Forgiveness is for you, not them.
We all know it’s good to forgive others, but why do we find it so difficult? It’s difficult because we don’t fully understand it. When we know why we need to forgive and how to go about it, it becomes a lot easier.
My mother was good at teaching me the importance of forgiveness, but she failed to explain why I should forgive. It didn’t feel authentic for me to forgive others and then allow the bad behaviour to continue.
So, I studied it further to get a complete understanding of why forgiveness is necessary and what steps I could take to find peace again.
If we blindly follow the advice of those who went before us and the loud voices of society, we will be doomed to a life of slavery. And when we follow that path for long enough, ignoring God’s wisdom, we will suffer.
God protects us from bad decisions that lead to destructive relationships. If we choose to go our own way, disobeying God, we will suffer.
Of course, some things happen to us without us having anything to do with it. We suffer because of the sins of others. This happens to children a lot of the time. They are the most vulnerable.
From my experience of growing up in a Christian country and studying forgiveness, I have learned that if you know what to do when you’ve been hurt, you can restore your peace quickly.
I wish these things had been explained to me years ago instead of having to tolerate so much unacceptable behaviour in my life. We can learn to protect ourselves from harmful people.
I thought I was meant to be nice to everyone. It never occurred to me that most people didn’t care about being good or nice. I was wired, or programmed differently, but boy did I suffer from that lack of awareness.
Most people are self-absorbed, so if you expect them to be how you’d like them to be, you are going to be disappointed.
It’s hard to accept this if you are a person who treats others well, Why can’t people be kind, you ask? Well, that’s for another blog, but the simple answer is sin. When we live only to please ourselves and disobey God’s law, we create a very harsh world.
Selfishness leads to unhappiness
I’ve been travelling for 3 years now in Asia and although I’d love to say how wonderful people are, I have to be honest. I found a lot of selfishness in people.
I met some good people too and we became friends, but I had to search hard to find them. They were like streams in the desert.
There seems to be a lack of integrity in people nowadays. They don’t keep their word. They say one thing but do another. It’s a mindset that thinks, I am all that matters, me, and my happiness.
This may sound like a contradiction to anyone who follows my work because I talk a lot about happiness and loving yourself. But, it’s a different kind of happiness, where you love others too. If I need to betray someone or lie to get what I want, then I can’t call that happiness.
Happiness and peace can only come from a life of integrity. If we don’t care about others, we will never be truly happy. It’s a pseudo-happiness. It’s simply ego-based, and the happiness these people seek is really just about status. It is devoid of love.
In this article, I am going to take you through the process of forgiveness that has worked for me.
Emotional pain is not nice – but learning how to deal with it is a true blessing.
What Does The Bible Say About Forgiveness?
In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness..
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
How To Truly Forgive Others
The first step to forgiveness is Awareness. You need to be aware that you are holding something against someone. You once liked them, but now you don’t. Maybe that’s as far as you’ve gone with it.
Or, you don’t think about it much, but when that person comes to your mind, you feel angry, but you do nothing about it, or you just avoid them altogether, thinking that that’s the best way to deal with it.
It’s important to process our negative emotions because they will drag you down, and you will be at risk of becoming bitter and spiteful.
Most people think it doesn’t really matter and have learned to push their uncomfortable emotions down by keeping busy or finding comfort in unhealthy habits, or addictions. This is denial.
They say it’s not a big deal. It doesn’t matter. Life goes on. I’m okay or the one I hear nowadays that really annoys me is, “I’m good.” This one says, don’t you dare ask me to talk about such things.
They wear a mask and the happiness they portray to the world is a facade. Beneath the surface, they are harbouring resentments that they refuse to address.
When Jesus said we need to forgive seventy times seven, he was saying it is not going to be easy. Essentially, He is saying, we need to forgive over and over until our peace is restored.
This is why I call it a process because we rarely forgive in an instant. We need to pray and ask God to lead us through the process.
We Are Forgiving For Our Peace of Mind
One of the first wounds we suffer in life is from our parents/caregivers or teachers. When we were children, one of these people probably let us down or hurt us in some way.
It was very difficult as it left us feeling confused. “Aren’t these people meant to love me? Do they not love me? Oh, maybe I was wrong – they don’t love me.” It’s difficult for a child to process their feelings.
Rather than actively forgive, a child has no choice but to move on. They don’t know how to forgive and probably don’t even know that they were wronged. Usually, though, the child blames himself, saying something like, “I must be bad or unlovable,” and there the seed of insecurity is planted.
It’s usually quite a few years later when the child starts to see more normal behaviour being displayed in other families that they recognize that they had been mistreated. At this point though, the resentment may have already taken root.
Where To Begin To Forgive
The first step is to acknowledge it. It is time to feel the pain and hurt again. You will have to look back and see it for what it was and see yourself in the same situation and how you felt. It is sad to process our childhood pain or any deep emotional pain, but it’s the beginning of healing.
You simply have to acknowledge that you were hurt by what they said or did and you can see that it has caused you a lot of suffering, which has led to anger.
Try to locate that anger/resentment within you. What does it feel like? Is it serving you to carry that pain and suffering around with you? How does it serve you to hold on to it?
If you hold on to resentment, you are the one who loses your peace. You are not free, as that person still has power over you.
Some people think they are punishing the other person by not forgiving them, but really we are only hurting ourselves. Usually, the other person doesn’t give a thought to you or your pain.
