We have all been hurt. It is a part of life. It is inevitable that someone will hurt you and you will hurt someone, even unintentionally. The key is to forgive and move forward. I have been hurt many times in my life, so I know a thing or two about forgiveness and unforgiveness for that matter.
My wife Christian and I were members of a church for over 5 years - since the week after our marriage. It was the only church we knew as a couple. The time came when God released us from that ministry. To our gigantic surprise, our decision did not go over smooth with the leadership. Our names were slandered and we were lied on, repeatedly; even to our own families. The people we thought were our closest friends turned their backs on us. To add insult to injury, we were expecting our first child after having complications 3 years prior. As a husband, my number one focus was ensuring Christian wasn’t stressed. Needless to say, the hurtful things the church leadership did and said absolutely devastated us- they were like parents to us. It was a very difficult time for us. But, nevertheless, we knew it was God’s timing to move on, so we stood on His Word. Although it felt unreasonable and unfair, we forgave them for what they did and said.
Unforgiveness is a disease that will devour you from the inside. My definition of unforgiveness is “holding on to the past in the now.” When someone walks in unforgiveness, they are holding hostage the person who hurt them and it shows in their attitude and behavior. Usually, a hurt person does not even want to say the name of their offender. They might even refuse to be around or have anything to do with him or her. Danger comes when the offender has no idea they have offended, and, therefore, do not know they need to ask for forgiveness. Many times the offended will not provide an opportunity to be healed and reconciled.
Not only is unforgiveness is a disease that will hinder reconciliation, it will also kill you spiritually. It is impossible to be in intimate relationship and fellowship with God if you harbor unforgiveness toward a person. You must have the horizontal relationship right in order to have the vertical relationship right. And, if you were not aware, unforgiveness is a sin.
Unforgiveness is not a loner. It brings its friends along for the ride. If you allow unforgiveness to settle, dwell, and remain in your heart, you will experience strife, hatred, anger, bitterness, jealousy, and resentment—all of which hardens your heart toward God. I encourage you to ask God to search your heart to see if you need to give forgiveness to anyone who has hurt you (Psalm 139:23). Then go to them and make it right by offering forgiveness and seeking their forgiveness for harboring harsh feelings toward them. Do your best to fix that relationship. If it is beyond repair, then go your way. Not all relationships will be able to be repaired, but you must certainly do your best.
One last thing to remember is that forgiveness is not just forgetting. There is an old saying: “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget.” You have to be careful with that because most of the time people say that from a place of bitterness. It is ok to remember what someone did so you can protect yourself from further hurt, but it is not ok to remember for the purpose of throwing it in his or her face, or to talk about it every chance you get. A true sign you have not forgiven is that you are always talking about it. If you open your wounds and show everyone all the time, that means you are not over it.
As you walk through the difficult journey from unforgiveness to forgiveness, remember that as Christians we can find comfort and joy in that we are able to forgive others because our Lord first forgave us (Colossians 3:13).