the hard work of forgiveness [part one]

Written by J. K. McGuire

J. a wife, mother and Christ-follower attempting to find the sacred in the ordinary.

September 27, 2011

forgiveness

[serialposts]I had bruised her heart and battered our friendship without reason, other than the immature excuse: “That was what everyone else was doing.” When it finally came time to back away from that swirling group of toxic and all of the same accusations and actions of hate were thrown my direction, I finally understood what she had felt. I knew that we had been very wrong; I had been wrong. As a part of the healing journey, I knew I had to make amends.

It was not surprising when she refused to answer my phone call. I would not have wanted to talk to me either. When I couldn’t get through I sent her an email. And the journey of understanding began…

We were finally able to connect. I apologized and asked for her forgiveness. It would have been completely understandable if she had laughed and hung up the phone, but she said something that I continue to carry with me: She affirmed that I had already been forgiven.

She forgave me before I even asked, before I had the chance to apologize.
She forgave me before I thought about asking.
She forgave me before I prayed seeking God’s guidance.
She forgave me before I picked up the phone.

I didn’t deserve her forgiveness, but she gave it.
Reconciliation was beyond my thought of possibility, but it was happening.

God can redeem the most broken places in our lives if we are willing to 1. See our past and present in truth, and 2. do the hard work of allowing God to make them right.

I think that we misunderstand the differences between forgiveness, trust and reconciliation. We believe that in order to forgive someone we have to trust them. Or that in order to forgive we must be reconciled to each other. Understanding the difference has helped my own understanding of relationships.

No longer am I consumed by guilt when a relationship does not end in reconciliation and peace between parties. While these may be God’s ideal sometimes relationships should not exist between people who are toxic together. While I may be able to forgive the past and the present without someone asking for it, or even recognizing that they need to be forgiven, there is much that determines the outcome of reconciliation and possibly a new beginning of trust.

So many times we want to rush the process… when it is a process.

We believe that if someone will just forgive us then we can move on and be friends again. Just because you forgive someone does not mean you are going to skip down a path together, holding hands and sharing your deepest secrets. Forgiveness takes one person… that is just me or just you before God.

I do not need to hear your apology to forgive you. There are many layers to the singular act of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is first and foremost my heart before God. I forgive so that I can be forgiven. So that I can receive the forgiveness of Christ and not second guess him. I forgive to be whole. I do not forgive because you need me to, or because it is the right thing to do… I forgive because of myself and God. He asks me to forgive, so I learn to forgive. He hears and understands the lists that I might not ever show you while teaching me how to release them.

“…person with no forgiveness in heart live in worse punishment then death.” -Mr. Miyagi (Karate Kid, Part II)

He meets me in the anguish, sorrow, disgust, fear, pain, grief and I am changed. Forgiveness breaks the bonds of what has held me so that God can hold me.

Forgiveness isn’t about you. It’s about me.

My friend’s forgiveness was about her being whole before God… she did not need me to accomplish that, they did that work together.

 What have you learned about forgiveness?

