Dare to forgive

“In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die.
If you make a choice to forgive, you have to face into the pain.
You simply have to hurt.” – Brene Brown, Rising Strong

we have a shared story
there is this golden thread of grace
woven throughout our days

grace is beautiful
when you receive it
but it can be brutal
when you give it

there is wrestling
and a reckoning with:

right and wrong
justice and injustice
pain and patience
mercy and wrath

we sing about grace as amazing
because it truly is a miracle

for grace to be grace
it must be
u n d e s e r v e d

grace has many forms, and
forgiveness is one of them

grace is all-encompassing
forgiveness is a specific act

so why do we need to forgive?
and how do we forgive?

“The brokenhearted are indeed the bravest among us—
they dared to love, and they dared to forgive.”

– Brene Brown, Rising Strong

forgiveness is so interconnected with transformation
forgiveness is a form of grace in action
forgiveness is a dare and call to love

Brene writes on the topic of reckoning, rumbling, and revolutionising our stories
it is no surprise to me that she repeatedly weaves forgiveness into her learnings

“to be forgiven is to be loved.”

what a simple, yet profound, truth

let us not underestimate
how love is at work when forgiveness is at work

in a previous post, ‘the past has passed’
i explored in a roundabout way
the common notion of ‘forgive and forget’

“might our pasts, or rather, our ability to hold onto the past
to recall the past, say something to our capacity to keep a record”

one of the most destructive and delusional beliefs about forgiveness
is that you will be granted an absolution of amnesia
: complete memory loss

this seemingly harmless notion has led us to believe
that if we forgive, we will be free from the trauma and pain of an unforgivable act

the reality of humanity is that we are cognitive creatures
we are not granted amnesia as a result of an act of forgiving

we are creatures prone to recollection and reflection
to suggest to someone who has been wronged
that their remembrance of the wrong
directly correlates to their ability to forgive
is both concerning and biblically inaccurate

the word remember is found at least 240 times in scripture
God constantly calls his people to remembrance
and this call is not just a call to remember Him, but to remember why we need Him
the call is not just to remember He forgives, but to remember why we need forgiveness

it is normal to remember the pain, hurts and suffering inflicted by others
it is normal to grieve, to be confronted with how hard it is to forgive

forgiveness is only possible
because of our ultimate Forgiver

for us, forgiveness is a daily act
for God, he demonstrated his love for us in a one time act
the ultimate surrender of self

we too are called to surrender
and forgiveness is an act of surrender

we can love, because he first loved
we can forgive, because he first forgave

forgiveness is the greatest gift we have been given by God,
and forgiveness is the greatest gift we can give to others, and to ourselves

let me repeat it again:

forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give to those who hurt you.
but when you’re not able to forgive, ask God to forgive them on your behalf.
for just as he so freely forgave us – we too can learn from him what it means to freely forgive.

“To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest.
It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human.
You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things:
The depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.”
– Archbishop Tutu

forgiveness is more often than not about us
and the state of our heart (not the others heart)

forgiveness can provide closure
but not always

forgiveness doesn’t remove the pain or wrong,
but it plays a role in rewriting the pain and wrong into an act of healing

forgiveness always heals

healing isn’t about removing but redeeming

in ‘Reclaiming Love’, Ajith Fernando describes this relationship between
forgiveness and healing far better than i could:

“A key element in the biblical teaching on forgiveness and patience is that forgiveness is a means of God’s healing.
When we forgive people, we do not condone, excuse, or tolerate their sin.
If we tried to avenge wrong according to the laws of justice, God knows we would make a mess of it!
We are usually too emotionally involved in situations and too weak to be able to exercise good moral judgment.
So God takes the matter of final, ultimate judgment out of our hands. He alone renders final judgment on our lives.

Paul puts it this way: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,
‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’ » (Rom. 12:19).

Yet there is something we can do, a way for us to respond when we are hurt.

