Aug 27, 2011

Unlocking Forgiveness

Today I am writing a more heavy post which is a break from my usual lighthearted posts on my life of crazy with three kids or DIY crafty posts. However this has been a week where serious thoughts have weighed on the soul and I would like to share what I have learned.


Not just this week.

This is a journey of learning that God has been taking through for several years now and is in many ways my "journey of the wilderness". It's a journey on forgiveness. I won't say what it was that I am forgiving, but just know that it was a wrong that left a very deep painful scar across my heart that could drown me in anger and bitterness but for God's grace.

But then this lesson carries over into all other areas. It carries over into my parenting. Forgiveness pays a big part in how I discipline my children and how they respond to me. It carries over into my marriage and plays a part in how I love my husband and how he loves me. It carries over into my friendships and any other significant relationship of my life.

Because if you've lived life for very long, you've had to forgive and in turn ask for forgiveness. Let me share with you what I have learned in my wilderness wanderings while God has gently led me into what it means to forgive. I will share what I have learned in two easy ways.
What forgiveness IS.
And what it ISN'T.

Forgiveness IS:
1. Releasing the need to feel bitterness and resentment.
One wise college professor once told me, "Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." Yikes!

2. Releasing the right I feel I might have to exact justice and get revenge and leave that for the Lord. Vengeance on my behalf is His and His alone. Romans 12:19.

3. Extending love and grace from God in all my dealings with the other person. Grace is getting what we don't deserve. And but for the grace of God, we ALL deserve punishment, yet He extends love and forgiveness which we don't deserve. With Christ in me, I can do the same, since I too have been forgiven much. (Romans 12:20-21) It is refusing to return evil for evil or insult for insult.

4. Wishing the other person WELL. I pray that the other person is also fully redeemed and made new in God's love and grace. To wish them a life filled with the joy, love, and blessings of the Lord. This is God's desire for all people and should be our desire as well. It is treating them as a precious person that God created and loves.

5. Continuous. Not allowing anger to fester and a continual act of submitting the wrong done to me to the Lord and choosing to love instead. Sometimes we are wronged so deeply, that it's something we like to harbor inside and have a difficult time giving up. So it's a continuous process we take to the Lord.

6. Submitting my wounded pride and setting aside my self and letting God's picture of love, redemption and salvation for all mankind fill my heart instead. It means realizing I am a sinner too.

7. Limitless and should be extended each and every time a wrong is committed. Matt. 18:21-22

This is what Forgiveness is NOT:

1. Saying that the wrong done to me is Okay or excusing it away. It is not justifying why they did the wrong that they did. If you can justify it or excuse it, then there is nothing to forgive in the first place since no wrong has been done. People always have a "reason" for doing what they did, but that doesn't make it right or excuse the fact that it was done from a personal choice on their end to do the wrong thing (no matter what the outside reason). In forgiving we are acknowledging that a wrong has been done to me and choosing to forgive anyways. It is not letting someone off the "hook" for being responsible for their wrong doings.

2. Saying that you must trust the person or allow yourself to be put in a position where you can be hurt by them again. Trusting again may not be possible in some situations. Trust is gained through mutual love and respect and forgiveness does not guarantee that. Sometimes it has to be gained back again or it may be permanently broken.

3. Dependent on whether the other person asks for it or shows remorse or repentance. They may never, but forgiveness should be offered anyways. Romans 5:8 says, "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." He offered forgiveness before we asked and so should we towards others. However....

4. Forgiveness is not RECONCILIATION. There is a big difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Reconciliation takes two parts. Forgiveness extended from the one who was wronged; and repentance, remorse and a heart change on from the one who wronged. We can only offer our part which is forgiveness. In a similar way, Christ offers forgiveness to all, but only those who repent are reconciled to Him in a relationship.

5. Forgiveness is not denying the other person the opportunity to make it right. If they are genuinely showing remorse and asking for forgiveness, then reconciliation should be offered and second chances. Though this can be so very difficult, you can not turn your back and walk away if there is true repentence. Which is not, "I'm sorry this happened to you", but rather, "I am so sorry I did this to you and would like to make it right."

6. Forgiveness is not excusing the person from the consequences of their sin. Consequences are a natural part of sin and part of God's design to reach our heart and soften it. If you don't believe me, try reading, oh I don't know, THE WHOLE OLD TESTAMENT. The whole book is about consequences for Israel's sins against God. However, I will say this: There is a big difference between allowing natural consequences to take place and taking revenge for ourselves. So tread this water carefully. Or think about this: If your child disobeys you and you forgive him, does he then get out of whatever discipline you've thought up for him because of his disobedience? Of course not, that would be dumb parenting. Most often a natural consequence is loss of trust and responsibilities or privileges. Forgiveness doesn't negate this.

7. Forgiveness is not a denial of emotions. There is still room for grief, sadness, feelings of loss and betrayal and anger. But it is taking these emotions to the Lord and telling Him all about them rather than letting them turn into bitterness and revenge. Just read the book of Psalms if you don't believe me. The whole book is a study on this example. David was more emotional than a Jr. High school girl, and yet God was pleased with him because he submitted to God in the midst of those emotions.

To be honest, learning what forgiveness is NOT was just as useful to me in my personal growth as it was to learn what forgiveness IS. And just because I know this doesn't mean that I can easily DO it. I have found that I walk in circles sometimes thinking I have finally forgiven only to be caught off guard in moments of bitterness. Some times I'll go whole months without a thought about it, and then I get caught up somehow and feel I have to start all over again. Yet, I have found that though I think I am wandering aimlessly through the bewildering wilderness sometimes, God is slowly unwrapping my heart and exposing more and more tender layers deep within and exposing them in His gentle way with me. He is so gentle and kind when He walks and talks with me and I cannot wait to meet Him. Yet there is nothing else that has ever had to power to probe so deep within and change me.

"My heart has heard You say, 'Come and talk with me.' and my heart responds, 'LORD, I am coming.'" Psalm 27:8


  1. We've talked about so much of this over the years, but you've done a masterful job of expressing it. You are a beautiful person and I love you so! XO Mom

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this often confusing issue, Jenny. I too have been on a journey of forgiveness and know how harrowing it can be. So thankful that God taught me much about forgiveness - and continues to teach me. Blessings for your journey!

  3. Amen, Sister. Just so you know, one of the qualities I would use to describe you is "forgiving" and
    "gracious" with people... so I guess this means that God is really shining through you even when you are not so sure yourself about the work that has been done.

  4. Wow. Thanks for posting this. There's someone in my life who I keep telling myself that I've forgiven (I have), but the whole setting boundaries thing makes me feel like I really haven't forgiven. I now realize that that's for my family's protection. Thanks for making that make sense.