I sometimes joke that my life would make a good Lifetime movie. It was one of the ways I avoided dealing with all the STUFF. The sexual and emotional abuse. The loneliness. The bullying. The disappointment and sometimes despair. The depression and suicidal thoughts. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at age 14 and it ravaged my mind and body for years. I was physically and emotionally sick.
I suffered for years with the STUFF and the unforgiveness. The details of my life are probably for other posts (or never), but are mentioned now for serving the purpose of giving you some background for my journey to forgiveness.
I fought dealing with my issues (and then forgiveness) tooth and nail for years. I felt that I had a right to be upset about things that had happened to me. I struggled with bitterness, betrayal and anger (to name a few things).
I embraced being a victim. It brought me false comfort.
Until I realized that these things held me back from peace and joy. I realized it was not about the people who had hurt me. It was about who I was called to be. And certainly, my anger was not holding anyone back but myself and those I loved.
Working through the STUFF was a slow journey for a while.
The giant leaps came when I had kids, and they started to get older. By the time Philip was a toddler, I knew it was time to get to work HARD on these issues. I didn't know where else to start but to pray. I prayed to get to the place of true freedom and forgiveness. I prayed for love to enter my heart for those who had hurt me. I needed the bitterness gone. For me. For my family. For the future.
My husband John once pointed out to me that the Lord's prayer says something that we oftentimes overlook..."Forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me." He said that most of us just want to be forgiven but we don't think about the fact that we have probably asked to be forgiven AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS. Ouch. If God were to forgive me the way I used to forgive others, I would be in a sad situation.
One day, I came to the realization that God loved the people who hurt me as much as He loved Philip or Gracie. That thought knocked me to the ground the first time. He loves me even when I hurt others. The worst things I have ever done were not too much for Him. He forgave me. I asked God to show me how to love others the way He loves them.
I had to get rid of my thirst for revenge. I had to trust that God is just, and has my best interests at heart. I could not bring about this vengeance anyhow. If I was working on justice or revenge, I could not be working on my peace at the same time.
I started actively praying for those who had hurt me. I felt victory for the first time. I slowly moved from a victim mentality to a victor mentality.
Nothing bad comes from forgiveness. It is something that when done, brings good things like peace and restoration. Joy. For you. For your family. Don't let anyone tell you forgiveness is for the weak. It is for the brave and the strong.
It is not something I have complete victory over. Sometimes I will catch myself in a truly nasty thought towards someone. Then I know that I have let my guard down and have not forgiven. I try to make it right immediately. I am on a constant path to peace and forgiveness. Sometimes forgiveness has to happen fifteen times a day.
Don't be mistaken; forgiveness does not mean access. It is important to remember this. You can forgive someone and still realize that they are unsafe, and should not be part of your life. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It doesn't mean being a target or a doormat.
Forgiveness means dwelling on the good in your life and not the bad in your past. It means releasing someone's hold on your life because that will bring freedom and peace.