From the moment I started opening up about my life, I’ve had countless people open up to me about theirs. I’ve heard many different stories. From sleeping with multiple people, to being abused; admitting to constantly lying and being angry; and hurting someone they cared about. The one common factor between all of these stories is forgiveness. Whether it was needing to forgive someone else, waiting for someone to forgive them, or needing to forgive themselves, they all longed for forgiveness.
I’ve been in their shoes.
After being sexually taken advantage of by people I trusted, I thought holding forgiveness from them was right. They didn’t deserve my forgiveness. After being told losing my virginity was the right and wise choice at 16 years old, I thought I was making the right decision. It only brought on shame and eventual anger. I couldn’t forgive myself for what I had done. After having friends turn their backs on me, guys take advantage of me, and being lied to; forgiveness was the last thing on my mind.
I was angry for many years because I chose not to forgive. At first, I thought my perpetrators didn’t deserve my forgiveness. Why in the world would I forgive people that hurt me? They deserved to die knowing what they did to me. After being in church, I constantly heard that forgiveness only hurts the one not willing to forgive. So I started changing my reasoning for not forgiving. Instead of saying they didn’t deserve it, I started saying I just didn’t want to forgive. I said I wasn’t ready. Not being ready is absolutely fine. Except that my version of not being ready lasted for many years. It wasn’t that I wasn’t ready, I just wasn’t willing. I didn’t know when I’d be “ready” to forgive. I prayed to God on a daily basis, but I conveniently would skip over asking for the willingness to forgive others. Then one day God got my attention.
I remember exactly where I was standing and what was going on in my life. I had just gotten out of a relationship with a guy that was verbally abusive. He said he loved me but his actions spoke otherwise. We constantly fought. I thought I loved him, but I didn’t understand why love hurt so badly. I was hurting and I was angry. I wasn’t crying out to God anymore. I wasn’t trying to be comforted by Him or anyone else. I just wanted to sulk in my anger and bitterness. But God didn’t want that. He reached out to me in a very simple, yet phenomenal, way. It wasn’t an audible voice. It wasn’t a ton of scripture and words put on my heart. All He did was show me a picture of Jesus dying on the cross.
It was all I needed to understand. Jesus, the son of God, came to earth to die. For us. Jesus’ life was the ultimate depiction of forgiveness. He came to love on the people, and in the end, all they wanted was to kill Him. While Jesus was on the cross, He was being persecuted and called names. People mocked Him and laughed. In the midst of those people criticizing Jesus, He said “Father, forgive them…”
How amazing and wonderful is our God! Jesus wasn’t just forgiving the people that beat Him, mocked Him, and killed Him… Jesus was forgiving us. Jesus was forgiving ME. For the times I’ve lied (which has been on many occasions), the times I hurt others, the times I gossiped, the times I was promiscuous, the times I was angry, for the times I mocked Him, and for every time I rebelled… God has forgiven me. If God has forgiven me for all I’ve done to Him, then what right do I have to hold forgiveness from others? What I’ve done to Him is far worse than what others will ever do to me.
If you’re holding forgiveness from someone, I encourage you to let it go. Whatever has happened, give up trying to make sense of it. What’s happened has happened. There’s no changing it. All you can do now is move forward. You have a choice: either think about what happened every day and become bitter, or let it go and forgive. I decided to do the latter, and I’m so thankful God has graciously worked with me through it. It took a long time for me to forgive, and I suffered for that. I hurt a lot of people in the process of me wanting to remain angry. Now I’m filled with great joy. Forgiving the people that hurt me no longer gave them control of my life. The words people said and the things that were done to me were what drove my actions. When I forgave, I became a new person. I no longer let my hurts from the past define who I am. I am a child of God. I am loved, unique, and redeemed. I am forgiven. So in return, I choose to forgive.
“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.”
– Luke 23:34
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
– Colossians 3:13
Read more about my forgiveness story here.