Have you ever been riddled with guilt? Felt like you never repented for something? Worried yourself sick that you may have hurt someone’s feelings? Maybe even worse, withheld yourself from someone that hurt you? Have you not made amends with a significant person in your life? Is it a best friend? Is it family? Is it you? These chains anchor us to loneliness and bitterness that are damaging to ourselves and the world around us.
Quite a few years ago I said something to someone that I didn’t mean. It was equivalent to asking someone if they were pregnant but they weren’t. The minute that I said it I wished that I were a tape that I could rewind and erase. I truly didn’t mean it, and it seriously came out all wrong. The look on her face told a different story. I hurt her feelings and among other things the problem was that she didn’t know me well enough to know my heart. I felt horribly for what I had said, and then worse for what I didn’t say right away: I’m sorry. My guilt was consuming me and I wasn’t sure how to make it right. I emailed her to repent, knowing I couldn’t control her reaction. It took her a few years to warm back up to me, and I thought about it a lot.
Most of us are full of examples like these, I am sure. Personally, the hardest person in the world for ME to forgive is truly the closest to me: ME. It’s taken me years of prayer, intentionally working through things, and will continue to take me constant practice, but I have had to release the guilt of unmet expectations, past mistakes, and learn to forgive myself. (This does not give me a pass to do more wrong, but a true release from things that in my heart I’m absolutely sorry for.)
Peter 5:7 (NIV)
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
I have an old friend that I thought that I had wronged. At the time I thought it was big. I’ve probably asked for forgiveness from her about 5 times (possibly more). It’s not that I didn’t believe that she didn’t forgive me, it went so much deeper than that. She had totally given it to me each time, and basically told me to stop asking. Yet for years, every time I saw her I felt like I needed to ask again. I realized about 4 years ago that this was a me issue, not her. I hadn’t forgiven myself. I needed to give myself the same grace, that God and my friend already had done. It was time to let go of my disappointments and failed expectations of myself and be whole again.
When any one of us holds on to bitterness and anger, for ourselves, or those around us, it is paralysing and very one dimensional. It creates a toxic atmosphere that can only be articulated and viewed by a singular being. Situations and circumstances are triangular: your view, their view, God’s View (TRUTH). Not one of us, here on earth, is all knowing and therefore other perspectives have legitimate value. When our personal perspective is our only measure these emotions become tethered to our hearts so tightly that they break down personal relationships which can ultimately destroy families and even communities as a whole.
Think about personal experiences. Let’s say you’re not talking to your dad, and you have siblings. Do you think that you not speaking to your dad doesn’t affect your relationship with your siblings, theirs with your dad and maybe your mom, etc. etc. It’s a vicious cycle, and one that can have unnecessarily sad outcomes. God doesn’t mistake the people he puts in our lives. Consequently, giving forgiveness and receiving forgiveness isn’t an ultimate admittance of right or wrong doing. It’s a desire to release and be released so that we can continue to love, grow, and prosper with the people that are here with us, for a reason.
The truth about forgiveness is that not every person wants to extend that same grace, but it actually starts with YOU. There will be those that dig their heals in, and will only see what they want to see. That’s not about you, and you can’t control that. You can, however, control how you react to it. Repentance is necessary when we ask God to forgive us and for us to forgive ourselves and those around us.
“He who covers his sins will not prosper.”Proverbs 28:13.
Admitting our human flaws, without any expectations, and simply saying ‘sorry’ for our transgressions, heals our own hearts and releases us of the burdens of guilt and regret. Occasionally we have to forgive someone that has hurt us so deeply, even if we are that person, in order to move forward more freely. Forgiveness unleashes the chains and let’s us begin anew.