Being hurt by someone you love and trust has a way of stinging long after the offense is over and done with. No matter how hard you try to move passed it, no matter how much time goes by, the wound feels as fresh as the day it happened.
How do you forgive someone when you know they were the one person who could hurt you so deeply and the one you thought never would?
Anytime I’ve heard about forgiveness it’s always been described to me by way of the benefits after forgiveness has been already extended. But it’s a hard place to get to when your heart is so hurt. Betrayed. Mangled. Shocked. Wounded. Abandoned.
How do you tell your heart to recover and go back to the way things were? As much as I would love it to, it doesn’t ever come easily.
Recently, it became very apparent that I thought I had extended forgiveness and began healing from offenses that happened many years ago. But I haven’t.
As a follower of Jesus I know that I am called to forgive as I have been forgiven for far worse offenses. This has become a hard thing for me because I just can’t shake the damage that’s been done. Here are a 3 signs that I haven’t forgiven. 3 ways I’m seeking Jesus to work through this in my life.
You have probably not forgiven someone if:
1. You are unable to be around them.
I know this is not always the case, but this is a helpful marker to see whether or not you have truly forgiven someone. If you struggle with their presence in a room and you can only say “hi” out of sheer obligation then maybe, just maybe, you’re still harboring bitterness against them.
Of course, it’s petty to interact with every person in the room except for one, but when we are wounded we don’t always respond rationally. There might even be fear of letting that person back into your life, which is understandable. But holding a casual conversation with someone doesn’t mean you become best friends.
I mean, I hold decent conversations with complete strangers that I usually never see again. I wouldn’t say I have let them into my life.
For me, seeing that person reopens a wound. As much as I know the real problem has now become my unforgiving heart, it’s still so hard to express anything more than “hi” or “bye.” I so desperately want to be to the place where my wounds aren’t seeping all over the floor.
I have become intentional about praying for that person when we will be in the same place together. When you pray for someone, you begin to put flesh back on them. They are no longer just the sum total of your hurt and pain. They become a person again. Someone who has feelings and possibly someone who you were once close to and loved.
Just as with the many faces you see every day, you have no idea what is going on in their life. Maybe they are covering something up and pretending they are fine. Maybe they miss your relationship as much as you do, and they don’t know how to move forward.
God will work through your prayers for that person. Prayer is a really great place to start when it comes to forgiveness.
It’s difficult for me to pray to forgive that person because then I begin to list all the reasons why I shouldn’t. Instead I just pray for them. For their life. For their health. For their well-being. For the things in their life that I know nothing about.
This has begun to change my heart and allow me to be empathetic towards the person who hurt me.
2. You want others to view them the same way you do.
As a mature adult I would like to think we don’t do this. But we do. As relational beings, we want a community around us that supports us and looks out for us. Part of desiring this community is wanting your group of friends to be united against the same thing.
Yet, we know this is incredibly selfish and even childish. We should never be the cause of someone having a negative perception of someone else.
Our hurt and pain should not affect the rest of the relationships around us. People will actually become annoyed by you. Also, you will never come to a place of healing if you just keep feeding your bitterness and unforgiveness.
It’s hard to be honest with yourself about these types of things. When I got honest with myself, it wasn’t easy to accept that this was the way I was responding. This is not the kind of person I want to be. This is not the way I want to treat others.
I’m grateful God revealed this to me and exposed the truth of my heart. As I desire to step forward into forgiveness, I know this ugly in my heart needs to be dealt with and can’t go unchecked.
I don’t want my unforgiveness to be fed in conversation with my friends. So my next step towards forgiveness is dealing with my tendency to share unnecessary things in conversation. I resolve to no longer bring up my offender or offenses in conversation with friends, because it’s just not healing or healthy thing to do.
3. You can’t stop replaying the hurt.
If every time you see or think about that person, you can only think about the way they hurt you–the words they said, the way they betrayed you–then chances are you haven’t forgiven them.
Forgiveness is not about forgetting what has been done to you, but for the memories to no longer be shackles that bind you in a state of bitterness. God doesn’t want us to forgive others because it makes us better people, but because it heals us.
I don’t know about you, but living with unforgiveness is such a burden. It has a way of making events uncomfortable and turning what should be a good thing into something I dread. I often wish I could have selective memory, because I would choose to forget anytime I was wronged.
When these memories come flooding in like a bad song I can’t get out of my head, I no longer try and push them away. Instead, I sit with them. I don’t try and convince myself to change the subject or bury the thoughts away. And that’s because there’s something there that I’m not dealing with.
I also don’t use them to make a case against the person who wronged me. I just sit with them and ask Jesus to deal with the things of my heart. I’ve learned a lot more about myself and the things that wound me as I sit in the pain of the events that hurt me.
These are the places that God uses the most: the moments when we don’t try and force ourselves to fix it or change the way we feel. He works forgiveness in our hearts when we bring ourselves to him.
It doesn’t matter if the other person apologized, if their side of the story is different than yours, or if they even care at all. What leads to the great benefits of forgiveness is sitting before God with your very real heart and allowing him to work.