Updated: Jan 10
What is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a very broad topic to digest. Throughout life, we all are put in circumstances where we face this notion head on. In those moments, we are given the choice of whether or not forgiveness is an act in which we will participate. Webster’s dictionary defines Forgiveness as, “To cease to feel resentment against,” or “to pardon”. The Bible defines "Forgiveness” as an act of steadfast love. Micah 7:18 tells of God’s character to pass over transgression, that He does not hold onto anger “forever, because He delights in steadfast love.” John 13:34 gives us the commandment to love one another, just as our Savior has loved us. The Bible says a great deal about forgiveness, even providing guidelines for what to do in the case that we have been offended in some way or other, and need clarity on how to handle the situation. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”- Matthew 5:44.
Who Forgiveness Applies to..
When on paper, the concept of forgiveness is legible and easy to comprehend. The issue happens when that concept comes into play in real life. Just like the Bible says, no person on this earth is without sin. We all fall short of the glory of God. At some point, each and every one of us have done something to offend God, and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s just the way we are by nature. We have mess ups and we fail to do the right thing at times. It’s our acknowledgment of those errors which brings us back to a place of recognition and truth in where we stand in our relationship with the Father. It’s without question we are all familiar with our own shortcomings, and the heavy process of how to move forward from them. The other challenge is how do we manage to deal with others’ faults? More
specifically, how do we cope and resolve the offenses that have come forth against us by other “children of God.” Forgiveness is crucial for ourselves and for all others.
It is evident that forgiveness is no simple task to achieve. When you dissect what this term entails, it is far more complex than what is written on paper. For some, finding it in their hearts to forgive others that have wronged them in their past, great or small, is nearly unfathomable. While, for others, it is the idea of forgiving themselves for their own failures and/or transgressions, that seems unattainable. Either way, both need to be achieved in order to truly live in the fullness of God’s glory, which He desperately wants for all of us to experience. The harsh reality is that we can never reach that place if we are bound by the chains of resentment and spite. We have to let go of our pain, and allow for God to
lift that weight off of us. His strength far surpasses our own, so why not permit Him to lift our heavy burden, so that we don’t have to tug it along anymore? It’s hard for us to comprehend someone that would gladly take on the heavy weight of our struggles. That, in itself, is a reminder that God’s love is such a great force, that we are simply not capable of understanding its magnitude of power and strength.
Years ago, I struggled with a sickness that was brought upon by my own doing. My obsession with weight loss destroyed my body, my relationships, my college years. It stole so much precious time that I will never get back, and nearly stole my life also in the process. While I was sick, I felt a loathing for myself that was just unreal. I despised who I was, and how I couldn’t rewire my brain to think differently. I wanted so desperately for things to go back to normal, but I didn’t know how to achieve that. The addiction-mindset I had developed would not allow me to venture to any other thoughts, other than those that were holding me in bondage. Finally, with time and a whole lot of prayer, I gave up what had been gripping on to me so tightly, to God.
Now to clarify, while I was holding onto the obsessive thoughts that plagued me, Anorexia’s grip was even greater. See, my breakthrough came when I truly opened my heart up for God to come in and rescue me. It wasn’t so much about completely letting go of all the bad thoughts and eating disordered behaviors, but trusting in God that He would help me to get through leaving this chapter of my life behind. I finally dropped my guard, and gave the reigns over to Him to handle it all. No matter how far I had already gone to mess my life up, and the life of those closest to me, He would be able to get me, everyone else accompanying me in this treacherous storm, past it all. He did.
Recovery was what got me to where I am now today, which I give every bit of praise in my heart to God for. The process, however, was not a pretty picture. Emotions are crippling, and mine ran rampant during this time in my life. He never promised that getting better would be easy. What He did promise was that I would rise above the prison walls I was held captive in, and find freedom in a new walk of life. God provides us with challenge in order to continue our growth as disciples in His kingdom, even as we are trying desperately to pull ourselves from the muck we got ourselves in.
During the time I was sick, many of those who I considered very close to me hurt me deeply. Most simply didn’t understand what I was going through, or how to handle it. I lost friends, cut ties with a few family members, was dumped by my boyfriend of six years, waved goodby to my chance to graduate college with my class, and worst of all, I had mostly given up on who I was all together. While I was sick, I was angry with myself, and nearly everyone around me. I was so hurt by the gossip that spread like wildfire in my family and at school. The lectures and dirty glances I got from my friends and family. It all made me cringe and want to just disappear completely. Then there was the resentment and anger I held
toward myself for getting to this awful place. The fact that I couldn’t seem to stop the thoughts from coming, or acting on them. Even years after reaching recovery, I still grappled with forgiving others for the way they treated me while I was sick, and forgiving myself for wrecking my life, along with all the pain it caused my mother and little sister.
