Why forgive someone? Why do such a kind thing when someone has stooped so low to deeply wound us? I know you can easily name the people who betrayed you, wronged you, and took things way too far. I know you can instantly remember the pain they willingly put you through when you didn’t deserve it. I know you can think back and relive exactly what it was like when they dragged your heart through the dirt and left it here. Doesn’t it seem insane to forgive someone for leaving such a scar on you? Doesn’t it seem ludicrous to “let go” of what they owe you when they have cost you so much? Think about it! Their actions have cost you SO much! Whatever this person did to really hurt you, think about what that cost you. Did what they commit against you cost you trust and the ability to even trust others? Did it hinder your ability to develop healthy relationships with others? Did it cost you the ability to love others? Did it cost you the ability to be happy? Did it cost you the ability to be at peace? Did it cost you the way you thought and felt toward yourself? Did it cost you your outlook on life? Did it cost you health? Did it cost you freedom?
I know you can make a list and write down all the painful ways this deep hurt has influenced your life and cost you tenfold. In fact, I want you to trust me on this one, and do it. Make that list. Get a freak’n scroll if you need to and write down everything, from today dating back to when you were an innocent child, all the wounds and the price you had to pay because of the unloving actions that someone else committed against you. Write down each and everything it cost you. Buy a bottle of wine (or two!), a box of tissues, and chocolates if it will help you get through it, but make that list. Cry all over it because it doesn’t need to look pretty. I did. What they did to you was not pretty. It was cruel. It was wicked. It was evil. Creating this list, acknowledging all your hurts, and accepting all your costs, is justice. It’s your heart knowing what these people actually owe you. It’s acknowledging it. That’s justice. It’s not digging yourself into a deep grudge and burying your soul in lifelong resentment. It’s being just toward yourself. HOWEVER, it cannot stop here though, or else you will be enslaved to what they owe you. It takes heroic strength to be able to do this next step I highly encourage, which is releasing them of their debt. This is not impossible to do. With God's grace, strength, and deepening your prayer life, you can conquer this. If I can do it, so can you!
When you release someone from what they owe you, it means you are making the decision to live in freedom. You are releasing your emotional desire of vengeance and choosing to fill it with peace. Revenge never produces peace, healing, or restoration. It is never fruitful. It causes internal destruction. It weakens you. It damages your spirit. It feeds your pride, gives power to vice, corrupts your soul, fogs your judgment, steals your joy, places temporary malicious gratification over an unhealed wound, empties you of fulfillment, destroys your peace of mind, poisons your quality of life, lowers your integrity, lowers your standards, enslaves you to wickedness, never feels enough, and gives all your energy to killing. It kills another's spirit, another's joy, another's well-being. It fails to recognize the dignity of the human person and them being a creation of the image and likeness of God. It distances yourself from Him and seduces your focus to ruin. Evil against evil never wins. Good against evil, however, always wins. When you choose not to act upon your urge for payback, to refuse to fight another's sin with sin, and to choose to release them from you, you are unchaining yourself from their actions and are liberating your ability to walk away from their vices, their darkness, their ill will, and their malevolent longing to get under your skin. This is forgiveness. This does not justify their wrongdoing nor does it give reason to accept them in your life again, but it is granting yourself inner mercy. You are expressing love toward yourself because you are freeing yourself from them. This is kindness toward your own soul. You are no longer captive to their actions having power over you, but are embracing your own inner power to rise above it.
Forgiving someone does not mean they "get away with it." They are responsible for the choices they made and you are not responsible for their punishment. We are not entitled to become God in our lives. Feeling entitled to take on His role and make them pay the price according to our own will is not fulfilling, but failing. We are not living up to what we are called to do. We are called to abandon our wills to God's and put that into practice through how we live out our lives. We trust Him. I fully believe those who have hurt us will answer to their actions come judgment day, just like we will answer to our own actions as well. For me, when I hand over the pain others have caused me to God and let Him take care of it, it is deeply well with my soul. I am freed of it. This floods my being with peace. Nothing is more rewarding than giving God access to my heart and allowing Him to pour His strength and grace into me. This grace makes the impossible possible. I have learned that when I fight my battles on my knees I conquer every time. I rise from victim to victor and I am consistently victorious. To come through triumphant, my lifeline prayer that I repeatedly turn to anytime my heart is wrestling with hurt, anger, and unforgiveness is:
Luke 23:34: "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
This has been my saving grace! It has unfailingly brought my heart to forgive the unforgivable. Meditating upon the crucifixion and letting my heart listen to the agony my own sins, my own betrayals, my own failings, and my own wrongdoings have put Christ through, puts everything into perspective. How can I be unforgiving toward someone who has betrayed me when I murdered Jesus Christ and nailed Him to the cross? How can I be fixated on a wound and let it control my life when I continuously wound Christ with each time I deny Him? How can I ask God to forgive me for hurting Him when I fail to forgive those in my life?
