Who hurt you? Who hurt someone you care about? Who brought a pain into your life that you haven’t been able to let go of? We’ve all been hurt by someone. Many of us have been hurt numerous times by various people and some of us have been hurt repeatedly by the same person. While not all hurt is the same and we may have wounds of different sizes, the need to forgive is still the same.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22
I am not here to tell you that what that person did or said wasn’t wrong. I’m not here to tell you that the hurt a person has caused you is misplaced or invalid. I’m not here to tell you that you need to stop feeling the way you feel. But what I am here to tell you is that you need to forgive them as a part of your own healing. See, unforgiveness doesn’t harm the other person nearly as much as it hurts you. To harbor that hurt in heart can cause more problems than we may even be able to foresee right now. Unforgiveness is one of those silent detriments. You may feel that you’re over it or have pushed it aside, but just because you may not think about it much anymore doesn’t mean you’ve forgiven the person. Those feelings will manifest themselves again later in life. We do ourselves a disservice by holding on to that anger, bitterness, resentment, hositility and sadness.
Forgiveness is important because we free ourselves from those negative emotions. While we’ll still need to heal, forgiving that person aids in the process. I remember a person I use to call my best friend had hurt me deeply and the friendship eventually came to a sharp, emotional end. In the midst of me trying to move on, I remember speaking so negatively about him. I didn’t go around slandering his name, but I did allow the anger I held in my heart to get the best of me. I wasn’t the person to love him while he was there and then hate him when he was gone, but I did tend to focus on all of his flaws and shortcomings. He hurt me and in a way, thinking about his negative qualities gave me temporary relief from my own feelings. It made me feel better about myself, but only until it didn’t anymore.
I soon realized that what was manifesting itself as anger was actually deep rooted sadness. I had lost someone I loved – for good reason – but it still hurt. Not only was I disappointed in him, I was mad at myself for what I had allowed. Nonetheless, looking down on him actually made me feel worse and God quickly condemned me. Who am I? Have I never made mistakes? Have I never hurt anyone? We have all hurt someone else at some point. Even if you think you have never hurt anyone, we all sin daily which I’m sure hurts God. But we are still forgiven – Every. Time. No sin is greater than another and even if your perpetrator did something completely horrible, you are still obligated to forgive them. Even if they never apologized or acknowledge their wrong, you still need to forgive them. Stop trying to get back at people and let God take care of them. Your only job is to forgive them. Even if you don’t want to forgive them for their sake, forgive them for your own sake.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another,forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32
Peace comes with forgiveness. After sitting myself down, conversing with God, and acknowledging the error in my ways, I started to pray for my ex-bestfriend. Every time I would think a negative thought about him, I’d follow it up with a prayer for him. My prayers were genuine, too. They weren’t fake, sarcastic prayers. They were prayers I meant from the bottom of my heart and I’m grateful God even softened my heart enough to do so. “He’s selfish”….”Lord, I’m praying for his spirit. That you help him to become more like you.” That is just an example and I don’t remember what exactly I use to pray about during that time, but it helped. It helped me to stop viewing him as a bad person. I knew he wasn’t a bad person, he just had a lot of growing to do.
Praying for him took the situation out of my hands and put it into God’s hands. I don’t know what God is doing in his life today, but I am no longer hurt and broken from that situation. It took me a year to heal and be delivered entirely from that hurt. While the pain eased with time, I still hadn’t completely healed or forgiven him. There was one night in particular I remember crying about it and praying through my tears. I woke up the next day free from that bondage. Those emotions never came back and that was 2 years ago.
Now, forgiveness does not always = going back to what hurt you. It doesn’t necessarily mean making amends with the person or letting them back into your life. Forgiveness only means “to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake” – Google. Sometimes we are able to forgive a person and rebuild a relationship, but we need to discern who should have access to us. Before running back to the person that left you in pain, really consider if that is indeed the right decision to make. You can be cordial with a person without them being your best friend and you can love a person from a distance.
But there are some people that actually add value to our lives. There may be a person who made a bad mistake but could still be meant to be in your life. We weren’t created to go around cutting every imperfect person off. Actually, sometimes allowing certain things to offend us could be a sign that we need to grow personally. Maybe what the person said was a bit harsh, but why did it offend you? Was it true? While the hurt you feel is a real experience and you have every right to be upset, don’t forget to also consider ways that you may need to grow as well.
Everyone’s process will be different, but the same forgiveness is necessary. The types of hurt we experience will vary. Maybe you were hurt intentionally. Maybe the person who hurt you or a loved one was “bad”. Maybe you were betrayed by someone you trusted. No matter what your situation was…no matter how awful it was…you still need to forgive them. I’m not telling you it will be easy or that it will happen overnight, but you have to open your heart to the idea of forgiving them. Unforgiveness is like an infection of the heart. It creates the perfect environment for hate to grow. That is a dangerous place to be in. You may need to re-open that wound you’ve covered with a bandage so that it can begin to heal properly.
I prayed for my ex-bestfriend as a way to counter the negative emotions I was experiencing, but that was not the first time I had been hurt, nor was it the last. Each time has been different and has required different courses of actions. I encourage you to find some means of healthy coping as you start your journey to forgiving those who have hurt you. Maybe you need to write letters to them expressing how you feel and then burn them. Maybe you need to tell them how you feel one last time with absolutely no expectations for how they might respond. This will be a personal journey, so tailor it to what works for you.
Also, make room in your heart to consider their short-comings. Could they benefit from psychological services? Are they immature and still growing? May they have been abused in their own childhood? Were they merely reacting to something that you may have triggered in them? The list could go on. The point of this is not to make excuses for their actions, but to make sense of them. I believe a huge part of why it can be so difficult to forgive is because we either don’t always understand why certain things had to happen or we assume we know exactly why someone did what they did. Some things just aren’t right, but for me at least, gaining some form of understanding helps.
I also believe that we can use our past hurts for greater good. That pain you’ve endured could free someone else – unless you hold on to the pain so tight that you miss the lesson behind it. The mistakes you’ve made could save someone else from experiencing that same hurt – unless you keep the blame on the other person and fail to recognize the role you played. The lover who cheated may have just paved the way for your future spouse – unless you harbor unforgiveness in your heart and run him/her away. While some hurts may seem unbearable, I do believe God can still provide you with healing and peace. He just needs you to forgive them.
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25