Sunday, April 17, 2011

Forgiveness

The Lord sets prisoners free. – Psalm 146:7

No one knows the dark path to forgiveness like a divorced parent. The natural response to an offense against our children is to retain our anger bitterly, never forgetting what has happened. But unforgiveness is a prison built for one. It does nothing to repay the person who hurt our kids. Instead, it nourishes bitter thoughts, which torment us like steady drips of water. It stunts our growth and, ironically, it can damage the lives of the children we hope to avenge.


Pretty bleak metaphor – a prison and water torture! Obviously, forgiveness is extremely necessary for our growth and healing.

Jesus was big on forgiveness. In Matthew 18 he tells a serious parable, in which a servant, who was forgiven a huge debt, refuses to forgive another servant who owed him only a little. Jesus warns us that if we do not forgive, we will be required to pay back our debt. (I don’t know how this ties in with our salvation, but I can assure you that we are saved by grace, through faith alone.) Remembering our offenses against God, which He has forgiven, helps us to view the offender with humility.

I’ve noticed that we tend to misunderstand forgiveness. We think it’s a matter of grasping why the person wronged us. If we can blame their actions on some terrible trauma, we can excuse them. Empathy helps, but its goal is not to convince us the person couldn’t help it. To forgive, we must face the fact that we were wronged. Then we must choose to let it go. This is only possible by God’s powerful Holy Spirit within us.

Forgiveness is like releasing something from our possession. I once hauled a couch single-handedly to our local dump. (What was I thinking?!) I had to remove the seats from my van and leverage the thing out my sliding door, off the deck, into the passenger space. Inside the huge, reeking dumpshed, I backed my van to the edge of the concrete pit, where piles of stinking garbage await their afterlife. I leveraged that huge couch out of my van and onto the garbage heap, holding my breath the entire time. I drove out of there lickety-split, leaving the couch behind forever. That’s what we do with offenses against us.

It's worth mentioning that forgiveness is given, but trust is built. God does not require us to trust a person when we forgive them. Exspouses remain a part of our lives if we are coparenting children with them. Many single parents face repeated offenses, which requires ongoing forgiveness - and the establishment of boundaries. If this is your situation, you must use appropriate boundaries to protect yourself and your children from further abuse.

When we let a person off the hook, through forgiveness, we are released from our bitter prison. What a beautiful gift for the children we love!


10 comments:

  1. Another thought on forgiveness - it is entirely separate from the other person offering an apology or seeking forgiveness (which he/she may or may not). WE must forgive, not for the other person, but for ourselves. You are so right, unforgiveness is a prison, and we are the one who holds the key. To forgive is liberating, and allows us that "peace that surpasses all understanding."

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  2. That's right - thanks so much for your comment! Forgiveness really is the only way. There's always going to be something to forgive, and if we hold onto things because we're waiting for the person to "come around," we hinder what God wants to do.

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  3. Wise words Lisa.:)

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  4. I loved this! What an insightful piece. Thank you so much for inviting me to read your blogs and for coming to visit mine! It took me awhile to get to the point of true forgiveness, but once I did and my new husband and I began praying for my EX, EVERYTHING changed! Things go so much better in our lives in so many ways (too many to list here). Forgiveness is a powerful and mighty tool in our lives. Getting there is the hard part. Once you're there, it's a great ride.

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  5. I really appreciate what you share, medtopicwriter. What an amazing testimony! I didn't even think this post was that good, but it seems to have really struck a chord with a lot of people. Forgiveness is a really central issue to our faith, and we all probably struggle with it. But as you say, once it's done you're really free! Thanks for visiting my blogs!

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  6. I think y'all are crazy to forgive someone that is not only NOT sorry but continues their abuse! It is not my job GOD can forgive them if he chooses too but not me. I will NOT give them a free pass!!!
    My hope for indifference but forgiveness is not going to happen. I also will not allow the hate for him to ruin my life nor control me.
    Until people stand up to the cheaters and liars and stop giving them a free pass things will never change.

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    1. I hear you. Let's be clear that forgiveness is NOT about letting someone continue to abuse us. It's not about being a doormat or giving a free pass to an abuser - God forbid. We can forgive someone and give them the appropriate consequence at the same time. Forgiveness is supposed to offer a person a chance to change. People reap what they sow; sometimes consequences are needed for change.
      However, forgiveness sets us free from our intense, troubling emotions and possibly bitterness. It's a healing exercise. The Bible advises us to not seek vengeance, because God is the only One who knows everything about a situation. He will deal with each person justly in the end, and he offers forgiveness to all. Who among us has never sinned?

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  7. Lisa...I really appreciate you sharing your insights. My ex has repeatedly offended me in many ways....the latest dragging me through the court system in an effort to not pay support. I find it extremely difficult to co-parent with him at all. I like what you say about forgiving and then putting it in Gods hands. I realize now that I will never be able to trust my ex...nor should I...time has shown that this would not be a sensible thing to do. My prayer to God will now be to put my ex on God's 'hook" and off of mine so that I am not constantly dragging my ex around with me...drained by his heavy weight.

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    1. I'm so glad this was helpful. It is a huge relief to not carry that burden. It will be ongoing; I think I've nailed forgiveness, and then something else comes up and I have to put do it all over again. But God is faithful through it all, and he helps us grow and changes us as we do the hard work of forgiving. Blessings, and I hope you have a wonderful 2014!

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