Not gonna lie, it doesn't sit well with my soul when I live my life as though the world revolves around me. When I do that, my life crumbles. It has only fallen into place when I place my heart in His Sacred Heart and not live by my will, but by His will. He calls us to forgive, so I'm gonna go with that. I trust that a greater good always comes out of it and so far it has never failed me. If you are going to take anything away from this post, please let it be Luke 23:34! Tape it to your bathroom mirror if you have to. Remember, in a perfect world, if everyone lived with perfect virtue, those who have trespassed against you would not hurt you the way they have. If they were not blind by sin, their own wounds, and fallen human nature, they would never in a million years do what they did because they would never want to put you through it. If they truly understood you and the hurt their actions would cause, you can bet your sweet buns they'd love you the way you deserve to be loved. People are inherently good. It's evil, sin, and fallen human nature that turns friends against each other.
So what else makes it easier to forgive? My heart has found it easier to forgive when I pray for those who have unjustly wronged me. Why? Because it changes my heart. It transforms it into something I could not have on my own. My fallen human nature is too weak. Through prayer, God gets inside our hearts and does what we cannot. He purifies it. With a change of heart, my life becomes a lot easier and I am able to not only release my grasp around their throat, but I actually desire good for the other person. Sadly, their self-seeking habits and poor life patterns will leave them unhappy, unfulfilled, and self-destructive. Not only will my prayers do good in their life, but restores wholeness within my own. Forgiveness heals!
And I have not forgotten your list! You may never "feel ready" to forgive someone. Forgiveness is not rooted in a feeling. It's rooted in a decision. Once you decide to release each person who wronged you from what they owe you and from everything they cost you, ask God for the grace and the strength to do so, then I want you to say it all out loud. I don't care how weird you sound. Speaking your forgiveness into existence will renounce any attachment you have to unforgiveness. With prayer as your weapon, God as your strength, and the authority in your voice, the attachment will break. Do this as many times as needed. You can dispose of the list in however way would be fulfilling to your heart.
Keep in mind to not confuse forgiveness with a free pass to friendship renewal or to trust them again. When someone has betrayed you, wronged you, and did something against you that was untrustworthy, they have proven to you that they cannot be trusted. Choosing to trust them after they have established they are not trustworthy would not be wise of you. It actually would be more foolish. You do not need to stay friends with someone who has failed to be a friend. You can forgive them (no longer hold it against them) and also walk away because you know better. When you hold something against someone, you are unhappy. You are spiteful. You are bitter. You are weighed down by their actions and cannot escape from it. It’s a grudge. It sinks resentful teeth inside your heart whenever you think about what they owe you because your heart still demands it. Making the decision to forgive someone is making the decision to release them of what they owe you, walking away, and being at peace with your decision. Sometimes you need to make this decision over and over, but each time your ability to release them gets stronger and stronger. You become more powerful.
So why forgive? Because when you have the ability to forgive someone you are taking power back into your own hands. The ball is now in your court and it is game on baby! You have control. You have the say. They no longer do. You call the shots and determine the direction you want your life to go. You choose the quality of your life and whether or not they can speak into it. You decide how much free rent you give out to them to keep taking up space in your mind, your heart, and your life. When you choose to forgive, you choose to hand the ball to God. You choose His will. You choose humility. You choose to trust Him. When you give it all to Him for the greater good, you instantly win. Choosing to win is you choosing health. You are choosing peace. You are choosing freedom. You are choosing fulfillment. You are choosing virtue. You are choosing to live without their corruption. You are choosing righteousness. You are choosing holiness. You are choosing new life. You are putting a stop to their voice, their power, and their malicious destruction in your life. You are choosing to be happy and it’s as crazy and as simple as that.
WARNING: When you are strong, have self-respect, and make the decision to forgive in your heart and to walk away from an untrustworthy person, it will not always be peaches and roses from there on out. You will probably be attacked, you will probably be insulted, you will probably be judged, and you will get all those “peacemakers” in your ear trying to tell you to stop holding a grudge, stop fighting, stop being immature, just make up and be friends for pete’s sake, and to just get over it. Trust me, I’ve heard it all and I’m sure you all have too. Not everyone is going to understand or support your decision, especially if it affects them in a negative way (i.e. broken circle of friends, broken ties with family friends, breakups, etc). Don’t let their poor judgment manipulate or influence your good judgment. Honestly they’re being a little selfish by putting their needs before yours. The important thing is to buckle down and power through it because your well-being is worth more than their opinions. If you are at peace in your heart and have released the wrongdoer from what he or she owes you, I’m proud of you. You’re golden! Your good judgment is going to keep you healthy, happy, and fulfilled. That’s a true peacemaker in my book.
P.S. I included this bonus video for you guys of Fr. Mike because he is my hero! :) I literally listen to his videos daily as part of my morning ritual so give this one a listen! So so good. So much wisdom.