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So, you’ve had people hurt you accidentally, right?
They say they’re sorry and really mean it, make amends, and everybody goes their way. I’ve done that recently. It’s not too hard, even when the damage done is pretty serious.
Have you ever had somebody hurt you on purpose?
Harder, right? Harder, even, to think of a personal example, for most people.
You might also be aware that I spent… almost eight months on hiatus from Facebook because of what - in part - amounted to “somebody really hurt me, it was no accident, and I can’t do anything about it.”
In the fallout, it was many, long months after everything was said and done, after all facts were revealed, - and long after the “fight” part was over that I’ve managed to forgive enough to go back on Facebook. And a lot of therapy both before and after.
What makes forgiving this fight and what came before it so difficult?
More than anything, I think that the fact that the wrong was deliberate was the thing that has made it the hardest. That fact being closely followed by the clear demonstration of “no remorse” - for what this person did to me, or what was asked of my friends.
I’ve heard forgiveness defined in a few different ways.
The first definition that really struck me was one from a Lenten Mission given by Fr. Scott Seethaler when I was… twelve? Fourteen, maybe? He said, “Forgiveness is not forgetting that you were hurt; forgiveness is letting go of the pain.”These two definitions come back to the same thing. This person owes you at very least an apology; they’re refusing to give it; so you let go of the debt you know you’re never going to recover.
The best one I’ve heard recently was from Dr. Greg Popcak (pronounced “pop-check”). He’s said on his radio show (”More to Life”) that, “Forgiveness does not mean pretending everything is “OK.” It doesn’t mean forgetting the hurt either. According to St. Augustine, forgiveness is simply the act of surrendering our desire for revenge; that is, our desire to hurt someone for having hurt us. Forgiveness is the gift we give ourselves that enables us to stop picking at the scab and start making a plan for healing.” (Incidentally, I wish I’d found the blog post in which he wrote it down when it was originally written - would have made my life a lot easier.)
It’s a hard fact that really forgiving someone who has really hurt you, and really meant to do it… is really hard.
Here are some of the things that I’ve done that have helped me on the pathway to forgiving this person:
(1) Consider they ways in which you might not have been the ideal Christian to the person you’re trying to forgive. (This question was put to me by my own counselor, out of a Christian Counseling Center.)
This is not admitting that you were responsible for your own hurt, only that there are rarely fights that do not have two sides to them. Think about the times that you did lash out at a slight (whether real or imagined), think about the things you said that perhaps were not expressed in the most tactful way, think of the unkind thoughts you had about them, think of the things you muttered under your breath when you thought nobody could hear you, or what you said out loud when you knew people could. Not that these things weren’t understandable, or even easily justified, but they were not Christianity in its ideal case.(2) Reflect on the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. I wrote one of my reflections during Lent on this one.
One thing it’s important to know about this parable that the unforgiving servant was within his legal rights when he had his fellow servant thrown in prison for the debt owed. He was standing on his legal rights. You have a right to feel hurt, and it’s natural to desire your eye for an eye. It doesn’t make you crazy; it makes you human.(3) Pray.
The problem with what that servant did is that he stood on his rights when he really had no business doing so. The master could have stood on his rights before, but didn’t until he found that the servant was unwilling to do likewise for someone else.
Consider the mountain of debt that God has forgiven you - start trying to go to confession regularly - and in time the hurt done to you, however real and painful, doesn’t seem as impossible to forgive as before.
Don’t just sanctimoniously pray for them, and pretend you’re doing everything you need to. Pray for yourself - you do need it. Ask God to help you really forgive the person that hurt you from your heart.
One of the particular prayers that was helpful to me was the Lord’s Prayer. It’s easy to breeze through it without thinking, but very useful if you go slow.
I heard the story of a woman who, for many years, didn’t say the part of the Lord’s Prayer where we ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”, because she realized what she was saying, that there was someone she couldn’t fully forgive, and she did not want God to hold it against her - so she didn’t ask for it.
I really took this story to heart, and - when I came to that part - I always asked God, instead, to help me forgive freely, in the way that I know that I have been freely forgiven.Keep in mind that these are just my experiences, and that forgiveness can be a long process. Mine is still ongoing, in some ways. The bitterness still rears its ugly head sometimes, and sometimes I spend a little too much time indulging myself in rehashing the story for everyone who expresses the slightest interest.
Have you ever had somebody hurt you on purpose? Was there anything that helped you to work through the pain to be able to let it go?