This is a tough one quite frankly. It’s a test that you’ll continue to take throughout life. The toughest person to forgive usually is oneself. At least for me. I didn’t always know this though. I used to think the toughest person to forgive was someone who betrayed your trust. I knew the importance of forgiveness when I came across Matthew 6:14-15NIV “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” That verse scared me. I mean I do want God to forgive me for all my sins and absolve me of the guilt too and the only way that would be done is if I forgive others? It was a tough one but from that moment, I began to be conscious of forgiveness. I would say it out loud, trying to will myself to forgive. Of course, it felt fake at first. Like how can somehow hurt me deep and just saying “I forgive you” out loud makes that hurt go away? “That’s impossible!”. But I didn’t stop despite my logic trying to precede my heart. I realized that though saying you forgive someone doesn’t right the wrong that was done, it releases you of the hold the hurt has. You begin to see people as mere humans who aren’t perfect. I’m still a work in progress though, I’m not all “hurt-me-and-I-am-all-brand-new-because-I-forgive-you” but I’m not in bondage of all the hurt I have experienced. Like I said earlier, the hardest part for me is forgiving myself. I feel like I let myself down and how can I relate positively with other people if I can’t even get me right. And just like forgiving others, if you don’t forgive yourself, you are stuck in that hurt. You nurse it and continue to feed it each time you don’t let it go. It’s like an infection that’s not treated, it continues to fester and before you know it, the whole system is corrupted.
Just like we need God’s help with everything in life, we need His help in forgiveness too. I can’t do it out of my human nature because the human nature is selfish. It is self-seeking and self-pleasing. The spirit of God is the only thing that can turn us from self-focused to being focused on others. It takes time of course but it’s possible. Personally, I find it hard to communicate with God when I’m mad at someone or I’m brewing over an issue. I need God 24/7 and once there’s a break in communication, my life is chaotic. As a result, I always push myself to be the bigger person. It really sucks though, I’m not going to glamorize it and say that I’ve become a door of revolving forgiveness, I feel the hurt just as much as holding on to the hurt. I sometimes wonder why others can’t be the bigger person. For once let someone take the responsibility of apologizing to me before I forgive them. But I can’t live my life at the mercy of others. I must take control of my life.
With all this talk, how then can you start letting go and forgive? How do you forgive people who are trying to hurt you/ bring you down/slander you? And after you have forgiven someone who is hurting you, how do you deal with them without anger/malice? How do you even relate with someone who is hurting you without harboring unforgiveness in your heart? I’m praying that I find answers to these questions and I can bet that a couple other people need answers too.
The first step in letting go, is acknowledging that you feel hurt/disappointment/pain or whatever feeling you associate with betrayal/hurt. Once you acknowledge this, you give yourself a chance to address the situation openly. The next thing is to talk to God about it. It’s really simple. Just saying “God, I feel hurt by what happened, help me deal with this.” You must be sincere though and be willing to open yourself up to God’s healing. The good thing with God is, being vulnerable is very much acceptable. You can cry, yell and express your true emotions/feelings. You don’t have to hide from Him, He can take it. I must warn you that it isn’t magic so don’t expect that you forget the whole experience in an instant. I can say though that from talking to God, you will get peace, your heart calms and you are not in turmoil about the experience. This I believe is the real beginning of the healing process. Remember, it takes work, lots of patience and it only gets better over time.
Now, forgiving someone who is trying to hurt you/bring you down can be a little tricky. I say this because while you want to be a good person, you don’t want to be oblivious to the threat that is happening. What I mean is, you have to protect yourself obviously but not in a mud-slinging way. You have to remember to whom you answer to. So while I wouldn’t say break bread with the “enemy”, I wouldn’t say poison the enemy either. It’s a “I’ll love you from afar” situation. You still have to go through the steps I mentioned earlier; acknowledging the issue, talking to God and allowing His peace to settle in your heart. You have to carefully deal with the individual. In my opinion, if it is possible, stay away from them. The purpose of staying away though is not for malice but to protect yourself. If it is up to you to maintain peace then I say “Go for it!” but if your safety; be it physical, emotional, financial or otherwise is in jeopardy, please flee. Even Romans 12:18NIV says “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Now, what do you do if you the person that’s trying to bring you down isn’t showing signs of slowing down and you deal with them on the daily? This one I wouldn’t even pretend is super tough. It takes the trinity to deal with this and if you can survive this phase, then you can definitely say you have conquered the spirit of unforgiveness. Though of course it’s by grace we can do anything but I think even heaven will acknowledge your strength. I believe that prayer and lots of it is the only way out here. I mean wake up at night and call their names out to God kind of prayer. This is spiritual war-fare my dear. Ephesians 6:12NIV says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The King James Lebron version- Ephesians 6:12KJV says “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Another version I like is The Message; Ephesians 6:12MSG “This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.” I have personally taken people to God in prayer. I have “reported” my oppressors to God and asked Him to deal with them. Psalm 140 helps in this situation, any version of it would do justice.
I see God as my father and just like you were kid and would report a bully/a situation to your earthly father/mother/guardian, do the same with God. He is our father and wants the best for us. Just imagine if you had a kid that came up to you to report a bully bothering them, what would your reaction be? Yea God is that protective of us too Matthew 7:11NIV & Luke 11:13NIV both say ”If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
You don’t want to lose your connection with God because of anybody. I mean they already hurt you, you want them to take your peace too? You want them to come in between you and God? Please don’t give anyone that much power over you. It is definitely not easy but I believe that though we are in this world, we are not of it; John 17:16NIV “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” John 15: 19NIV also says “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” As a result, we can’t act like those who do not know Jesus. There has to be a distinction between you a believer and someone who is yet to know Jesus. This is not to be proud but to fulfill what Matthew 5:16NIV says “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
After all this forgiving, how do you let go of the anger? It is a conscious effort of constantly reminding yourself to let go. Talking to God about it helps a lot. Asking the Holy Spirit for help too works. You can also speak with the person(s) involved if you believe that would help let some of the anger go. I don’t like this option because I don’t like to hand the keys to my peace to people because they are unpredictable. I would rather take charge than hope that someone can set me free. But if that works for you then by all means, pursue that option too.
I didn’t intend for this to be this long, but I hope that I’ve been able to share something practical that can come in handy and as always, I’m more than happy to receive some tips from you too.