In my mental health support group this week, we discussed forgiveness. It was a very intense discussion that was both personal and revealing. I can’t stop thinking about it. Who have I forgiven? Who has forgiven me? Who have I yet to forgive? Who has not shared forgiveness with me? I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection, which sometimes leads me to excessive self-regret. So, I thought it would be good to turn to a few friends to help me compose this post. I’ll fashion this as a dialogue, though it was actually a series of three Facebook message threads.
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Me: Hello, Kim. What do you see as the distinction between forgiving and forgetting?
Kim: Forgiving is choosing to let go of a sin/trespass against oneself while forgetting is choosing to never remember again a sin/ trespass against oneself. .. to never be hurt by that sin again.
Me: Would you say forgiving and forgetting go hand in hand, or are they separate acts?
Kim: I would say they’re separate acts. .. but to truly forgive you have to forget so they go hand-in-hand as well.
Me: Now, big question…how does forgiving and forgetting impact spiritual and emotional health? And what if they don’t happen?
Kim: It impacts spiritual health in that we disobey the command of Jesus: “Do Unto Others.” If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good for us. It impacts emotional health in that, if you don’t take care of you… nobody will! Taking care of you is forgiving and forgetting that person for trespassing against you.o Forgetting isn’t the most important but it’s definitely one of the most challenging. And if they don’t happen you will lose yourself!
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Me: Hey, Ann, I’m working on a post entitled, “The Spiritual and Emotional Benefits of Forgiveness.” I shared with you this week a situation where someone has wronged me. Where do you see forgiveness tying into that?
Ann: Is that forgiveness or tolerance?
Me: What do you think?
Me: Hmm. Good question. Okay, so let’s think of an example which is clearly beyond tolerance and becomes forgiveness.
Ann: You might tolerate me if I say I weigh 125. But if we are flying on a plane and they want my weight, time for truth.
Me: Interesting. So lying/truth is a matter of degree? And, so is the need for forgiveness.
Ann: I think forgiveness is going to be around betrayal. A breech of agreement. Back to being wronged.
Me: I get it, yes. And, what is the spiritual/emotional benefit of forgiveness?
Ann: Freedom from hell.
Ann: Self imposed hell.
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Me: Elizabeth, I’m writing a blog post on “The Spiritual and Emotional Benefits of Forgiveness.” If you were writing this, what would you say?
Elizabeth: Forgiveness. It sounds like it would be easy to do, but it’s really hard to give when you’ve been hurt over and over again. Whether it’s because of a disability (hidden or obvious), looks, or faith in Christ, it’s a difficult path to walk alone. Feelings and emotion overtake you at times, and that’s all you see. But take a moment and breathe. You don’t have to walk the path of forgiveness alone. Look to Christ when it seems impossible to forgive whoever wronged you. He will give you the strength to forgive the person, or people. The hurt, anger and sadness will not consume you! He will give you the fruit of the spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)
When you look to God and ask Him to help forgive, you won’t be held captive by negative thoughts. You will be able to move forward.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV
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Who have you yet to forgive? What is holding you back? What would you gain in you forgave?