no actual wrong has been done but rather, your personal expectations/agenda/demand has not been met…things like your spouse forgot to deposit the cheque and now you have to delay buying that TV, or your spouse’s illogical reasoning is driving you nuts, or the dishes/laundry wasn’t put away the way you wanted…again, etc. This type of anger-trigger is the most common with us humans. This type of anger is born out of our selfish pride and self-centered nature…and this nature is also what keeps us from recognizing when we really have done wrong and need to apologise.
It’s a slow process, a couple steps forward and many steps back, but Skywalker and I are working on these things:
- When angry…stop to ask “What wrong has been done? Is this definitive or distorted anger?”
- If distorted…confess it as selfishness and seek apology for being angry at the other person. You can also negotiate for something to change if it really bothers you. If that doesn’t work out…accept the humanity of the other person and cover it with love, grace and acceptance.
- If definitive…lovingly point out to the other person what was wrong, if s/he repents then forgive. If s/he refuses to admit wrong then release the person for God to deal with…and release your hurt/anger to God as well. You can forgive in faith and pray for their restoration and reconciliation to God and yourself.
- Fight the urge to retaliate…”In your anger do not sin“…as that will only deepen the hold anger has on you, turning into resentment and hatred which will eat up your life.
- Do GOOD to the other person instead…recognize that you’ve probably done (or will do) the same things and as it’s God’s KINDNESS that leads us to repentance, your kindness would certainly help. =)
Imagine if we all acted less on our distorted anger and acted more on definitive anger, our marriages…heck, the world would be a different place!
…Forgiveness is NOT a feeling
It makes sense that after writing about apologies, forgiveness is next to be discussed. The two go hand in hand. And is as hard to do as apologizing. Here’s what the author, Gary Chapman, advises forgiveness IS:
- Forgiveness removes the barrier and lifts the penalty…which means we choose to never hold that failure against that person again.
- Forgiveness removes the barrier and opens possibility for the relationship to be restored and grow again.
- Forgiveness is not a feeling but a decision….decision to offer grace instead of demanding justice.
…and what forgiveness is NOT:
- Forgiveness does not destroy memory. Especially when it comes to emotional hurts, certain hair triggers can bring on a flood of memories relating to the hurt. It doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven…it just means you’re human and have feelings. I’ve made a conscious decision that whomever I have forgiven in faith, I will choose to not let the memory of the past offense impact how I respond to them today.
- Forgiveness does not remove all consequences of wrongdoing. Hurt and damage is still done and could need paying for….but you’ve released them from your desire to see them punished by you.
- Forgiveness does not rebuild trust automatically. Loss of trust is a natural consequence…and that needs to be rebuilt starting with a genuine apology followed by a continuous demonstration of a change in behavior. With an attitude of openness and a consistent pattern of honesty, trust can be rebuilt again.
- Forgiveness does not always result in reconciliation….it brings the possibility of reconciliation if both parties are willing. If you come wanting to restore the relationship but the other person does not, release them to God and release your hurt and anger to Him. Don’t let their unwillingness to reconcile destroy your life. And of course, sometimes you should not be reconciled because the other person will continue to harm you…they need to address and be healed from their problems first.
At the end of the day, forgiveness is the only healthy response to being hurt. Even if the offender never apologizes or seeks forgiveness from you. You may have heard these quotes or quotes like these:
Unforgiveness is like drinking poison, hoping the offender dies instead.
Unforgiveness is like holding burning coals that you’d like to throw at the offender.
Forgiveness is releasing the prisoner from your cage, only to realize you have just set yourself free.
Forgiving someone isn’t for their benefit…it’s for YOUR benefit.
Speaking more personally to my first year of marriage…learning to forgive is CRITICAL to building a healthy marriage. We’ve only had “little” offenses to forgive each other on this first year, but I’m not going to kid myself that “little” hurts are all that’ll ever touch our marriage. I can also see how a bunch of unforgiven “little” offenses, swept under the rug, can one day blow up when that cherry hits the top. Genuine forgiveness is the only thing that will keep roots of bitterness from forming and choking your marriage. It’s the only thing that will tear down walls of hurt that will otherwise isolate individuals in a marriage. Forgiveness must be continuous. I’ve fought negative thoughts that I won’t forgive unless he apologizes first because I know that if I want to be forgiven by God for my shortcomings, I MUST forgive. Whether or not the other person apologizes is between them and God. Extending forgiveness is ultimately something between God and myself…when I’m finally able to apologize to Him for my hard-heart, pride and self-righteousness and receive His forgiveness, then forgiving my spouse (or anyone else) will be a natural by-product of that. If I at all think that the other person is undeserving of forgiveness, I’m already in a position of needing forgiveness. Interesting how that works.