In Others’ Words: Moving Forward

forgive forward quote tyler perry 2.5.14 Yesterday, I wrote a scene where an imaginary character grapples with forgiving someone — someone who hurt him years ago.

And as I wrote the scene, I realized that some of the words coming out of the character’s mouth were my own.

I wasn’t too surprised. I’ve grappled with forgiveness — the whole “How do I forgive this person, God?” question — for years. Over and over and over again. No, not just one person. (Don’t I wish.) But the getting down on my face — literally — before God and confessing that forgiveness is the last thing I feel towards another person … well, that has happened again and again in my life.

Just being honest.

But as I “listened” to my character admit he didn’t forgive this person in his (imaginary) life, I realized I had some answers for him. Some truth to impart. Well, not me — but the other character in the scene. (Sorry, I know this is getting a bit complicated. Welcome to my world as a writer.)

My unforgiving character needed an epiphany — a moment of life-changing truth. And I could make it happen because I’ve experienced some life-changing truths — specifically about forgiveness. And here’s the first one I learned:

The first step to forgiveness is admitting you can’t forgive someone. 

There was this person who hurt me — and who kept on hurting me. One day I fell on my knees beside my bed, tears choking me. And I told God, “I can’t forgive him.”

And then I waited for God to smite me … or something equally biblical and theatrical.

All I heard was God say, “I know you can’t.”

Huh?

And then he said, “But I already have … so let me help you.”

Admitting I couldn’t forgive was the first step to forgiveness.

In Your Words: What surprising truth have you learned about forgiveness? I love it when you join the conversation!

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19 Comments

  1. February 5, 2014, 6:13 am   /  Reply

    Profound & vitally important. Yes, we need His help, much easier when we consider all He’s done for each of us, but we are most like Him when we forgive and all kinds of major steps forward result.

    • February 5, 2014, 7:15 am   /  Reply

      My goal has become to look less and less like me — and more and more like Him as I get closer to heaven.

  2. February 5, 2014, 7:06 am   /  Reply

    Beautiful post, Beth.

    There are some things I’ve seen which I will never be able to forgive. I find the surprising truth is that I don’t really care whether God forgives these individuals or not.

    C.S. Lewis suggested that with the difficulty in forgiving, say, the Gestapo, one might try forgiving something closer to home, and rather less severe. Say, an in-law, or a rude clerk.

    I find that to be a good suggestion, up to a point. I have a threshold, beyond which it seems that I would find forgiveness impossible.

    One can try to whitewash lack of forgiveness by saying that it’s a simple desire to end the vicious behavior of these individuals, and render temporal justice, but I’m afraid it would be hypocritical. For me – it’s about vengeance.

    Would I render summary justice upon a repentant perpetrator? Upon one in tears with regret? Probably not (though I can’t say – the people I’ve met in this category were singularly unrepentant, and the question never came up).

    It doesn’t get me off the hook, though. We’re supposed to forgive even those who continue to persecute us, and by extension those who continue to torment the innocent.

    And I can’t. This says something bad about me, and may consign me to a similar judgement. But lying about what’s in my heart would only make it worse.

    You made me think this morning, Beth. Not sure I’m comfortable with the conclusion – to put it mildly – but there it is.

    • February 5, 2014, 7:22 am   /  Reply

      Amdrew,
      You, as you so often do, made me think too.
      In some spiritually broken way, I’m still kneeling beside my bed, confessing to God that I can’t forgive (_________).
      There are days I’m clinging to the foot of the cross so hard that you probably can’t even see me in the shadow of it.
      And that’s best.
      God knows I’m not perfect.
      God. Knows. I’m. Not. Perfect.
      And the is when his lavish grace flows in and fills the broken places — the places that “can’t” — with his strength, his love, his forgiveness.
      And yes, there is a verse that says vengeance is his.
      I’ve read that too — and I leave that to him.

      • February 5, 2014, 10:20 pm   /  Reply

        I love the way you put that, Beth – being in the shadow of the Cross, and not being visible.

        That’s where we should be.

        Vengeance should indeed be left to the Almighty. In that realm I have fancied myself His chosen instrument, and have dealt rough justice “pour l’encouragement les autres”.

        It’s self-deception, of course. God didn’t need me to guide his avenging hand.

        But I’ll stand up and answer for it on Judgement Day. I did buy that ticket. I just hope He understands.

  3. February 5, 2014, 7:47 am   /  Reply

    Amazing post, Beth. I love your transparency. I realized something a few years ago about myself and forgiveness: That often when I think I’ve forgiven someone, what I’ve really done is just pushed that person or that action to a dark corner where I never think about it. In other words, I just avoid or ignore it and pretend that’s the same thing as forgiving. It’s not.

