Forgiveness. This is a difficult topic. It is something we all need, yet many of us either don’t do it or don’t do it correctly. I went almost my entire life without forgiving a single person. I had been hurt so many times by so many different people. I was raised in church and was always told to “forgive and forget.” Well, as you probably know, our brains aren’t wired to forget. When someone I loved hurt me, whether they knew they hurt me or not, I would say the words, “I forgive them” in my head. Sometimes I would say it out loud if I felt it was necessary. But what I would later come to realize is it never sunk down into my heart. And then I would remember what they had done to me a few weeks, months, or years later and still held that resentment and bitterness in my heart. I didn’t understand why because I had forgiven them, after all. And then I went through my DTS (Discipleship Training School).
The DTS I chose to attend was in Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Serbia. If you don’t know much about these countries, they used to be united as the country of Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, they were heavily divided due to religion, and still are to this day. Croats are Catholic, Bosniaks are Muslim, and Serbs are Orthodox. So, the focus on my DTS was reconciliation and about half of the weeks of the lecture phase had some form of teaching on forgiveness or reconciliation.
The most impactful week for me was the Faith and Conflict week. This was the week where I realized that I had never truly forgiven anyone. I was so overwhelmed because I knew there were many people I needed to forgive. I thought that saying someone was forgiven in my head was all I had to do. But I came to realize that there is much more to it. First, I had to look at all of the sin I committed throughout the years and see how much God has forgiven ME for. That was the easy part. I then needed to accept His forgiveness for those sins. I would still beat myself up over sins I committed 10+ years ago, so this was very difficult. I sometimes still struggle with this.
Through the forgiveness that I have received over and over from God, it made me want to extend that same forgiveness to the people who had hurt me. It brought up memories that I hadn’t thought about in years, and it was really painful. But working through those memories and giving it to God, letting Him take control, helped to heal me. I forgave many people through that journey, but not everyone. The Holy Spirit is gentle in that way. I don’t like the saying, “He won’t give us more than we can handle” because it isn’t true. He gives us more than we can handle on our own, but not more than we can handle with Him.
And as if that all wasn’t difficult enough, I found out that the memories of being hurt don’t go away. I have to continually make a conscious decision to forgive the people who have hurt me. Each time something from my past comes up, I choose to give it to God and not dwell on it. Forgiveness is not a one and done type of transaction; it is something we must do over and over again. Because, like I said previously, our brains are not wired to forget.
This was a long journey, and a difficult one at that. But at the end of the day, I am so glad I went through all of it because I am a much happier and merciful person because of it. I used to think the world was out to get me, but I have so much more peace in my heart now. I wouldn’t trade that journey for anything! I am so thankful God was patient with me and walked me through how to truly forgive somebody. :)
Here’s to forgiveness!