Sunday, January 16, 2011

Forgiveness After a Breakup: “You Don’t Owe Me”

When a relationship ends there are almost always hurt feelings: pain, anger, confusion, betrayal, emptiness—the emotions are myriad. Getting over someone who’s dumped you can be hard, but it’s possible. The key to getting through and getting to the other side—back to joy again—is getting rid of resentment and letting go of offense.

Forgiving the person who’s hurt you—and maybe even forgiving yourself can unlock the door to a freedom and peace you never could have imagined.

“Forgiveness,” says Dan Allender in Bold Love “is the light that penetrates the dark and frees the somber, shamed heart to leap with love.”

Easier said than done, right?

Sometimes, like the leftover brown leaves that cling to bare trees even when their season has passed, we cling to what we want or what we think should happen. “He’s wrong, and I’m right.” or “I want justice (or revenge).” or “What he did was inexcusable.” We hold on to the pain out of pride, ignorance or sheer stubbornness.

But the thing is, holding onto that pain not only continues to hurt you, it can also block you from moving forward with your life. The pent up pain turns into emotional poison works its way into other areas of our lives. Yuk.

You Don’t Owe Me
Years ago Andy Stanley gave a talk on the topic of forgiveness. I remember him saying something to the effect that when you do not forgive, it’s as if you hold that person hostage in your heart. You take them out once in a while, beat them up, and put them back.

When you feel wronged, you think the other person owes you something. They owe you an apology, an explanation, a childhood, a relationship or a marriage. Whatever it is, you are holding them prisoner, but you are the one with the pain.

Then Stanley, with fists closed to demonstrate us holding on to unforgiveness, opened his hands, turned his palms upward and said, “Forgiveness means we release that person and say, ‘You don’t owe me.’”

You don’t owe me. Wow.

How do you go from a place where you feel someone is emotionally indebted to you to a place you can release and forgive? Often people find it difficult to forgive because they are not clear on what forgiveness really is.

C. S. Lewis once said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Ponder that, and in the next blog post (on Tuesday) we’ll talk more about what forgiveness is and is not.

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