How to forgive when you’re really hurt
Deep pain can be difficult to let go of.
Seventy times seven. I’m sure you have heard this math problem before. If you’re a Christian, it may be the most commonly spoken math problem in church. As you may have already figured out, this problem is not so much about the actual mathematical answer, but rather the meaning of the story attached to it.
You see, Jesus’ disciples approached him seeking to understand about forgiveness. And what he told his followers surprised them. He replied to Peter’s question about how often to forgive others by telling him seventy times seven. The same answer to Peter is his same answer to us. So now we know what we are supposed to do, but how do we do it?
Forgiveness is a thrown around word that is not usually explored on a deep level. This is due to the fact that we are most often told to forgive offence, let it go and not give it too much thought. I admit that I have done that successfully and it feels great. But what about those times when you can’t seem to easily give that forgiveness that Christ gave you? Whether it’s a family member who wronged you, your college mate who betrayed you or your youth group that hurt you, deep offences can be forgiven and I will show you how.
Try to let it go easily
Think of someone you may have unforgiveness toward. It could be stemming from incidents such as a misunderstanding or a heated discussion. Then search within to see if you can allow yourself to free this person from your unforgiveness prison. This may sound silly, but when we hold people in unforgiveness, we kind of hold them in a holding cell for punishment. If you can release your hurt, even if you have to create an excuse for their behavior such as they’re having a bad day, then that’s a step in the right direction.
I still can’t forgive
If you attempted step one and were unable to set your prisoner free, then you have a more deep-rooted case to solve. Here are some things to ponder.
Admit the truth
First, allow yourself to freely admit that you don’t forgive someone. If you disguise your problem, so as not to appear unholy or un-Christian, you will only make the problem worse. As Christians we are to be honest and truthful. Don’t criticize yourself for feeling this way. Anyone could have problems forgiving a classmate of three months or a friend of ten years.
Find the root cause
Second, unforgiveness is a secondary emotion. This means you don’t automatically feel unforgiveness in a troubling situation, but rather you feel another emotion first which then leads to the holding of a grudge. For example, one of my close college friends didn’t give me a wedding gift and that really hurt me. It was especially hurtful when after several years I travelled from afar to visit her and I still didn’t get a present. So, in my case the main emotion was hurt. Other emotions that may precede unforgiveness could be offence, disrespect, disappointment, embarrassment, or frustration. Take some time to think about it.
Deal with the emotion
Now that you have identified what your primary emotions are then deal with them. For example, mine was hurt. That means that if I can communicate to my friend how much I was hurt by not receiving a wedding gift from her, then maybe we could patch things up. The focus here is to resolve to deal with your emotion or multiple emotions. If you are unable or unwilling to speak with the offender, then try to resolve the forgiveness and release the person. The process of uncovering the real emotion driving the grudge is a great work in and of itself and can empower you to forgive.
This final step was a revelation from God. I had some deep-rooted unforgiveness. When I thought about it, I wanted to forgive those people, but it was hard. I had admitted the unforgiveness and identified the emotion, but still wouldn’t let go. Later on I came to discover that the reason I wasn’t letting it go, was my uncertainty about future interactions with the offender. Because I couldn’t figure out how we would move forward, I couldn’t forgive. The fear of being hurt again made me not forgive.
This second part of forgiveness, the interaction after the hurt, is not really discussed in depth in churches or bible study. That leaves many people feeling like when they forgive, they should allow the person the same slack or cut them off completely. The truth is it’s okay to revaluate the relationship and create parameters for future relations with that person who hurt you. God commanded us to forgive, but he never said that we always had to be a doormat. Let God lead you in your assessment of how to move on. He’s with you.