Sunday, May 13, 2007

My Thoughts on Forgiveness

Every so often, a lesson at Church will hit me in a certain way and I'll think about it for hours or days afterward. I know that's what today's lesson on forgiveness is going to be like for me.

As we discussed forgiveness and how vital it is, I raised my hand and shared some things I have had the chance to learn through my own experiences. Since you weren't there, I'll share them here as well.

1. I used to think that in order to forgive someone, they would have to come to me and sincerely apologize. Then I could forgive them. But you know what -- that rarely happens. Much of the time, the people who hurt us the most never will apologize. We need to forgive them even if they don't seem the slightest bit sorry. We forgive because it's good for us, not because it's good for them.

2. I also used to think that forgiving someone meant that I was fine with what they had done to me. "Oh, that's okay, you can hit me over the head any time!" That's not how it is. Forgiveness means that we choose not to carry the hurt around with us any longer. It does not mean that we agree with the act that caused the rift.

3. I have heard several comments that indicate that when we have forgiven someone, we should trust them again. That's not true. Depending on what they did to you, and how often, and on their repentance, there are times when you should not make yourself vulnerable to that person again. If you know that every time you go out to lunch with them, they are going to hurt you, you don't have to keep going to lunch with them. Forgiveness does not mean giving them additional opportunities to hurt you; it means that you'll stop dwelling on the times in the past that they hurt you.

I've heard some "all-knowing" persons spout their opinion that if someone offends us, it's our fault for taking offense in the first place. Well, if someone slaps you, is it your fault if your face stings for a few minutes? Of course not, and the same works for a verbal slap. My inital reaction to someone's hurtful words are instananeous and out of my control. However, it's my secondary reaction over which I have total control. Do I slap back? Do I walk away? Do I call all my friends on the phone and spread the story? Or do I take it to my Heavenly Father and let Him lift the burden from me? Hurt feelings are natural and normal. If someone says something very unkind to you, it's normal to feel a little hurt. But it's what you do then that determines your level of accountability. When we hold on to these grudges and allow them to fester, we then suffer so much more than we did when the slap, whether physical or verbal, occurred.

5 comments:

Lynne said...

Something to really think about. Thanks. Forgiveness is something I need to work on at times.

Karlene said...

Christ said to forgive, and he also said, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Matthew 10:16)

I think that means to forgive, but you don't have to show up for more abuse.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Lynne,

Thanks for your comment. I think forgiveness is one of those constant battles we face because as we meet new people and new situations, we will encounter more situations that need to be forgiven. But hopefully we'll get better with practice. At least, that's what I'm hoping. Really, really hoping.

Karlene,

Thanks for reminding me of this scripture. I think we sometimes have a tendency to think that being religious means to be naive about the world, and this verse reminds us that we need to be on our toes. Sheep we may be, but we can be informed and prepared sheep.

Marsha Ward said...

Wow! What a great blog!

Thanks Tristi. There's someone in my life I need to forgive, and I'm looking for an opportunity to take this person aside and do just that.

Framed said...

Very thought-provoking. We had this lesson is RS last week and it opened up a great discussion. I really believe that forgiving someone does us the greatest good. At least, that's been my experience. What a burden off my shoulders. I agree with your comments about being offended, except for those people who take offense when none was intended. We all do thoughtless things that can turn out to be hurtful even though we didn't mean it that way. At least I do. I try to give someone else the benefit of the doubt when that happens to me.

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