“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Louis B. Smedes
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future” – Paul Boese
About two years ago I had the opportunity to attend a seminar at my church on forgiveness. Being raised in church for the most part and a teacher (by calling), I have experienced my share of sermons, books and discussions on the topic. One thing that was significantly different for me this time was, I was the student versus the teacher. I can’t say I approached it like any other seminar that I have attended in times past, because my life had taken a severe turn just about 6-8 months prior. It was a devastating time for me. I had went through my second divorce and hurt someone I have known and loved for many years as well. Although I had forgiven myself and asked the people I hurt for their forgiveness, which I believe they had, I just needed something more to better understand and gain the clarity that I needed to move on with my life.
So there I was, in a two-day seminar trying to understand better what I thought I already knew fairly well, until that time that is. The pastor took an interesting approach for his introduction. He had an apple in his hand with a knife. I’m a visual learner, so this was great for me. He then took the knife and sliced a small section out of the apple. The apple represented our soul/emotions and the knife represented the sins/offenses against us. He demonstrated how we are impacted by the offenses of others and depending on how deep the cut, slice or sections taken out of the apple, the deeper the wound to our soul. It was quite traumatic to see this. He even showed how some offenses can have life long impacts, by slicing the apple in half or cutting a large piece out of it. (Picture that for a moment) He then began to share the role that forgiveness has with our healing.
Now, understanding that we all have our own choice to exercise our faith and beliefs, you have to decide what direction you personally choose to take for recovery, healing and ultimately moving on with your my life. Some may choose a 12-Step Program, counseling or seeking help from a higher power. As a Christian, my personal belief system is trusting God, through Jesus Christ. I’m not here to speak on that, but it’s important for me to state this so you understand my actual process to heal and recover, specifically with forgiveness. So for me this was a three-step process, first starting with confession.
This is the act of stating what you did, essentially owning it and having the courage to tell someone else about it.
If this can be the person that you offended, that will be even more impactful, if not, make certain they’re trustworthy and honest, because this a time for authenticity and truth and nothing short of that, even if it temporarily hurts your feelings.
Next, we must repent.
This is the act of truly acknowledging what and who you did wrong and making the decision to go in a different direction, a direction that brings forth healing to you and the one you offended.
This may require support from a professional, so don’t be ashamed to get the help. During this phase, you must be patient and allow who you offended to voice their pain and how what you did made them feel or impacted their life. This phase is not for the faint of heart, so be prepared to take accusations and criticism from the one you hurt and anyone that loves them. It’s a critical step for the actual healing process to occur, because it’s allowing how you actually hurt them to finally come to the surface without hearing any excuses.
The next step would be to forgive. This could mean you forgiving yourself first.
The act of forgiving is to release someone for how they offended you, and to no longer seek retribution or revenge.
Keep in mind it is their choice to forgive you or not, but it’s imperative that you forgive yourself during this time if you haven’t already.
It is important to clarify that forgiveness will not fix the problem necessarily, heal a physical wound or return money back into your bank account that someone took from you. It doesn’t even guarantee that you will be friends again, (in some cases it may not be wise to be) but what it will do is release you from the bondage of the one that did you wrong. Unforgiveness has a picture. It looks sort of like someone in a straight jacket bound in a cushioned room, with the room representing your place of pain and the straight jacket representing what you haven’t released. Can you picture this person? Bound, tormented with a desperation for freedom, but with no idea on how to achieve it, while the anger continuously fuels the desperation. Who wants to remain in this place? It’s imperative that we release ourselves from the anguish of what others have done to us and what we have done to others by the sheer act of forgiveness. I know that many will say, “You don’t know what they did to me, I cannot ever forgive them!”. I understand this and empathize with the thought, however it is the quickest way to remain bound with poison in your heart.
My personal story of forgiveness is one full of personal anguish, however equally amazing love. I will share only a part of it now, and one day soon the entire story will become a post on this blog. My story, being the act of the very God that I believe in coming to my rescue through a person to restore me and love me unconditionally in my time of tremendous need. A true friend that I have known for years had the courage to come along side me when so many others had abandoned me or simply didn’t want to hear my side. My heart was like that apple (broken and punctured with deep wounds), and so was hers (my friend). You see she was someone who I had equally hurt during this time and I could not believe or understand why she would come to my rescue, believe in me or even choose to be by my side while I was attending this seminar. Just the act of her courageous selflessness brought a type of healing to my soul that I pray I can return to her one day. I tried to understand it, but I couldn’t. I tried (even now) to articulate it, but my words fall way short of the true depth of love exemplified to my soul on that day by one human being. I can only chalk it up as amazing grace. Truly amazing! Next to the love of my mother, I cannot say I have ever felt that type of love from another human being towards me, especially when I deserved it the least. Sigh…
I am so grateful for the example that Christ has left for me to forgive. I am so thankful for the strength of one person that I hurt the most show me what unconditional love really looks like.
Today I am thankful for Monique.
You are truly God’s vessel of honor and I will always be thankful for what you gave me during that time. God chose you to set me free through forgiveness, and you had the courage to actually go through with it. I love you dearly.
Coming full circle, the final step in this cycle of forgiveness is reconciliation, for those that are blessed to experience this, where the broken relationship and heart is restored and made stronger than before, if you can imagine that.
Where is your soul in the area of forgiveness? What apple truly represents the condition of your heart? Are you bound, or do you still hold on to the pain of what someone else has done to hurt you, whether last year or from your childhood? Are you ready to forgive them and be free, finally? I pray that you are.