Can I be honest? Forgiving people who wrong you sucks.
Actually, it's more than the words hard or difficult can provide definition for.
It's just ... messy.
Especially when you forgive the same person for the same reason multiple times over.
There are days I forget about the wrongs done by those in my past, but on the days where I'm in my car alone with the unwanted flashbacks and painful reminders of what I don't have because of what was done? It's no good.
But I realize something every time I have "one of those days".
I learn to never take all those better days for granted. And I also learn forgiveness takes more than the three magic words.
I find the best way forward is to refine the way we approach forgiveness.
Three Applications of Forgiveness
1) Over and Over and Over. I want to start out with this anthem, if you will, because it can't be emphasized enough that this is not always a one time thing. Whether we want to believe it or not, forgiveness rarely takes place on a one time basis.
In Matthew 18, Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who wrongs him wanting to clarify if seven times is enough. Jesus didn't say, "Oh totally, but you need to multiply 7 and 70. If you reach that, then you don't have to forgive them anymore".
I don't think so.
He was teaching one of the biggest lessons of forgiveness we know of today: there is no limit on how many times we ought to forgive those who hurt us (whether intentional or not).
By the time we even get to forgiving someone 490 times, this action has been put into practice enough times that it has come naturally, therefore leaving us to lose count and the desire to keep track.
Forgiveness - like patience and kindness - doesn't come easy and therefore must be put into practice daily in order to become better in it.
Not that we become numb to it by saying "I forgive you" willy-nilly with no knowledge of what we're doing, or to become "perfect" at it, because that won't happen.
With the aim that we can get better.
We can learn to love those we hold dear better.
We can learn to practice showing kindness to our enemies more often and sincerely without holding that grudge that harms everyone.
We can learn to forgive ourselves for the things we say as a knee jerk reaction to the hurt they caused.
We can be better.
We can do better.
Now we're not always given the opportunity to forgive someone who's left us numb in person. You forgive them anyway. Driving to work and it comes to mind? Forgive them. Washing the dishes and the phone call drops? Forgive them. Forgive them. There is no right geographical place for you to be in order to practice the act of forgiveness.
Let's say you've forgiven a person to their face, in front of God in prayer, to your reflection in the mirror, in your car about 100 times before - you will still have days where you feel burned out and just done. And that's okay.
Take a breathe. I would also say to take a look at what your boundaries are with this person. Do you need to talk with them a little less about certain aspects of your life, if they are still a part of your life?
I think if we let ourselves build fences - they can even be temporary if it means time and space for healing - we allow ourselves to get perspective and better understanding of what we need and what the other party needs as well.
Forgiving someone does not mean you have to be the best of friends or assure their happiness. That is not your job.
The person doesn't need to ask for forgiveness in order for you to give it.
Then there are times when the person it pertains to hasn't even apologized. What do you do with that? If possible, let them know you were hurt so they're aware. Sometimes, people say things without even thinking twice about how it might have affected the other person. That's not to say they're a terrible person (I'm definitely guilty of this), they're simply not aware or were probably never told about this before. You'd be doing them a favor by being honest with them.
Forgive the ones who have hurt you (several times over), pray for that person who left you feeling betrayed with your heart out on your sleeve, embarrassed, who made a call to serve you pain rather than bring you kindness when you deserve more than that.
Move forward. What someone else decided to do does not get to determine the type of outcome on your side.
Admitting your faults and acknowledging you're wrong to another person is one of the most awkward, uncomfortable yet humbling acts we will ever do.
Apologizing has become somewhat of a lost art in that it's done too often to the point where it has been washed down of its' true grit. When I talk about how we need to apologize as much as we forgive, I'm not saying we should say "I'm sorry" for things we cannot control or did not do wrong. For example, me saying "I'm sorry your hair doesn't look good today". why are you sorry about that? Did you pull a sour Patch Kids and iron my hair in my sleep? No.
I'm talking about the authentic apologies that need to be owned and sought after be each of us.
Consider the following when you're being advised or personally feel led to apologize:
Are you really sorry or are you just saying it so the other person will stop crying?
What exactly are you asking for forgiveness for? Was it what you said?
Was what you did that hurt the other person intentional?
An apology doesn't hold much power or meaning if it's not purposeful. This doesn't mean you need to get on your knees and beg for forgiveness.
Be real, honest, and straight forward. Nobody grows to be better if you fluff it up, and everyone loses when you point blame.
Remember how I said we're not always given the chance to forgive someone who has wronged us in person?
That opportunity has a higher chance of happening when you're the one asking for that same thing.
When the time comes, don't do this over text or e-mail (or even a hand written letter).
If you are able, call, FaceTime or schedule a date to meet at a coffee shop to talk things through.
In our walk through practicing forgiveness, we learn more about the fulfillment of grace.
3) Daily Dose of Grace
We don't like to believe it requires anything of us, so why is it different for the person who wronged us? Easy. We didn't hurt us the way they did.
But here's the kicker:
Grace doesn't pick teams.
It doesn't have pre-requisites for anyone to meet. No quota. No standard way of being.
If that's the case, everyone we come in contact to is allowed that courtesy we wish upon ourselves by others.
So what do I do when the past comes up? First, I pray. Hard. That God would show them grace and teach me how to give it as well.
Then I try to remind myself of all the amazing things that happened following that part of my life. Even still.
I say this is all bittersweet because it's a combination of bubbling pride rising to the surface relieved by the gentleness at the core of humility.
It's inevitable: You're going to mess up and fall short again. You're also going to get hurt again.
My hope for you in those moments is that you are able to recognize it and face it with all the muster you've got.
You are worthy of forgiveness and you are capable of showing the same to others, even when it feels impossible.
Don't ever doubt what grace can do or the fact that God is showing it to and through you every day. Seriously.
In the end, I promise you'll find yourself filled with more joy, laughter, and peace.
Ultimately, i find we can become more present with those around us rather than fixating on what was and what could have been - and that in itself is a goal worth working towards.
Holding a little tighter to grace today,