A couple of weeks ago, the message at church was focused on forgiveness and this topic has really been weighing on my heart as I’ve contemplated all the ways being unforgiving has colored my life.
As much as I want to pretend that I keep a short record of wrongs, I know that I hold onto things, big and small, like the friends who didn’t stand by me during a rough time in college or the boy who made fun of me for being slower than the rest of the class at multiplication tables…in second grade. While these are people who don’t come up often in my daily life, whenever they do, I’m taken back to all the ways I perceive they wronged me.
The quote “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die” by Marianne Williamson is one of my favorites for visualizing what unforgiveness looks like. You’re holding on to anger and hurt that can seem all-consuming when the other person may not even remember the incident in the first place. Sometimes, I think I subconsciously believe that holding onto a grudge is getting back at the other person somehow, while in reality it is actually standing in the way of me living my fullest life and being my truest self.
I also think it is so important to remember that forgiving someone doesn’t negate what they did or make it okay. Because this is a shift from what we’ve been taught all our lives, it can be hard to internalize. As a kid, when someone apologized to you, you were conditioned to say “It’s okay.” One of my friends proposed that the response should always be “I forgive you” because “okay” tells the other person that their actions were acceptable, and this is often not the case. I believe words are powerful and it’s important to remember that forgiveness is something only you can give and, at the end of the day, forgiveness frees you! Forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily mean you need to trust them again or that your relationship is automatically repaired, but it does allow you to release them and begin the journey of moving on.
God is the ultimate forgiver and I believe that those who practice forgiveness with themselves and others are embodying how He wants us to live and treat one another. So, how can we cultivate a spirit of forgiveness?
Here are some ways I’m looking to incorporate being more forgiving into my own life:
- Being the first to ask for forgiveness when I’ve done something wrong. This experience is so humbling and I’ve found that it makes me a kinder forgiver in situations when the roles are reversed.
- Admitting that I need to forgive someone. I think this is especially important when it’s grudge I’ve held onto for a long time.
- Actively giving someone forgiveness instead of holding on to my bitterness or anger. Although I have a long way to go right now, I want to someday be known as someone who is quick to forgive.
I definitely don’t have all the answers and know that having a more forgiving heart is something God is working on during this season. I would love to hear your thoughts and tips on how you best handle forgiveness. If you have any prayer requests, please send them along via email, in the comments below, or through DM on Instagram. I would love to pray for you!
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32