Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Tonight at Deeper the theme of unforgiveness came up a few times. Tonight I didn't feel like this was an issue I needed to tackle, but there are times when something brings up a memory of the past and I find myself holding a grudge again. As I was thinking about how unforgiveness holds us back, especially when it comes to God moving in our lives, I got a mental image of why we hold on to unforgiveness.

I pictured a dragon, but in case you have not recently read several books about dragons like I have, I'll use a dog. Dogs are generally considered to be friendly and loveable. They are fun, and they like to play and interact with their owners. The dog is healthy and happy. But then it gets hurt. Say the dog's paw gets pierced with a sharp stick. The dog is probably not going to walk up to its owner and willingly sit still while the stick gets pulled out and the wound gets cleaned. The dog will retreat, and may even growl and snap at its owner. The dog might even bite to keep people away. It does not want to get hurt anymore, so it does the only thing it knows to protect itself.

When we get hurt, we are like that dog. It sometimes feels easier to be angry and keep people away, sometimes even hate them, than it does to let go. Justice is really important for me. It is so hard for me to let God deal with people who hurt me rather than creating my own justice. I often cover up my pain with anger. The truth is that if I don't lower my defenses and let God start to remove the junk, I'm not going to get better.

Sometimes I think I have forgiven someone and that I'm fine, only to have someone say something that makes me hurt all over again. I wonder if maybe that's what Jesus was talking about when he said that we can't just stop forgiving after seven times. I have to choose time and time again to let go, to forgive, even for the same thing. I'm not perfect at forgiving. Whenever I hear someone talking about forgiveness, there are two people I have known in my life who always come to mind. These two people are people who hurt me tremendously. Part of me wants to stay angry, to stay defensive. Deep down, though, I know that really just hurts me.

For example: a person whom we'll call Sergio (not his real name) was someone whom I really trusted. Sergio was really important in my life. And then he did something that crushed me. I was so hurt, so devastated. For awhile, I was incredibly angry. I absolutely did not want to forgive Sergio. I wanted to hate him. I wanted bad things to happen to him so that he would hurt as much as I was hurting. But after awhile, it was really hard to be so angry. Sergio had really helped me get through some tough stuff. He had a big influence on me. It was important to me to hold onto the good memories. Trying to both hold onto good things and be really angry was more than I could handle. So I let go of my anger. I remember exactly how it happened, but I let go. And it felt so good. There are times when I still feel the hurt, but now that I'm not holding onto anger and unforgiveness, I can think about the good memories. I can heal.

I wish that deciding to forgive someone meant that you instantly felt better and you wouldn't ever hurt again. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Even once you let someone pull the stick out of your paw, it takes time to heal. Sometimes the skin is sensitive even after it heals. And there's always the chance you'll step on another stick sometime and get hurt all over again. But choosing to forgive again and again means choosing healing again and again. Forgiving means choosing to acknowledge the pain but not holding on to it. I'm so glad that even though forgiveness is often difficult for me, God forgives me every single time I ask him, and he never holds grudges against me.