Unforgiveness is like cancer; it feeds upon the host. I can attest to that statement. I was filled with anger, resentment and bitterness. That was the person I was and I know many of you are/were like that. My past was something I couldn’t let go of. It had a nasty hold on me too, and despite, the countless affirmations and advice, I was still not walking in the fullness of the cross in my own life.
I made excuses for my toxic behaviour – I am the way I am because of my ‘past’. I was proud of my ability to hold a grudge. I held on to resentment and bitterness because it was my ‘right’. No wonder I wasn’t free – I wasn’t free because of me. It came down to my choice. Would I stay in the place of brokenness forever, or would I let go and let God?
Forgiveness can be extremely difficult; the greater the sense of injustice, the harder it is to forgive. When our inner world is disrupted, it is hard to concentrate on anything other than pain or turmoil. However, when we hold on to hurt, we are cognitively and emotionally affected.
WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT’S NOT
In learning to forgive, you have to be clear on what it is and what it is not. Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offence, and overcomes negative emotions such as resentment and vengeance. It is extending mercy to those who have harmed us, even if they don’t ‘deserve’ it. Forgiveness is something you do for you and not the other person.
However, it is not pardoning, condoning nor excusing an offence or forgetting about it. It also doesn’t require reconciliation (although that can happen in the forgiveness process).
Here are some things that forgiving someone doesn’t mean:
- Pardoning or excusing the other person’s actions.
- Having any more feelings about the situation.
- Forgetting the incident ever happened.
- Including the person in your life.
BENEFITS OF FORGIVENESS
As I began the process of letting go and healing, God intensified His presence. He began to show me that He is with me during the hardest times of my life. He shared my grief and pain. There was no longer a reason to blame my past for my behaviour nor to live in it. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17). Instead of anger and hurt, I was filled with hope and compassion.
Forgiveness doesn’t only free you emotionally and spiritually. It also:
- Reduces the negative affect and depressive symptoms
- Restores positive thinking
- Reduces anxiety
- Strengthens spirituality
- Raises self-esteem
If you are struggling with forgiveness, don’t be harsh on yourself. It is a process that takes time, patience and determination. There is no quick formula. However, when you learn to forgive, you are no longer trapped by the past actions of others and can finally feel free. Forgiveness puts the final seal on what happened that hurt you. You will still remember what happened, but you will no longer be bound by it. Having worked through the feelings and learned what you need to do to strengthen your boundaries or get your needs met, you are better able to take care of yourself in the future. With each act of forgiveness, whether small or great, we move toward wholeness.