Forgiveness, Part I
When You Can't Forgive and Forget
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."1
"I am having trouble forgiving someone," writes a Daily Encounter reader. "It was a horrible thing this person did to me. She hasn't apologized and acts as if everything is normal. I am filled with resentment and hatred. What this person did cannot be fixed. I want so bad to resolve my feelings, but don't know what to do to get over what happened."
Unfortunately, if we need an apology from those who hurt us to enable us to forgive them, we would be struggling because this often doesn't happen.
To forgive such a person, we need to resolve our resentment and hatred—both of which are stored up hurt and anger. Once we resolve these feelings, the path is open for forgiveness. In fact, until we do this, it is impossible to forgive anyone as our resentment and hatred will keep popping up their ugly heads.
So how can you do this? You can, as it were, “write a letter” addressing the person who hurt you, but never ever send it. In this writing you need to express the depths of your feelings of hurt and anger right from your gut—this is what David did in several of the Psalms. You may need to do this a number of times until all your feelings of hurt and anger have dissipated. As long as these feelings are bottled up, they will control your response to the one who hurt you, and quite possibly affect all your close relationships. After each letter is written, read it over, share its contents with God and with a safe, non-judgmental, non-advice-giving, trusted friend or confidant, telling them exactly how you feel, and then destroy the letter.
Or you could go alone in your car to a private place and park where you are sure to be safe. Wind up the windows, (turn the radio on if it helps), and pretend the person who hurt you is with you. Then “talk to this person” and get off your chest everything you would like to say to him or her—expressing all your hurt and angry feelings. Do this say for a half hour, then go back and do this a number of times, spending less and less time each “visit,” until all your negative feelings are gone.
The Bible says not to let the sun go down while you are feeling angry. This is because unresolved anger that has turned into resentment is an emotional poison. This is why it needs to be resolved as quickly as possible. If you can't resolve your anger alone, it will pay (wherever humanly possible) to see a capable counselor who can help you. If you don't do this, future medical bills may be much higher than counseling costs.
As already suggested, be sure to express your feelings to God. He knows how you feel anyhow (and loves you regardless). Ask him to lead you to the help you need to resolve your hurt and anger so you will be able to truly forgive the one who hurt you.
Remember, unresolved anger is not only “poison” but also like an emotional cancer, and either you get the "cancer" or the "cancer" gets you. As another has said, "Failing to forgive is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die."
To be continued ... because forgiveness is a process, not an event!
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to always be honest with my feelings and learn to express them to you and to a safe and trusted friend. And where I can't seem to resolve these feelings and am unable to forgive _______ (name the person), please lead me to the help I need to resolve any and all feelings of resentment, hurt, anger, hatred, and bitterness and be able to fully forgive this person, just as you have forgiven me for all my sins and failures. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Ephesians 4:32 (NIV).