by Tamara Flaherty
“When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.”
Lewis B. Smedes
I’ve been struggling with forgiveness lately. Struggling to humble myself and ask forgiveness from those I have harmed and really, really, REALLY struggling to forgive those who have harmed me.
Forgiveness is so freaking hard!!!
It’s hard for the people who want or need it, and it’s hard for the people who it is being asked of, or who need to give it.
Forgiveness doesn’t make any logical sense to me at all!!
It feels like forgiveness is giving permission to the people who hurt me that it was okay, or that they can keep hurting me.
It feels like I am betraying myself!
Forgive and forget?
It makes more sense to me to hold onto my anger. To hold onto my hate, and to hold onto my very right to be so angry.
If I find myself softening towards someone who has hurt me, I stop and remind myself of all the reasons I have the right to hate them.
I’m scared that if I don’t remember what they did to me, and I let my guard down, they can do it again.
I feel like I should let you know that I don’t hate easily. In many instances in my life, the people who have hurt me didn’t matter enough to me to bother to invest the energy required to actually hate them. I just moved on with my life, those hurts buried somewhere deep inside.
I usually tolerate a crapload of wrongs before anger begins to build in me. I always look for the good in people. I seek to excuse their bad behavior. I give numerous chances and seek to reconcile relationships.
But then……I don’t anymore!!!
Just like that! The straw breaks the camel’s back and there I go, plunging into hatred and anger that boils up like a dark sulfur inside of me.
I have only ever really hated two people in my whole life. I mean really, REALLY HATED them! Wished them harm hated them. Imagined scenarios where they get what they deserve hated them. Spent precious hours of my life remembering all the reasons that I hated them. Building a wall of hatred that they would never be able to scale.
You see, those people didn’t just hurt me, they hurt my child, and that is a whole other realm of hatred. That triggers a wrath in me that goes beyond any reasoning, understanding, or forgiving.
“Forgiving is an affair strictly between a victim and a victimizer. Everyone else should step aside…The worst wounds I ever felt were the ones people gave to my children. Wrong my kids, you wrong me. And my hurt qualifies me to forgive you. But only for the pain you caused me when you wounded them. My children alone are qualified to forgive you for what you did to them.”Lewis B. Smedes
What I didn’t understand was, that as effective as that wall of hatred was in keeping those people out, it also was super effective at keeping me in!
It isolated me even from the people who I loved.
I began to realize that the hatred I was so justified in feeling was actually doing nothing to “punish” the objects of my hatred. Instead, it was punishing me. I was the prisoner in my fortress of hatred. I was the captive.
“None of us wants to admit that we hate someone…When we deny our hate we detour around the crisis of forgiveness. We suppress our spite, make adjustments, and make believe we are too good to be hateful. But the truth is that we do not dare to risk admitting the hate we feel because we do not dare to risk forgiving the person we hate.”
Lewis B. Smedes
I began to try to break free of the walls that I had built around my heart and I was unable to free myself.
I began to cry out to God. First to forgive me for my hatred and anger, and then for the grace to forgive those who had hurt me and to be set free of it all.
I also realized that it was possible to truly forgive someone who has hurt you and then to create healthy boundaries to keep them from harming you again. You can forgive without having any kind of relationship with those people.
God has begun to really show me the depth of his love and forgiveness to me. I myself stood in desperate need of forgiveness for my sins and God graciously extended his grace and mercy towards me.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
How can I stand in that knowledge and hold anger and hatred in my own heart towards others?
Read through the Bible in a year!
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