Forgiveness is something I have in the past tentatively preached. I have believed theoretically that forgiveness is better for everyone, that holding onto grudges hurts you more than the other, that the more we build up resentments the more our society breakdown and we see problems arising through generations. I have also listened to some great preaches and talks which have re-taught this concept, read books that proved that even the most horrific situations can see healing through forgiveness, and spoken to people where I have continued to convince them of the freedom found in forgiveness.
It is one thing to believe it, and another to act on that belief. I was hugely hypocritical and it took God to shake my issues out of me. Since He did there have been some big changes for me:
I became more loving.
Almost immediately I felt the need to give generously, encourage people, go above and beyond, and pray for people more. In forgiving and receiving forgiveness I literally felt set free, like a bird in a cage suddenly seeing the door swing open, and in my freedom I could feel the sun on my back and sing for joy. I have always tried to be generous and loving but a small part was connected to my sense of duty: being a good person was simply the right thing to do. Love changes everything; being loving isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s not even an easy activity, it is quite simply the only natural activity of the Spirit in you setting you free. Loving people just because you can.
I let go of the little things far quicker.
Of course I still get angry, still get hurt, but since this change in me I have felt more able to just move on. That doesn’t mean I have kept quiet, instead I am able to say my piece, hear a response and hopefully find a solution to the issue, and then continue on as usual. When Bear pissed me off one night I was pretty much over it in 24 hours. Letting go of little things feels relatively easy in comparison to something that I’d been holding onto for years. Forgiveness can be practiced! The more you do it the easier it becomes. The easier it is the more freedom you are released into.
I wanted to say sorry far more…
… but without a guilt complex.
This one I find a little strange: the more I forgave and received forgiveness, the more I wanted to say sorry for my part in past events. The act of confession can be cathartic and feel great, but forgiveness released this dam of stuff, big and small, that I may have convinced myself was nothing much but that was clearly still on my mind. In some circumstances bringing this up again wasn’t fair even if it would’ve made me feel better (even the Twelve Steps of addict anonymous groups suggests making amends only when it would not cause them or others harm); however, this was something I did not expect. My aim had been to move on sufficiently, and although I’ve been able to do that, what has also happened is my memory of it all has turned into joy. The experience of my conversation, in regaining a friend, in forgiveness, is such that I now remember such goodness from it that the pain of past events is nothing alongside it. My hurt still happened, but I am able to see clearer the importance of healing and therefore it is not coming from a place of guilt, but freedom. It’s as if the scar has become a beautiful piece of artwork. If saying sorry and working through all that horrendous baggage produces such beautiful art in my life I am compelled to do it more.
I feel more self-esteem than I have had in years.
When you are able to forgive properly, it is not suggesting that you are lesser than you were, that you are a doormat to be walked over, or that you’ve allowed someone to treat you badly. What actually happens is that you are free to speak assertively of the hurt in the first place to start the process. I have felt more able to voice pain, rather than passively hiding it away, dwelling on it, feel as if it must just be something about me.
In the past the unhealthy thoughts have been bottled up in my mind for days, week, months, and even years and the more you are hurt the more the thoughts pile up inside:
They must just not like you really. Worse: you’re just not important enough to remember. If you didn’t exist this wouldn’t be a problem. It’s all in your head, you’re just crazy. Let it go, stop being stupid. People wouldn’t do this to you if you were better. Try harder, do more, work more, then they will care enough and you won’t get hurt.
Of course, all of that is rubbish, and if anything adds your own hurt to the hurt others have done to you. By allowing yourself to speak up, talk it through, forgive, and receive forgiveness, you get to turn those voices off. They don’t have power because you feel so much better afterwards, you have been brave enough to speak up, you are loved enough to be heard, and ideally found freedom in forgiveness. Being able to do this means I feel better about myself and don’t let voices in my head pull me down and make me feel like a lesser person in my own life.
I still cannot say any of this is easy. It’s not. At all. But if you can be brave, for even a few seconds, and push past that wall that convinces you that it a) nothing big, b) can be dealt with by yourself, or c) forgiveness isn’t important, you will see amazing things happening.
I know because I did it.
You should do it too.
If you fancy listening to a great podcast on Forgiveness see this one from Laura Smith of Rayleigh Vineyard.