Saturday, October 8, 2011

Forgiveness Frees

I frequently review a few salient points about my own recovery so as to check myself and see if I'm "slipping" - wandering back into old thinking patterns and old beliefs about God, myself, and others.  

One of the quickest ways for me to do a self-check is to review in my mind the faces of those who have said or done things to annoy or even hurt me.  Usually not the old stuff from way back when (although it's probably a good idea once in a while), but the current stuff - like the guy in that other pew in church who made fun of me, or the women who sat in judgment of me because I wasn't a 'girly-girl' like they were.  If I linger upon a face and a feeling of resentment rises up within me, I know that there is some unfinished business and I need to figure out what its source is.  

Source of this photo:
Forgiveness frees people - it frees the forgiven and the forgiver.  

I don't agree with the idea that forgiveness is not complete unless it is "forgive and forget." Only God forgets when He forgives.  It's His prerogative. 

Rather, I am inclined to think that forgiveness writes across the offense in indelible ink the words "debt written off" in large letters.  The remembrance of that act cannot be erased especially if the injury was deep and/or prolonged; however, it is possible to write off the debt and not expect or desire repayment.  And the miracle of that act of pardon - plus the journey to get there - can help so many people when shared.  Forgetting would just doom us to telling people they have to forgive - without having a clue how to show them how.  It would also leave us wide open for letting others (or even the same person) do the same thing to us over and over.  It hurts for a reason - just like physical pain, psychological or emotional pain is designed to signal us to avoid that kind of pain in the future! 

I also think that well-meaning people are too quick to rush to "you gotta forgive."  Forgiveness means nothing at all when someone apologizes, for example, and we say back to the penitent one, "There's nothing to forgive." Especially when there really WAS something that needed forgiving. Saying there wasn't negates both the wrongness of the act and the remorse of the one who is seeking forgiveness.  Forgiveness means very little when the hurt has gone so deep inside of us and we gloss it over and live in denial by using one of those Christian platitudes like, "God's forgiven that person, so could I do less?"  By refusing to look at it or to process it and deal with all the facets of how it affected us, any forgiveness we give is only on the surface.  Come face-to-face unexpectedly with that person, especially in a place you thought was safe, and that's when you find out what you really feel.  I know; I've been there.  It wasn't pretty.  Forgiveness takes time.  It is costly.  

But it frees.  It frees us to live unfettered, unwrapped lives.  

And it also frees the person who is forgiven even if he or she never knows that we've forgiven him or her.  This is because forgiveness (for lack of a better analogy) loosens something in the heavenly realm, something that was bound, shackled before we forgive.  So when we forgive that person, it allows mercy and goodness to finally be extended - mercy which has been bound up in our hearts and prevented from flowing: it is as though by us not forgiving, we have plugged up the funnel of goodness that God wants to pour into that person's life, because the goodness of God leads people toward repentance.  It's not something I can easily explain; I just know it happens because I've seen it happen in my life.

Often the hardest person to forgive is the one in the mirror.  It's possible to do.  I've been there, too.  Perhaps I'll talk about that another time.  

No comments:

Post a Comment