This week is the 3rd week in the 4 Week forgiveness challenge, to read the other posts click here.
There are two things which make forgiveness stick: boundaries and love. They actually work hand in hand. One of the reasons I have struggled so much with forgiveness is because I didn’t know and didn’t practice both of these things. I’m not saying that I’m perfect but it sure does make it easier for me to know when and why I’m struggling to forgive.
As it has rightly been pointed out on my FB group, forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting – not in the sense that we can erase our memory anyway. We can’t undo the experience once it’s happened and trying to make out like it never did doesn’t change that it has. What forgetting means in this case is to wipe the slate clean and start again, but start again how? Exactly the same way? No.
Have you ever asked an artist to redraw a picture or repaint a painting? They can’t – there will always be something different if not in form then in composition because they would have learnt something from creating the work of art the first time around which makes it different. Different isn’t bad.
Have you ever been on a retreat with a group of people and had a really fantastic time, and then decided that it would be nice to meet up again some time in the future to have another fantastic time? (I know I ask a lot of questions, it’s to get you thinking). Well, I have and you can’t repeat the experience again – something always changes sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse.
Sheer will can’t make things as they once were once something has been broken but, it can get better or worse depending on what you do in the meantime.Sheer will can't make things as they once were once something has been broken Click To Tweet
Forgiveness needs Boundaries
For forgiveness to work we need boundaries. The Bible says:
“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
You can’t trespass without boundaries.
Each of us has our own personal property we have physical property, psychological property and spiritual property, when someone enters into it without permission they have trespassed against us. The very fact that we can trespass against one another means that there has to be boundaries which exist to distinguish between us. Sometimes we give people permission to enter into a particular boundary but they can’t be trusted there, they hurt us, cause damage, steal and leave us worse off than when they got there (transgression/sin against us). We need to set new boundaries for them.
Setting boundaries isn’t a way of punishing anyone, it’s actually a way of protecting you and the other person. It protects you from further damage and prevents them from being under the wrath of God. You also recognise that there was a problem in how you related to the other person, and this gives you a starting place to see whether they can be trusted in this new zone.Setting boundaries isn't a way of punishing anyone, it's actually a way of protecting you and them. Click To Tweet
The Bible isn’t against boundaries, everything that exists has boundaries and God gives us the ability to create and protect our physical, psychological and spiritual boundaries.
Forgiveness needs Love
For forgiveness to work we need love. The Bible says:
there is no fear in love, perfect love casts out all fear because fear has torment. (1 John 4: 18)
When someone trespasses and transgresses against us it can easily leave us feeling wounded and afraid. The fear that we feel about getting hurt again is actually what stops us from truly releasing the pain, in order to feel safe enough to release that pain we need to set healthy and realistic boundaries.
When we set those boundaries it releases the fear and enables us to switch over to love. We can’t operate optimally when we are afraid, it closes us down and torments us. When we move out of fear and into love it enables us to heal and bring healing to the other person too.
We often don’t think of the damage that holding onto unforgiveness does to the other party – but it actually is very damaging. Their behaviour towards you is actually a sin in God’s eyes – they have failed to treat you with love and there is a penalty for that. When we redefine our boundaries and move forwards in love it provides an opportunity for true repentance which releases them from God’s judgement. However, if they choose not to repent, you are no longer standing in the way of them doing so – you are no longer holding on to their debt against you it is now between them and God.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12: 17-21)
So just to conclude, for forgiveness to truly stick we need two key ingredients boundaries and love. Healthy boundaries provide us with the security to leave behind the past and move forwards in the present and love gives us the opportunity to bring healing and restoration to us and others.For forgiveness to truly stick we need two key ingredients healthy boundaries and love. Click To Tweet