Forgiveness A Path to Peace
Forgiveness - that is a word that is often heard but is sometimes hard to do. The dictionary defines forgiving as to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw or mistake.
As I am writing this on Easter weekend, I think about how many different ways the Bible talks about forgiveness and forgiving. Here are a few of the dozens of verses that talk about forgiveness. Jesus taught, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” (Mt 6:14). Peter asked Jesus how often it is necessary to forgive, and Jesus replied, “Seventy-seven times” (Mt 18:22), a number to be taken symbolically, not literally, for the never-ending way that we ought to forgive.
Most people when they do something wrong to someone else don’t do it intentionally. I’ve done things or said things that have been hurtful to other people in my life, we all have. I don’t make mistakes on purpose or do things intentionally to hurt people.
However, there are those that do and I’m sure you’ve had those happen to you. I certainly have.
If you know anything about me, I have a laundry list of people who I had to forgive in my past. This month in 1973 my mother died of alcoholism when I was a young girl. Growing up in that chaos set my life on a bad trajectory that took many years to unravel. I made a bunch of stupid choices that got me into bad situations. I made a lot of bad choices in relationships, one that almost ended my life.
When I was doing the work to let go of the resentment that I had against so many, there was one person at the top of my list. I was working with someone who had me split the resentments up in 3 columns. Basically, something like - will easily release the resentment, challenging to release the resentment and no way in a million years will I EVER under any circumstances, release the resentment and forgive.
There was one person at the top of that never will I ever list. It was a person I thought I would marry but instead he left me for someone else, cut me out of the business we had and was extremely abusive and mean on his way out of the relationship. I had forgotten how bad it really was until I reread my journals recently from almost 20 years ago. It nearly destroyed me. As I was reading through everything he put me through, I felt like I was reading a story about someone else’s life. I caught myself getting upset and frustrated with the person I was reading about. I had to catch myself and realize it was once me!
I had put up the initial money to invest in and get the business started. I took a loan, and it was a significant amount for me, a retiring military veteran. No one invests in a business simply to get paid back. Thankfully the loan was paid back, and I worked the business with him around my full time job which was paying many of the household bills and expenses.
The business started to take off. Then he left me, cleaned out the bank account, locked me out of all the business accounts and moved on with someone else I later found out he had been seeing for months behind my back. There’s a lot deeper egregious things he did to me during the next 2 years that I’m not going to share about but as I reread it, I was so thankful I got beyond that.
I could have taken him to court regarding the business. The business was half mine, but he was the kind of person who lived for going to court and dragging others through the court system. I watched him do this to other people. I was not in the state of mind to go there and decided for my own mental health and well-being to let it go. Yes, I let go of tens of thousands of dollars, but money isn’t worth trading for peace and serenity. I didn’t realize how much on fragile ground I was at that time. This breakup opened a floodgate of emotions of all the things I never dealt with, from my upbringing to other things in my life. His treatment of me made the pain a lot worse. Yes, I allowed it, but he was manipulating me, and I was in too much pain to realize it.
In my mindset today I was thinking why didn’t “she” get a grip on reality? What was wrong with her? Why didn’t she stand up for herself more? Yes “her” that other person I was reading about that I did not know. I had to have some compassion for myself, I was dealing with a lot. When you stuff a lifetime of chronic trauma that goes all the way back to your childhood and then it all comes out at once, you must have some grace, patience, and forgiveness for yourself.
If you know anyone going through something like this and wonder why they don’t just get over it, have some compassion for them. It’s not that easy. If they are working on it and taking some consistent steps to move forward, they will get there. I’m living proof of that!
My hope for anyone going through something or even attempting to ignore those things is that they face them head on. Otherwise, it will poison your life. You can’t drag the past into your present and think it will be ok. I managed to muck up a lot of my life and am thankful I recovered from the trauma and pain.
After I read the journals, I told my kids I’m sorry (again). I made amends to them back when I was writing these journals and working on releasing the pain and getting beyond the trauma. They were compassionate towards me. I told them how I wished I had dealt with it before I had kids, so they didn’t have to experience that person I was for a time. I understand everything happens in its own time. However, if I could change something it would be that.
I had to make amends to my mother and father during that forgiveness process. Why might you wonder? Because I held resentment towards both for my entire adult life. My mother was abusive and mean to me. She put me down and did destructive things. She left me believing I was a loser and no good. She constantly told me I was no good. I believed it for many years. Now I know that is untrue.
My father never parented me, never encouraged me, and never supported me. He didn’t protect me or teach me anything about what I needed to know to navigate the world. I never heard “I love you” from either parent. One of my friends told me she likes the way I always tell my kids “Love you” when I get off the phone or when they are leaving after spending time together. I told her I used to be friends with a girl at school and stayed at her house often. They would always say “love you” to each other. I loved spending time with them, they were what I considered a real family and I loved being part of it. I remember thinking when I had kids one day, I would do that in my family. People need to know they are loved not only by actions but also by words.
I felt for many years I was unlovable. Now I love myself first and foremost. That way others can love me too. You must love yourself first. Mat 27:39 says to love your neighbor as yourself (after first loving God V37-38). You cannot give love to anyone if you do not have it for yourself. If you look in the mirror and don’t love the person looking back at you, you must start there first and work on loving that person in the mirror.
Today I am grateful for my peace of mind and the healing that has occurred to get me to the place of having that peace.
I hope this has given you a perspective of the importance of forgiveness. It’s not for the other person, it’s for you. It will set you free from the poison of resentment. I’ve heard it said that resentment is the poison we take that we think kills other people, but it really kills our spirit. That is why forgiveness is such an important concept.
Oh, and you might be wondering if I forgave and made amends to the number one person on my resentment list. I did in fact make amends to him. It took about 15 minutes. He sat there with a blank look on his face and looked bored. When I was finished, he said “are you done?” I said yes and got up and left. I felt free of the bondage of unforgiveness, and I realized that forgiveness was not for him, it was for me, and it set me free. I haven’t seen him years but read that he ended up in federal prison. For a brief moment I felt vindication, then compassion and hope he can or has found peace from his own struggles. He had some horrific things happen to him as a child which I am certain contributed to the way he had been when I knew him. My prayer for him is that he finds God’s peace and comfort for his own struggles. This level of forgiveness is only available from God.
I will add one final thing. Forgiveness doesn't mean you have to have that person back in your life. There are those who have done horrible things to us and to have them back in our lives would not be safe or good. Forgiveness is for you to let go of it from yourself.
Forgiveness will set you free. Happy Easter.