This post is the first in the 4 week Forgiveness Challenge #4weeksforgiveness I’m running both here and in my Facebook group. Each week I’ll share a lesson on Biblical forgiveness whilst challenging ourselves to apply it during the week. It would be great if you could join us, I’ll share the post here on a Monday but the heavy lifting and support will take place over in the group. You in?
A few years back I was in a very difficult situation with family members and although God was calling me to forgive them I had no idea how to go about it. To me it felt unfair and unjust that I should forgive people who had hurt me so badly so I wrestled with this feeling alongside the words that YHWH was convicting me with. Eventually I said to Him, I don’t know how to forgive you need to show me.
One of the most important lessons He taught me is that forgiveness is an action not an emotion. We are taught that forgiveness is about us, our ability to let go, move on, feel good and get on with life – we know the theory, the other person isn’t beating themselves up about it so why should we? But have you ever forced yourself to forgive someone? It doesn’t work not if they have really hurt you.Forgiveness is an action not an emotion. Click To Tweet
This was my conundrum, how could I enter into that state which made forgiveness easy for me? How could I get to that place where I could erase those wounds from my memory and apply the old adage ‘forgive and forget’ living like I was A-OK? Answer: I couldn’t.
I realised that I was going about this whole forgiveness thing the wrong way. I was focusing on me and how I felt and whether I could erase the memories from my mind and how I could make myself do that and thus feel good about myself.
The dictionary says that forgiveness is our ability
“to stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone”.
We measure how successfully we have forgiven someone by our emotional state. That’s incorrect for so many reasons but here’s two:
- You put yourself in a place where you are constantly beating yourself up because you can’t drum up the necessary emotions to make you feel like you’ve truly forgiven the person that has hurt you. O yes, I’m sure you can feign it for short bursts of space but that old feeling that they hurt you and they deserve to die, die, die (no only kidding) soon rises to the surface. What you’re trying to do is lie to your own soul that you haven’t been hurt by the situation – that comes with it’s own long-term issues – trust me 😉
- It’s all about you. You turn inwards examining yourself under a microscope, checking every though and feeling you have, beating yourself up because you don’t actually feel like you’ve forgiven and therefore you’re not a good Christian and Heaven forbid as a consequence your own sins will still be held against you. This is enough to wreak havoc in the most benevolent of us, slowly destroying us from the inside out.
So what’s the solution?
Well YAH told me to look at how He forgives us and use that as a template to work with. One thing He showed me was that He doesn’t get worked up all emotionally about whether He’s really forgiven us or not, He simply makes the decision to forgive and acts on it. Forgiveness is an action.
Of course, we’re not perfect like He is but we can use this as a blueprint for ourselves. For example, since every Hebrew word is actually a verb/action word it is clear to me that forgiveness isn’t a state that we enter into but something we do. God measures success by fruit not emotion, so even if you don’t feel 100% yet about what that person did to you last year to hurt you that’s OK because God’s looking at the heart, the desire to be free from that pain and not hold on to it- He will heal the pain when we take the necessary steps in faith.
What is forgiveness?
So we’ve looked at what forgiveness isn’t and briefly on what it is – an action but what would that action look like? Well forgiveness is an action of undeserved love and mercy which we extend towards someone who had wronged us. We know they don’t deserve it and maybe they know they don’t deserve it but thats what makes it so gracious – and it doesn’t have to be big things either it could be something as simple as breaking the ice and saying good morning, good night, sending a text or making a cup of tea to however far you want to take it. The idea is that each act builds one upon another until finally we find that we’re not as upset, angry or resentful as we once were. And don’t get me wrong, you’ll still have to be wrestling with your emotions and that’s OK as long as you remember that you can choose to forgive by acting with Grace through mercy and love.You can choose to forgive by acting with Grace through mercy and love. Click To Tweet
A quick note to add is that if someone is abusing you God doesn’t say keep allowing your heart to be ripped out of your chest and trampled on underfoot, you also need to protect yourself and that requires leading from the Holy Spirit on a case by case basis.
?What small action can you take to demonstrate forgiveness today?