Paul goes on to say: “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink;
for by so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (20-21)”

this is truly a gamechanger:
when we forgive, God heals

this is why forgiveness frees us
more than it frees the other person

forgiveness is our key to healing

forgiveness isn’t us saying to the other person:
“it’s okay, what you did or said is okay”

it’s not okay
and that’s okay

we don’t need
to pretend it is

instead we need
to surrender

forgiveness is us saying to God:
“i need your help to move on
i need your help to forgive
i need your help to heal
i need your help to be free
i need you”

forgiveness is an invitation to surrender

when we forgive in this way
we respond with grace

how others treat us is not in our control
but how we treat others is in our control

how we love others
is a choice, a gift

we can choose how to love
those who have hurt us

and if we’re ever in doubt
if we’re ever not sure
if we’re ever overcome
with hurt and emotion
and not sure how to respond:

Jesus teaches us how to love
Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek

if someone hurts us or hits us when we’re down
we are taught that strength is not
standing up for ourselves or walking away
strength is staying and loving anyway

strength is choosing forgiveness and grace
strength is turning other cheek
strength is choosing love

even when it’s hard

seventy times seventy times

Jesus teaches us to respond differently
not to respond in the flesh but in the Spirit
to let the fruits of the spirit fill us and empower us
to respond in the same way God responded to us:

with undeserved, unmerited grace

“Persevere. Bear with great patience each other’s infirmities of body or behavior.
And when the thorns of contention arise, daily for-give, and be ready to accept forgiveness.” – St Benedict

there are a spectrum of questions
that arise if we try to understand forgiveness:

are there “unforgivable” acts?
is the saying “forgive and forget” truth or fantasy? 
how do we forgive those who’ve hurt us?
what if the person who wronged us hasn’t apologised or asked for forgiveness? 
is forgiveness a one time act? or an ongoing act? a daily act?

i hope you can see
how i’ve wrestled with those questions

i want to give a few real life examples for you:

1. forgiving an authority figure

a few years ago i was unable to reconcile
how someone i respected and trusted as a leader
could abuse their position of power and authority

this person did not realise how deeply i was wounded
and how wronged i felt by their actions and words

i was angry, and kept coming back to the same question:
would this authority figure have said the same thing to their own daughter?

of course, the answer was no. so why did this person i respected say them to me?

God gently reminded me that i was his daughter, and what he had to say about me was all that mattered
he wanted me to surrender what was said and to invite Jesus to stand between me and this person

i was confused as to how i was meant to forgive them
when they were unapologetic and ignorant

and this is probably the hardest revelation on forgiveness to comprehend
but this something we see mirrored by Jesus:

“forgive them Father, for they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34

Jesus was on the cross, crucified for wrongs he had not committed
and on that cross, he asks God to forgive those who had wronged him

Jesus understands intricately
what it means to be wronged
and what to do with those wrongs

he demonstrates to us that
his Father’s forgiveness is what matters

i find it comforting to know that Jesus is acquainted with this kind of suffering,
that he too has been wronged when those who wronged him were ignorant of their wrong

and so i have learned this truth:
when we’re not able to forgive, we can ask God to forgive on our behalf

when we invite Jesus into our relationships, into our soul ties, he is a mediator
just as when God looks at us, Jesus is our mediator
when we look at others, Jesus is our mediator

Jesus helps us to see that we are all made in the image of God
Jesus helps us to love others (even when they’ve hurt and wronged us)
and Jesus helps us to see that everyone is deserving of that love
and Jesus helps us to see even when undeserving we are all worthy of grace