7 Comments

  1. Andy Carlson

    Thank you for sharing yourself and your experience.  I will add my own to yours…

    In my own journey of seeking, asking and giving forgiveness
    I have learned that it is not about the response from another, it is about my
    obedience to God’s call that I respond to.  My conversations have been with men as well as
    with women.  For friendships that were
    lost of over time, relationships that ended for selfish or otherwise tragic reasons.
     It was not about a check list of
    something that someone said I needed to so –that would have been a pitiful personal
    reason, selfish even….…It was Gods’ compelling hand on my back and in my heart
    that moved me to reach for those broken connections.  It was not to “fix” or “mend” or otherwise
    anticipate a response, it was fearful obedience.   Others
    were  not always willing or able to give
    forgiveness when  ask….and that is ok….there
    is no personal disappointment in that hesitancy or outright rejection.  In those instances however, the door remains
    open for opportunity.  For those
    circumstances my heartfelt, humble and contrite heart, in asking another for
    forgiveness…the only response is that we communicated. Frequently that hesitancy
    reflects their own unspoken or acknowledge personal conflict, ongoing hurt and
    pain that in reality may have brought to a lifetime of ongoing hurt, counseling
    and overcoming. Perhaps, hopefully, my seeking them out  will bring them to their own space of His
    peace in their lives. In following Gods will for my life in seeking forgiveness
    and reconciliation I may have help them along the way to their healing.  For those seeking to do so, all of my
    conversations have been by email.  I
    specifically did not want to talk over the phone or to see them. It was about our
    words, our thinking and our hearts.  To
    be tangibly connected left the possibility of to may unintended responses or
    consequences. Our written words have brought clarity beyond my
    imagination.   I initially asked 3rd parties to
    contact them and ask for their permission for me to contact them.  If they were married, I first asked the
    husband for permission. I treated all conversations as if walking onto their
    front porch, knocking on their door and asking permission to talk with them on
    their porch.  Not unlike a child asking a
    neighbor to come out and talk for awhile. 
    I had strict accountability by pastors, accountability groups and always
    with the knowledge of my wife. I began this process 8 years ago.  The results have been nothing short of
    amazing….to be able to clear up past miss-understandings, have ah ha moments of
    revelation at best and at the worst to sit at my desk in tears grieving for the hurts of another which were
    from my own self interest.   The clarity
    of hindsight and the wisdom of time lead by  Biblical principals…burdens may be lifted….scars
    may be healed….large chunks of our lives put into a place of understanding and
    acceptance.  Ultimately the value of
    another person’s life to me in times past was re-confirmed to them and as a
    value to me now in this time.  When you
    take away all the unfortunate conflicts of our own personal biases ..the
    essence of another is who we valued then….and I contend, or at least in my
    experience, that their value as a person to me has never changed….the essence
    of themselves then…that I appreciated….remains a quality that continues to be
    valued and un diminished though hidden and shadowed by other experiences or
    relationships.  When the Bondages of Regret
    and the Tyranny of Memory are faced head-on there is a freedom that comes from the
    brokenness of  burdens lifted, a lifetime
    of unseen chains removed…..a new freedom you had not experienced for many many years.
    The process is not for the faint of heart….it is for those whose trust is in
    the hands of Him whose mercy and grace draws us to Himself.  That is my experience…open for all to
    inspect.

    Reply
    • Jezamama

      “This process if not for the faint of heart…it is for those whose trust is in the hands of Him whose mercy and grace draws us…” Amen!

      Seeking Forgivess. Apologizing… heart racing for sure.
      Thank you for sharing your experience. It is not easy, but it is worth whatever the outcome.
      Jessica

      Reply
  2. Karen

    You say, “No longer am I consumed by guilt when a relationship does not end in reconciliation and peace between parties. While these may be God’s ideal sometimes relationships should not exist between people who are toxic together. While I may be able to forgive the past and the present without someone asking for it, or even recognizing that they need to be forgiven, there is much that determines the outcome of reconciliation and possibly a new beginning of trust.”
    I have long thought what you said above, but recently I have been going through counselling with a close family member, and our mentors have suggested that it is not really forgiveness if I do not trust them again … even if they hurt me … and that protecting myself with a sense of reserve and some mistrust (not unkindness, just more distance than I usually maintain with those I love) is evidence that I have not forgiven. And now I’m confused. 

    God does seem to call us into relationship, even with toxic people by telling us to love our enemies and be good to those who are hateful and spiteful. Does this mean we drop our shields and allow them to harm us?

    Reply
    • Jezamama

      This, “our mentors have suggested that it is not really forgiveness if I do not trust them again… even if they hurt me…is evidence that I have not forgiven.”
      1. forgiveness start with you and God. Plain and far from simple 😉
      2. Reconciliation is forgiveness between two parties (that’s part two in this series)… which means that I sit down with, or write to, or speak with the person I have offended or who has offended me and we forgive each other.
      Reconciliation DOES NOT

      Reply
      • Andy Carlson

        And I confirm that reconciliation is not always possible.  It is a two way opportunity which is not always walked by both parties……and that is ok…following God’s call on our part is our responsibility…His working in the heart of another is not ours.

        Reply
  3. Melissa Brotherton

    I have learned in the past few months that I have a lot of unforgiveness towards certain people in my life. I thought I had dealt with it, but rather I had forgiven more as a head issue than a heart determination. I am learning that it is a process, and one that is much more difficult for me to walk through than I’d first anticipated. Great thoughts here! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Andy Carlson

      I think, for the person who was wronged…the completion of unconditional forgiveness….the ability to receive Gods’ grace in granting forgiveness,  is much more difficult than for the one who initiated the wrong. Scars are more difficult to heal than it is to discard the weapon. It is the old Bondage of Regret and the Tyranny of memory that continually remembers….even if in our intellectual capacity we have discarded the hurt.  Peace of the Lord be with you. 

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. the hard work of forgiveness [part three] by Jessica McGuire – BibleDude.net - [...] the hard work of forgiveness [part one] [...]
  2. the hard work of forgiveness [part 2] | Jezamama - [...] {this is part 2 in a series on forgiveness…. you can read part 1 here.} [...]

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the hard work of forgiveness [part one]

by J. K. McGuire time to read: 3 min
9