Forgiveness is one of the most intriguing aspects of human nature. We teach our children to confront their disobedience with a public apology to the one they wronged. Notes hidden in lockers between friends, flowers sent to a lover’s door after a fight, and bedside prayers full of tears all resonate with the same theme: I am sorry, will you forgive me?

It seems to crazy to think about, doesn’t it? You are asking someone if they can forgive you for an act or a word that was said or spoken that caused them pain. You are asking someone to forgo the anguish they have suffered and might still be suffering and forgive you. Who are we, to not only ask for forgiveness but to assume that it might be provided from someone who feels nothing but anger and frustration toward us?

In a word, the answer is love. The mistakes of your past do not need to change the love that transpires between true friends and family. At its core, it is so simple, and yet, we all struggle. Here are some of hurdles that must be endured in the act of forgiveness:

1. Forgiving Yourself.
To sincerely forgive others, we must sincerely forgive ourselves. More often than not, people are more inclined to languish in self-loathing. They will recede from their daily lives, believing they are no longer worthy of love and attention. A wise friend once witnessed me doing this and shared this thought with me: “Self deprecation is not the answer. You have to forgive yourself, appreciate those who have forgiven you and pray for those who are working on it.” Once I started acting like someone who was forgiven, I realized I was better able to reach out to those around me and offer them the gift of forgiveness.

2. Patience.
Sometimes we wish forgiveness could be like ripping off a band-aid: we do it quickly, it stings for a bit but then it is over and things will be as they once were. However, everyone works at different paces in the path of forgiveness. I have had friends tell me they still need time to heal before they can properly forgive me. What is important to remember in these moments is that even though the pain of delayed forgiveness is real, love is still ever present.

The love of a friend wants to see us thrive and mature, so when we stumble and fail, they are hurt and disappointed. It may take some time, so allow them to have it and create space between yourselves. Don’t act under the assumption that everything will be back to normal in no time, because it won’t. But if that forgiveness, when it is given, is sincere and true, then your friendship with that person will only grow and become more fruitful than ever imagined.

3. Forgiving but not Forgetting.
When we forgive other people, we are reaching out to someone in a vulnerable state and meeting them halfway. Operating under the idea mentioned above—that everything will not be the same—there are some instances where even after forgiveness, it is important to maintain boundaries.

Writer and pastor Rob Bell explains that there are some people, even after we forgive them, who will just keep on hurting us. He uses the Biblical proverb that says, “like a dog returns to his vomit so a fool returns to his folly” to illustrate why boundaries are important in some relationships. He states that, “in the healthiest relationship, somebody wrongs a person and then they just let it go and they move on, no big deal. But sometimes, forgiving is remembering, and some people are going to keep returning to their vomit, and we don’t have to be there when they do.” This is how a teenager can forgive his dad for beating him but will not return to such a living environment; how a woman can break up with her emotionally abusive boyfriend and not maintain a friendship with him out of protecting herself; and a parent can sincerely believe a child’s admittance that sneaking out at night was selfish and wrong, but they will still withhold privileges in order to hold them accountable to their words.

Perhaps you are struggling to forgive someone today. Maybe you are the one who needs forgiveness but are too ashamed to ask for it. Regardless of where you are, perhaps today will be the day you reach out to someone who appears to be struggling – maybe they are in need of some forgiveness but are at a loss as to where to begin.

 

Photo Credit:
Stephen Beadles

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