2. forgiving a heartbreaker

a few years ago i let down my walls when dating
and when it ended i was left with a deep wounding

my heart was crushed and confused
i didn’t hate the person, but i hated myself

over years the trauma impacted subsequent dating
as i was still operating under the belief that i was not worthy of love

therapy taught me that the situation was not a reflection on me or my worth
but it was hard to disassociate that experience and rationalise why else the guy looked elsewhere

fast forward to recently, when this person apologised
while i did not need this apology, this apology meant something to me
it was an acknowledgement of the wrong
so this apology hit a deep place in my heart
it was a gift from God truly, to remind me that he cares for my healing

and after reflecting and reading this apology
i could sense the other person felt deep remorse

instantly God showed me that the greatest gift
i could give this person was to tell them that i had forgiven them
and to extend to them a reminder to forgive themselves

because sometimes that’s the hardest part:
we can forgive others, we can accept forgiveness
but can we forgive ourselves?

the lesson for me (and maybe for him)
wasn’t one of forgiving the other or offering an apology
but of learning to forgive and be kind to ourselves

3. forgiving a friend

this last one is the one we never expect
but as we get older, we realise it is a part of life:
the grief and loss of dear friends

this type of forgiveness is hard to negotiate
do we find a way to forgive and move forward in the friendship?
or do we forgive and let the friendship run its course?

the risk with friendships is the level of depth we can know another
can also equate to the level of depth we can hurt each other

a long long time ago there was a friend who hurt me
i felt replaced, abandoned, confused
and it went to a greater extreme of pain
when she turned to demonic worship
it was a betrayal at a spiritual and friendship level

someone so dear to me had become a stranger

then something powerful happened
after years of silence and not acknowledging our past
we were in our final year of school on retreat

the final night we all sat in a circle with candles
and we were invited to take a candle, and to either:
place the candle in the middle of the circle, to let go of something
or give the candle to someone who had hurt us, as a symbol of forgiveness

for a while it was awkward, no one wanted to be the first person to move
the candles were all flickering in the darkness
there was so much light and warmth and anticipation

as i stared into the middle of the circle, i remember wrestling with this friend wound
i had wondered whether she was going to come and give me a candle
to apologise and acknowledge what had happened between us

but it dawned on me that i didn’t need an apology
in order to offer her the gift of forgiveness

even though i was the one who felt wronged
God asked me to extend the olive branch

the Spirit’s prompting was undeniable in that moment
i didn’t even recall walking over to her, but i gave my candle to her

i don’t know what i expected, but when i sat back down
a huge weight had been released from me

i hadn’t realised that i had been harbouring that wound for so long
but when i surrendered and gave the gift of forgiveness i felt free

i felt so free that i didn’t even process what happened next
she had come over to me and offered me her candle

we gave each other forgiveness as our parting gifts to one another

now that’s not happened in the same way since
unfortunately there hasn’t been any opportunity for candle offerings

sometimes forgiving a friend who has hurt us is more subtle
more recently, it has looked like letting a friend go

forgiveness has many shapes and forms
it heals and harrows

in all of the above examples
i want to emphasise that it took many years
for me to find ways to forgive

forgiveness is a journey

to end, there is one more special story i need to share:

when i was a child, every morning mum or dad would drive us to school
and we would “put on the armour of God” to speak Ephesians 6 to life in our lives
this was a daily ritual before we were allowed to put on a CD (usually newsboys, dc talk or toby mac)
there was always one little addition my parents made to the armour of God.

and that was, the key of forgiveness.

my parents new this was an important element to walking in faith, and our daily armour.
there was something powerful that forgiveness did to unlock our hearts,
and more, it was a key to understanding and unlocking Gods heart.

equipped with the key of forgiveness, we were ready for the battles of our days,
to fight the darkness and principalities of this world.
and with this key we unlocked a deep truth that enables us all to live in love:

for to forgive is to love. and to be forgiven is to be loved.

as you can see, God has been teaching me a lot about forgiveness over the past couple years
so i thought it was about time i string together some thoughts on the topic
may these thoughts may encourage you on your own revelation of forgiveness


p.s if you need more reading and reflecting i’d recommend:
‘Forgiving what you can’t forget’ by Lisa TerKeurst