Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Forgiving Someone Who's Hurt You, Especially After a Breakup
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable,
because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
– C.S. Lewis
Forgiveness is like a brilliant diamond; there are many facets to it. Today I will present one aspect of it.
So something happened. Someone hurt you and now you are ticked, angry, hurt or some other combination of emotions.
Neil T. Anderson says that the more traumatic your experience, the more intense will be your primary emotion. According to Anderson, an event in the present triggers the primary emotion and sets off something inside that may have been dormant for years.
A relationship breakup, for instance, could activate emotions like intense anger or extreme feelings of rejection, and you may be puzzled as to why you are reacting the way you do—and why you cannot let go. Realizing that the past is creeping into your present will help you to deal with it.
Two ways to find resolution are: First, understand that you are no longer a product of your past. “You have the privilege of evaluating your past experience in the light of who you are today, as opposed to who you were then,” said Anderson. Second, forgive those who have offended you.
Easier said than done. Right?
Forgiveness is the key to healing
A major key that heals brokenness after a relationship ends is forgiveness—whether it’s forgiving past pain, forgiving the person who hurt you in the present, or forgiving yourself. “Forgiveness,” according to Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III in Bold Love “is the light that penetrates the dark and frees the somber, shamed heart to leap with love.”
Whether the offense was in the past or the present, holding onto that pain not only continues to hurt you, it can also block you from moving forward.
The pent up pain turns into bitterness, resentment, or offense and the emotional poison works its way into other areas of our lives. With stubbornness, pride, ignorance or sheer selfishness we cling, like those brown crunchy leaves that cling to trees in winter (long after their season has ended), to what we want or what we think should happen. “He is wrong, and I’m right.” “I want justice (or revenge).” “What he did was inexcusable.”
You don’t owe me
Years ago at a singles retreat in Green Lake, Wisconsin, 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. T
hen Stanley opened his hands, and with his palms turned up said something like, “Forgiveness means we release that person and say, ‘You don’t owe me.’” You don’t owe me.
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 is and what it is not.
What forgiveness is…and is not
Forgiveness is not forgetting about what happened or acting like everything is okay. It does not mean that you condone what happened, agree with it or like it.
You are not overlooking the offense or excusing it, and you are definitely not letting the offender off the hook for their words or actions. Instead, you’re putting them on God’s hook, and trusting God to deal with it fairly because He said He would.
As you release the person who’s wronged you to God, He ensures justice is served; not you. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
I like what C.D. Baker says about God’s justice in 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day, “Yes, God seeks justice and so should we. He grieves when we are oppressed or taken advantage of, and he demands justice on our behalf. But what we forget is that Jesus already paid the price for others’ violations against us…and for our violations against them. We don’t need to seek vengeance.”
Indeed, the God of unconditional love is also our advocate for justice.