    Sometimes I think forgiveness comes down to saying the words…even when I don’t feel them and may not even mean them. And when I need to, say them again. And I love your point about God helping us forgive when we can’t. Maybe it’s about me saying the words and doing my best to mean them as much as I can…and trusting God with the rest of it.

    • February 5, 2014, 11:21 am   /  Reply

      ” … when I think I’ve forgiven someone, what I’ve really done is just pushed that person or that action to a dark corner where I never think about it. In other words, I just avoid or ignore it and pretend that’s the same thing as forgiving. It’s not.”

      Love your transparency too, Melissa.
      And yes, there was another relationship where I actually thought: This church is big enough for both me and this other person. I’ll just avoid (insert name). Really? That’s what forgiveness looks like? Staking out my corner of the church? Yeah, God didn’t let that last long.

  4. February 5, 2014, 8:36 am   /  Reply

    Beautiful, Beth. Forgiveness is always a difficult choice. One thing I’ve learned is that’s a process, rather than a one-time deal. It’s a process of continually turning the offense over to God, and asking Him to heal the hurt that was inflicted on me. I try to keep letting go of it, rather than holding onto it, because if I hold onto it, I will become bitter. Then I’m the one who pays for the offense, in very long-term ways.

    Thanks for making me think this morning.

    • February 5, 2014, 11:22 am   /  Reply

      PROCESS. PROCESS. PROCESS.
      I’ve run into a lot of people who think you do it and it’s done — and you know what? It just doesn’t work that way. At least, not for me.

  5. February 5, 2014, 9:45 am   /  Reply

    “The first step to forgiveness is admitting you can’t forgive someone.” TRUTH! Our humanity gets in the way, along with my hurt feelings and all the other junk that prevents me from forgiving. Beth, thank you for a beautiful, truth-filled, NEEDED message today.

    • February 5, 2014, 11:24 am   /  Reply

      “Our humanity gets in the way.”
      YES! That’s it.
      I’m human.
      I’m flawed … and sometimes, when it all comes down to it: I don’t want to forgive. But I also don’t want to be an unforgiving person.
      I don’t. I really, really don’t.
      That’s so painful to live that way.

  6. Megan DiMaria
    February 5, 2014, 10:32 am   /  Reply

    Spot on! You put into words what many truly feel. Thanks, Beth!

    • February 5, 2014, 11:24 am   /  Reply

      Thank you, Megan. I appreciate the encouragement.

  7. February 5, 2014, 10:49 am   /  Reply

    “I already have… so let me help you.”

    Beth, I love that. God has been there, done that with every trial we face. He holds the key to dealing with and overcoming our deepest pains, biggest regrets, and most challenging tribulations. I’m so glad to be on this journey with Him because, like you, I can’t face it alone. Only with Him may I succeed in running my race.

    What I’ve learned about forgiveness is it’s truly freeing, once you get there. My heart gets lighter than a feather once I’ve finally forgiven someone, truly from the depths of my heart. When I can’t see how to get there, God lends me His vision. When I stumble, He helps me to my feet. When I can’t go on, He carries me. All the time, He comforts me. He’s the best friend I’ve got.

    Blessings for the rest of your week! Keep the great conversations coming, Beth. We love them as much as you do.

    • February 5, 2014, 11:25 am   /  Reply

      “God leads me with his vision.”
      Love that thought, Andrea.
      Love it.

  8. February 5, 2014, 1:21 pm   /  Reply

    Forgiveness. If only it were easy and uncomplicated!

    Some things it’s taken me a long time to forgive. As I’ve matured in Christ, it is a bit easier, but never without some soul-searching and whining to God. The thing is–many times, those who’ve wounded/wronged us are really living in a torment uniquely their own. I always try to remember that God’s the only who will eventually bring justice–whether in this lifetime or beyond. (Of course, in our human flesh, we’d like to be able to witness it. Ooops. I think I just used my outside voice.)

    Loved your heart and your truths in this post! xo

  9. February 5, 2014, 10:19 pm   /  Reply

    As usual with your posts, Beth, this one hit a nerve. I often can’t forgive, I often can’t feel differently about someone if they’re unwilling to change, and I can’t ever make them change, but what I’ve learned from you and others is that I can admit all of this and I can move on. Lovin’ the journey we share.

  10. February 6, 2014, 6:34 am   /  Reply

    Thanks for sharing this Beth. One thing I have learned about forgiveness is that I do it for me not for the person who hurt me. As the Matthew West song says, “The prisoner that it really frees is me.”

    God also told me as I was preparing to forgive someone for hurting me, that I need to be prepared for them to not own up to what they did. If I was in anyway looking for them to own there mistake then I was doing it for the wrong reason. This was all about God and me and I couldn’t move forward until I forgave.

    Forgiveness is a beautiful thing…just look at our Savior 🙂

    • February 7, 2014, 10:04 am   /  Reply

      Love your perspective: Forgiveness is a beautiful thing … just look at our Savior.

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