Definition of forgive (From Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
1a: to give up resentment of or claim to requital (see requital 1) for forgive an insult b: to grant relief from payment of forgive a debt
2: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) :pardonforgive one’s enemies.
We hear a lot about forgiveness in God’s word–in fact Jesus often spoke of forgiveness and the subject of some of His parables was about forgiveness. As Christians, most of us understand that Jesus, a perfect, sinless man, died a horrible death to pay the penalty for our sin–like 1b in the definition. We are grateful for that act and to know we, who are believers, are covered for our sins, past, present, and future. The penalty has been paid and we accept that gift humbly and with gratitude.
But what does forgiveness look like in our daily walk with our fellow-man? Forgiving the people in our lives who hurt us, many times, over and over. Or those who seem arrogant or will refuse to acknowledge that they offended. How do we prove our forgiveness–that we’ve given up our resentment or need to punish them back ie, the strong desire to show them how it feels–the eye for an eye mentality? Can we forgive and stay in the lives of those persons–or should we forgive but remove ourselves from the object of our pain? Is that what forgiveness looks like? Do we have to tell the person we’ve forgiven them when they haven’t even asked us to forgive? What if they feel the offense was warranted, ie, necessary for them to change us or our behaviors?
I don’t have answers to all my questions. As a person who has spent her life living as a chameleon– adapting my ideas, thoughts and beliefs to whomever I was with, I found I wasn’t true to anyone–most of all myself. If criticized in any way, I tried to change to accommodate what that person thought I should be. I can tell you living like that is exhausting because often these people keep moving the bar. It’s impossible to please them because fixing you is not really what’s behind the criticism. Perhaps it is jealousy, control, fear or some other motive that is being played out–not a problem I can fix for them by changing my behavior. In fact, these kinds of interactions, more often than not, result in a lack of respect for me, something it took a long time to figure out. People, even bullies, may have respect for someone who stands up for themselves rather than cowering down. I have often run from any confrontational situation–putting my head in the sand, so to speak– instead of standing up and speaking my position and my thoughts to an adversarial person. When I was growing up there was a lot of strife in our home due to my dad’s drinking habits. Many of these times of arguing and fussing were done at the dinner table in the evenings. I hated it and it frightened me. I have decided that is why I became a ‘peace at ANY price’ person. I find myself doing anything I can to avoid or ‘fix’ an adversarial situation. In doing that, I have also realized that I have stepped in front of God, thwarting His loving plan to work in the heart of that person. I would tell them it is ok, when it isn’t ok, simply because I couldn’t stand to see them in emotional pain. Often we need to feel the pain of our poor choices as an impetus to make the needed changes; that’s how God works in our lives. We become enablers when we try to fix or cover up our loved one’s problems.
We know that life is a journey, and as we live, we grow both in knowledge and understanding. Some of us grow up more quickly than others. We often judge people based on what we see, even though we have no idea what is in the person’s heart–the struggles and pain they have experienced, the ‘whys’ of their behavior. Doyle has been tiling our shower in our newly renovated bathroom. He, in some musings of his own, shared with me that our lives are like that shower. As people come in to look at it, they judge the finished project on the unfinished stage of construction–the mistakes, if you will. Our lives are like that; people judge us by one behavior or action, not taking into account the many other good and admirable qualities we may possess. This creates a situation for forgiveness, the need to give up the resentment that the criticism or judgment creates. If you are going to make a judgment, wait until ‘all the tiles are laid’ or until the end of his or her life.
I’ve discovered that many people who take offense easily and are sharp and quick tongued, are people who are themselves hurting. I’ve heard Joyce Meyer say many times, “Hurting people hurt people”. It certainly seems to be true. I suppose it’s a defense mechanism–strike first and strike fast–not allowing anyone to get close enough to hurt them. In the process of trying to ask forgiveness and work things out, they are very much like a wounded animal, growling and biting the very hand that is trying to help them. In these situations, it’s best to pray for them and wait for God to soften hearts and work His miracles. When the time is right and the other person makes a move toward us, we can express our forgiveness and accept them into our lives.
Well, that’s about it for this subject. Have a wonderful week.