Forgiveness = Release

Hey Ginger! Lately I’ve been struggling a lot with the thought of forgiveness. Is it possible to truly forgive someone but keep them at a distance in your life? And where do you draw the line between forgiving someone and becoming a pushover? – S

Dear S,
I was going to sit down and respond to your question yesterday, but guilt got the best of me.  I struggle with releasing hurt and even some anger toward an individual or two who have hurt me.  So in answering this question, I have to work through (yet again) all of the ideas that you present.  It’s been sobering and growing.

You mention that you struggle with forgiveness.  I think all of us do at some level.  Most of the things Jesus asks of us in the Bible aren’t things that come naturally to ourselves.  Who willingly wants to turn the other cheek after someone has slapped us?

If you’re like me, facing forgiveness can be pushed off as I pile up the excuses.  It’s uncomfortable.  It feels like the opposite of justice.  And sometimes the pain is so strong that it can feel weak to forgive rather than seek revenge.

I believe that the things Jesus asks of us in the Bible are there for our best and for His glory.  Forgiveness in the face of hurt doesn’t make sense to the world… but that’s exactly what Jesus asks of us- over and over.

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven. – Matthew 18: 21-22, MSG

Either we believe that our God is just and full of love (even when we’ve been hurt and betrayed) and that we should forgive because He knows it’s best for us, or we don’t.

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” –Ann Lamott

Holding onto bitterness and anger won’t hurt the other person, nor will it heal us.  It will only hold us captive.

Now, does that mean that I ask someone who has abused me and hurt me to be a part of my life on a regular basis?  That answer is going to vary in every situation.  I would suggest gleaning some advice from someone older who knows you and the situation and can help you see what the full picture of forgiveness needs to look like.

What do I mean?  What if a close friend of yours makes out with a guy you like at a party?  The rest of the school might tell you your duty is to cut off all contact with this girl forever.  I think Jesus would look you in the eye and tell you to forgive and move past any drama.  Of course you shouldn’t have to be a door mat for anyone, but I do think that we can deal with hurt and forgiveness without getting caddy on facebook or getting your girlfriends to gang up on her.  What a challenge your life could be to the world if you were the one who met her gaze and said, “I forgive you.”

Are you familiar with the story of Corrie Ten Boom who spent time in a Nazi concentration camp? She saw her father and her sister killed in that camp. She later wrote and spoke about her experiences and the way that God carried her through even the most difficult of experiences.  At one point in her ministry she was preaching in Germany about the forgiveness and love of Jesus.  After the meeting a man approached her, a man she recognized as one of the jailers who had humiliated and tortured her father and sister. The man said to her: “Ja, Sister Ten Boom, isn’t it wonderful how Jesus forgives all of our sins?”

“I looked him in the eye and I said, ‘Lord, forgive me, I cannot forgive this man.’ “I heard Jesus say, ‘Corrie, I forgive you for not forgiving that man,’ and when I heard that word in my heart, forgiveness came and I hugged this man and I said, ‘Yes, brother, I forgive you and I love you.'”

What an example.

If you aren’t able to verbally or in person forgive someone, might I suggest that you speak to a counselor about it?  I know my own limits and I will probably be doing the same for myself in the near future.  In the meantime I’m continuing to commit it to prayer.  Try writing the person a letter even if you never send it.  Sometimes releasing their “power” over the situation is a good way to start.  Pray, pray, pray.  I’d challenge you to pick up the book, “Praying God’s Word” by Beth Moore.  It has some great Scripture references on this topic.  Remember, perfection won’t be reached this week… but transformation can happen on a daily basis when we give ourselves over to the changing work of the Holy Spirit!

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2, NLT

“God is always calling on us to do the impossible.  It helps me to remember that anything Jesus did during his life here on earth is something we should be able to do too.” -Madeleine L’Engle

I’m going to talk about this a little bit more tomorrow, if that’s ok.

Praying for your heart and hurt, S.


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  • Cathy

    Wow. Ginger, as usual your post speaks deeply to me. My “best friend” (the only friend I’ve ever had like this in my life) hurt me deeply at the beginning of this year and it was ugly. I was utterly blind-sided and she basically took years of very close friendship and tossed it away.  My first reaction was anger and bewilderment, but that turned to bitterness. I quickly realized that God had something in this for me. Something I didn’t think I needed to work on, but I was so wrong. I needed to learn how to forgive. Truly forgive. Not just say the words and pretend while secretly harboring bitterness and dislike in my heart.

    I struggled with the “fairness” of forgiving her.

    I struggled with the deep hurt she caused, the horrible words she said and the broken trust.

    But more than anything I struggled with the fact that by NOT forgiving her I was being disobedient to my God.

    And that broke me.

     I finally (months later, over the summer) came to a place of forgiveness I didn’t think possible. There is still hurt and a deeply broken trust that will take time to heal, but I forgive her. There isn’t bitterness or anger. We don’t talk much anymore, other than passing by at church. But I am at peace knowing that God isn’t necessarily asking me to  be her best friend again, He is just asking me to show her the grace He has shown me.

    So thankful for the pain and tears and hurt and loneliness and loss He allowed. Joyful that He loves me enough to teach me these difficult things.

    • Cathy – thank you so much for sharing a portion of your story.  What an example you set for your children and the rest of us.  This spoke to my heart so much when you said: “There is still hurt and a deeply broken trust that will take time to heal, but I forgive her. There isn’t bitterness or anger. We don’t talk much anymore, other than passing by at church. But I am at peace knowing that God isn’t necessarily asking me to be her best friend again, He is just asking me to show her the grace He has shown me.”  Thank you for the gentle reminder to pursue obedience.  I’m so sorry for your hurt, but so thankful for the grace you’ve displayed.  Blessings- G