You know how it goes with the best laid plans, don't you? Well, I'm in Tennessee and flying out this morning. I thought this blog raised some pretty interesting thoughts and discussions, so...the retreat idea will be laid to rest another week.
Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about forgiveness. I’ve had people tell me I should be more forgiving. They will tell me that I should let go of things that happened many years ago. They are right. I should let go of them. And I have, until these same people decide to open up wounds that have long before been healed.
I have given a lot of thought about forgiveness. Yesterday, I saw a church reader board that said, Forgive Everyone Everything. I thought wow. Is this God speaking to me? I really gave it some thought. I asked myself, and I asked God, is this for me? Are you telling me that I am not forgiving?
I got an answer. I want to share it with you because I think I’ve understood something that we all struggle with – we have these feelings, feelings of pain, of hurt, people have violated us, others continue to hurt us and then we think, because I have these feelings, am I unforgiving?
I used to work in a mental health facility. When I was there, I learned that your emotions, your feelings are important. You need to pay attention to them. You need to listen to them. They can be a warning to you. They can give you direction in a way that your rational brain can’t. Of course, you can’t live your life by your emotions, but you shouldn’t ignore them either. If you don’t balance them, you do get in trouble.
My emotions have been rather raw of late. As I said, old wounds are being ripped open. My heart is being ripped out of me by the pain of some things going on right now. And yet, I am told by those hurting me that it is because I haven’t forgiven.
Okay, finally, here is the answer I got. I thought about someone else that I was supposed to forgive and have – it was the man who molested me when I was 8. I thought okay, I’ve forgiven him because I have to, it’s in the Bible and it is also best for me to do so as well. I get that… then it was like that voice inside, the one that helps you figure things out…I call it God, I believe it is God. That voice asked me, if he were here today, would you have a relationship with him? Would you let him watch children? Would you just smile and have a cup of coffee with him?
I thought no, I wouldn’t – it would be a very stupid thing to do, wouldn’t it? I thought that through for a while and realized that forgiveness can exist with other strong emotions. Those emotions tell us that there is danger. The danger isn’t over.
See sometimes we forgive for ourselves regardless of whether the person repents or has remorse or not… we do it because we just believe that way, or we are a Christian and know we have to – we pray “forgive us our sins (trespasses, debts) as we forgive those that sin (trespass, debtors) against us.” So we forgive but forgiveness doesn’t mean we allow other people to hurt us again, or abuse us.
So maybe you’ve wondered this too – you thought, okay, I’ve forgiven, I think I have, but I just don’t want to be hurt anymore. I think that’s okay. It’s sort of like this – when a snake has bit you, you can forgive it, but it would not be wise to make a pet out of it.
So what are your thoughts about forgiveness?