So, Where Do We Go From Here?..
Whether including the time I was sick or not, there are more times than I can count which I have been wronged by someone, or found myself to be the wrongful perpetrator. I have full confidence saying that I know I’m not alone in that truth. While our stories may vary greatly, they all have the same message and they all conclude with the same choice of forgiveness.
Some say that forgiveness starts with forgiving yourself, so that your heart is open to offer forgiveness to others for their faults. This may be the case for some; however, I feel that forgiveness is a truly personal journey. Whether or not one chooses to forgive themselves before venturing out to offering their forgiveness to others is something they have to work through between themselves and God. Our Heavenly Father knows what is best for us, and He will lead us to what our answer is.
In my case, I did have to forgive myself first before I could allow myself to genuinely let go of the past. I needed to let go of who I was at that time, and the repercussions of what occurred. I needed to accept that my struggle was not something that I brought upon myself with intentions to inflict pain upon myself, nor my family. My battle was one that was spiritual and physical. It was, what my husband calls, a gift from God, in fact. Had this trial not come, I would be a completely different person than I am today. Odd as it may seem, I was meant to have gone through Anorexia. It has been roughly five years now since achieving recovery, and just two years ago was when I accepted forgiveness in my heart for myself.
Forgiveness for others did take a bit longer, especially when there is still tension between myself and certain individuals that hurt me during that time. For a long time I wanted a sort of apology for how I was treated. Those are rare to find when people are experiencing their own inner struggles. That being said, I knew as much as I wanted some kind of remorse to be thrown my way, I would most likely never get it. For years, I actually thought that I had forgiven the family and friends that hurt me. At get togethers, we were cordial with one another, even gifting each other Christmas presents. Whenever we were not face to face, however, my words for them weren’t kind. Deep down I loathed them, and couldn’t stand even to listen to anyone sharing positive words about them. The “forgiveness” I had thought I had given years ago was, in actuality, a mask hiding the grudge that was buried away deep in my heart.
Every bit of resentment I held toward this individual came out bold and strong. Nothing I had to say about them was nice, or even neutral, for that matter. The pain they caused me years ago re-surfaced to remind me that I had never let it go, and this way why. The last time we saw one another, there was no more petty cordial small talk. There was not even a greeting exchanged. It was an awkward and tense two hours of sharp glares and silence between the two of us. I hated that this is the way things were, but I knew that it was this way because of what they did. There would be no conflict if they just weren’t the way that they are! Why can’t they change?! Why can’t God open the eyes of their heart to see who they are and the pain they cause?!
God gives us free will, that’s why. Since that last Fourth of July cook out, I have struggled with anger and depression over this brawl that I want so desperately to end. It wasn’t until just recently, after being hurt again by this one individual in particular that I have battled with for years throughout my life, that I realized what true and raw forgiveness was. If I wanted the daily anger that would rise every morning as thoughts of what I wanted to say to them would flood through my mind, or if I wanted to stop living in sadness and bitterness over the relationship that I can’t seem to salvage, and if I wanted to finally live free of spite and sorrow all together, I had to let go of the trespasses that had been done against me. If I ever receive an apology, it would be welcomed graciously. In the most likely reality that spoken remorse
is not something I will ever receive from this person, I am giving them complete and total forgiveness anyway. Whether or not, they ask or are even interested in my forgiveness, they have it.
There will be no more glares at parties, no more angry rants to friends and family, no more daily pity parties over what happened, no more questioning where I stand in defense, no more being enslaved to bitterness and resentment. I am free. Because I hadn’t really forgiven them, I was still allowing them to steal my joy and hurt me every day. Once I gave forgiveness in my heart, the pain began to quickly dissipate, and the more joyful my days
became. The past week, I have even included them in my prayers. After all, the Bible does say to pray for our enemies. I have not yet come face to face with this person yet, but I fully intend to smile and give a normal greeting as I would a friend, with no other lingering painful thought hiding somewhere in the background.
So, what does forgiveness mean? I think what God is trying to tell us through His word, is that forgiveness is vital to continue in our walk with Him. We need it in order to lead the life He intended for us. We need forgiveness to truly be free.
“Forgiveness.” Mirriam-Webster.com. 2022. https://www.merriam-webster.com/help/citing-the-
dictionary. (7 September 2022).