Updated: Aug 15, 2022
Besides all the usual chaos that surrounds my life these days, I have been in a position lately to give forgiveness a lot of deep thought. It is a journey. It can be a very long journey in fact. Taking it though will provide you with life giving freedom that will motivate you to become the person God truly wants you to be. For some it can be simple and easy to give and to receive. For others it can be difficult to imagine either one. And for some, there is vacillating between the two. A perfect contrasting Biblical example is that of Peter and Judas. Peter who among other things denied Jesus three times was able to humble himself and seek forgiveness knowing that it was available to him and Judas, on the other hand, couldn't even conceive of it being an option.
Like Peter, the road to forgiveness is laden with many detours and stop signs. We take wrong turns at every other corner and fail to stop and follow the map that's been laid right out in front of us. But as in all journeys, we can find our way out. We just have to be willing participants.
Now if you are like me, you believe in forgiving others their indiscretions. You are able to overlook minor hurts and wrongs, especially when the apology that requests forgiveness is sincere. I happen to always consider the fact that we are the children of the God of 2nd chances...and 3rd...and so on, so shouldn't I also be that person who offers grace and mercy and forgiveness to others. The answer is an absolute YES!
What happens though when you are asked for forgiveness and the other person does so in a manner that seems to only be a means to an end.? A way for them to deceptively control a situation not going the way they want. The mark of their insincerity is that the person does not admit any wrongdoing but in fact justifies their actions as being your fault but they are sorry despite that for hurting you. What happens when the offense is so egregious that it would still be an unhealthy or even dangerous situation if you were to forgive and reconcile with that person?
You pack your bags and journey toward forgiveness.
Someone once told me, "you either forgive me or you don't and we get on with our lives either way." Besides being a very short sighted view of forgiveness, it didn't take into consideration the consequences of non-forgiveness nor the fact that forgiveness in itself does not ensure a healthy relationship will suddenly just appear out of thin air.
Our ability to forgive others should transcend our desire to be proven right or show we are morally more upright. It is an expression of God's love for others that is shown through us and our actions and reactions to the offending person.
Now, having said all that, even as we are called to forgive, we must not blindly just return to things the way they were. Take an abuser or a narcissist. They will apologize, charm and flatter you to get what they want from you; they will manipulate you and when you least expect it, you are right back in that toxic relationship. It turns toxic when you don't meet their demands and expectations and a vicious cycle ensues. Danger lurks at the fork in the road here. Caution signs are posted everywhere and instead of ignoring them and stopping to find safe passage, we continue on in the hopes that this person can find their way to the truth. We have to realize we are not responsible for their path. They need to find their own way and most of these kinds of people have come to a roadblock and don't know how to get around it. They are completely lost. We don't need to be lost with them.
The truth though is we are all called to give forgiveness. Even to these people. Even to the worst of the worst. Even when our hearts are breaking from the flagrant and reprehensible actions they have taken and continue to take. Full and complete and sincere forgiveness. But what we are not called to accept is that person back into our lives again when our health and well-being would be negatively impacted by the continuing of that relationship. The person who told me about forgiving and getting on with our lives was right, even though that's not the way they meant it. Getting on with our life means moving on to a life that embraces your own worth. A life that recognizes the strength that you carry and all that youhave to offer to a fallen and broken world. It edifies the beauty of your heart and soul. It sees you just as God sees you....wonderfully made! It is a journey borne out of forgiveness. propelling us towards the path we are supposed to truly be headed on.
When we forgive, even what we feel is unforgivable, we are letting light break through the darkness of our lives and bring us healing that wouldn't be possible if we allow the shadows of resentment, anger and hatred to continue to reign over our daily lives and decision making. There is a release and a freedom that descends into our being when we can put something to rest by taking the necessary journey to provide another with the forgiveness that God has so freely given us.
Look closely at the lives you touch each day. Are you in need of forgiveness? Ask for it! Do you need to give forgiveness? Give it! Take this journey with all of its hills and valleys and move towards a life so full of light that it shines like a beacon on a hill.
Here is a poem for today to reflectively journal through:
"Fragile wounded soul,
Forgiveness in the darkness,
It lights and heals."