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.