Let Go of the Myth That Forgiveness Means You Have to Return to that Relationship
As an adult you have choices. After you choose to forgive, you might think, “but I don’t want them in my life. I don’t trust them.”
This is true, they have lost your trust, and winning your trust back is the price they have to pay for mistreating you. They may never win you back. You can choose. You have control over your heart, and who you give access to it.
It is crucial that you know this. You do not have to share your life (your heart) with these people again. It is up to you as an adult to decide how much of, if any, of these people you want in your life.
And maybe, they don’t want you to return anyhow, now that you are waking up and they can’t use you anymore.
As T.D. Jakes said in a sermon I listened to yesterday, Run After Your Destiny:
There are some glorious people who’s love is not so fickle that the love fades when the conditions change. But, there are others, he said, when it looks like you’re not a winner and it looks like the love doesn’t pay, they make a withdrawal.
“Most people make a withdrawal when they don’t see a benefit.”
Real love endures. If people only love you in the good times, can you really call that love?
It can be hurtful if you pour sincere love into someone, but they don”t pour any into you, and when they don’t need you anymore, they discard you.
It’s time to be more aware of who you can trust and forgive those you can’t.
If you feel you want to keep some contact with the person, you can set the terms of that relationship. Decide how much time you will give to them.
When we truly forgive, we are able to politely deal with them again, but they will sense the coolness in the relationship, as your heart will no longer be open with them.
If you feel you are simply unable to have any contact with a person or organization that has hurt you deeply, feel free to do that.
The world loves to tell people what to do. But, I believe we need to do what’s right for us. You can always find support from professionals, support groups, or friends who understand.
Let others live how they wish to live. You can’t control them and you certainly can’t change them, so just let it go. Release it. Breathe deeply and say I am choosing to let it go, I forgive ________ (name the person here).
We need to think about the people in our lives and search our hearts for any unforgiveness.
You might wonder, how can I know who they are? But you’ll be surprised at how easy it is if you just sit down quietly and ask yourself, “Who have I not forgiven?” Ask the the Holy Spirit to guide you. It’s fun actually.
When I sit down to do something like this, it always amazes me how quickly the name pops into my head. It’s like God is sitting there saying, “I thought you’d never ask.”
And when the name comes to you – trust that this is now the right time to deal with it.
Was it Intentional or Unintentional?
This makes a difference when choosing to forgive. Did the person or people involved know what they were doing? If they didn’t intentionally set out to hurt you, I think it can be easier to let go. Maybe because of their own stresses in life they dismissed you, neglected you, or said something hurtful.
But, when someone is just being mean, then it isn’t as easy to forgive because let’s face it, it’s an evil act to intentionally go out of your way to hurt someone. Personally, I don’t know why people do this? I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally set out to hurt someone. It baffles me.
So, we need to process it more as it takes a real act of love and compassion to be able to say, okay, maybe that person suffered a lot in life or they are very insecure.
The main thing to remember here though is that they must be held accountable. If they decide to ask for your forgiveness, it would be better to discuss it with them rather than say, it’s okay. Ask them questions. Why did they behave that way?
Then, decide whether or not you feel that person deserves another chance. Again, this is your choice. You don’t have to and you do not have to feel guilty either if you choose not to continue the relationship.
For me, when they intentionally set out to hurt me, I usually let the relationship go. Maybe in the future, they might change, and if that happens I can reconsider. It is up to them to go and work on their own heart and I can be free to enjoy my life again.
The next piece in letting go of resentment and finding peace again is to forgive ourselves. We often tend to blame ourselves. We somehow think because the relationship is not working and we are trying so hard to make it work and failing over and over again, that somehow we are to blame.
We fail to recognize that the other person is not doing any work in the relationship. You are carrying the load of it all. How can we know this? The best and easiest way to know if you are in an unbalanced relationship is to stop putting in any effort.
Stop texting, stop e-mailing, stop calling – basically stop giving. You will soon see if they care.
Sadly, in some cases, there will be silence. They will do nothing, give nothing and the relationship will dissolve. You will have exposed, what Cloud and Townsend refer to in the book, Boundaries, as a “non-relationship.”
But, isn’t it is better to know, so you can let go and move on? People like that waste your time.
You may need to forgive yourself for allowing others to manipulate you. This is something I had to work on as I had been kind to others which made me vulnerable to selfish people. They would take advantage of my kindness and use me for their own purposes. It took me a long time to see it, and when I finally woke up, I had to deal with the resentment that had built up.
I had been treated unfairly, and I felt resentful. I was angry with myself for letting it happen.
But, thankfully through education and the support of others, I was able to forgive myself and those who manipulated me.
I am now so much quicker at spotting people like that. When they try their tricks on me, I quickly let them go and find people who treat me with the same love and respect that I show to others.
You too can be set free from resentment, and find peace, joy, and freedom again. All you have to do is learn how to forgive.
Last week I shared on Substack about a bad experience I had, and this week, I put to work all that I had learned over the years.
I turned to some real friends for support, but, even without those friends, I always have God who knows how to comfort me and guide me.
I was determined not to let the anger fester. I expressed all my concerns to the right people and God in prayer.
I found ways to deal with the problem and it looks like I have found a solution that I can live with and accept. My peace has returned.
I hope and pray that we can all learn to deal with unforgiveness in our lives and enjoy the peace and joy of being free In Christ.
Jesus said, we will have troubles, but in Him we may have peace.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”