Unforgiveness: To Forgive Or Not To Forgive
Last week I had coffee with a friend I had not seen in a few years. Immediately, I noticed a change in her - her spark was no longer there. She is a beautiful woman in every respect, but something was different – missing.
She began telling her story matter-of-factly, “Two years ago, my husband confessed he had been thinking about other women – one in particular.”
She shared how she and her husband had spent one and a half years in counseling and that he begged forgiveness, changed his ways, and was entirely focused on her happiness.
“But that’s not enough.” She said she will never move past what he had done and would never forgive him.
Her booming business gave her little time for self-care, and she felt the need for a get-away to a luxurious spa for a couple of weeks. She hoped that would bring some type of resolve to her mixed emotions.
What Unforgiveness Means
I felt the message of forgiveness may be difficult for her to understand as a non-Christian and she confirmed that she had no intention of ever forgiving him. “I just don’t see the point” she stated with no emotion.
I explained how the unforgiveness of someone who has wronged you only hurts you. There is no redeeming factor in holding that grudge.
But her mind was made up. She realized it might lead to a divorce, but she could not forgive or forget.
Perhaps you have been in a position where it has been difficult to forgive someone. “You have no idea what he did to me!” Ever hear someone say that? Or have you thought about it while justifying your choice not to forgive the one who wronged you?
Recently, a dear friend told me he has stage-three cancer. It is a type of cancer that is aggressive.
Even worse, his doctor was honest enough to tell my friend that he had given him a prescription in error which he believed caused this type of cancer.
Immediately after my friend told me this, he stated, “I have chosen to forgive the doctor and hold no animosity towards him. I realize that if I became angry at him, the only one who would lose is me.”
Choosing To Forgive
In my memoir, Battered Hope, I share twelve stories of trauma in my life. Most of them were stories about terrible wrongdoings against me and my family. Without hesitation, each time I chose to forgive those who tried to destroy us. Each time, I felt the burden and pain lift, knowing that God was in control of my life and that retaliation was His alone.
Too often, we suffer physically or emotionally because we hold a grudge with the potential of destroying us. Both modern medicine and psychiatry have shown that unforgiveness threatens our health. Anger, resentment, and being consumed with thoughts of revenge are destructive.
There has been considerable research that shows a leading cause of many physical problems including arthritis and cancer is unforgiveness towards our offender or ourselves.
It has been further reported that the opposite is also true. When someone chooses to forgive the wrongdoer, their healing process begins. When we hold onto this negative emotion labeled unforgiveness, the greatest harm we are doing is to ourselves.
Often the other party is oblivious to our grievance and remains unaffected. When we continue to hold on to thoughts of bitterness and revenge, we are stooping to their level. When we forgive, we rise above it. It can be euphoric because of the release it brings.
Unforgiveness can start innocently enough. Someone wronged us. We were hurt and can justify our feelings. Time passes and these feelings may be suppressed, but the subconscious never forgets them.
Something may happen to ignite them, and it may be harder to suppress, especially if entertained by thoughts of revenge. These thoughts begin to affect us emotionally and cause stress, which is toxic to our well-being.
Sadly, when we say, “I can't forgive them,” we are saying “I won't.” The choice is entirely ours.
Holding on to our hostility, we keep ourselves in bondage
Many people try to justify their feelings of revenge or unforgiveness by saying "You have no idea what I had to go through because of them!"
Yes, I may have some idea as I had been raped as a young woman and left to die. My husband was wrongly accused of a white-collar crime and sent to prison. The child we had adopted and loved for a year was given back to his birth mother, who initially did not want him.
Our business partners stole our business fraudulently and left us penniless - not once.....but two times. The point is that we all have our stories of how we have been hurt. What we do with it, is our choice.
When we hold on to the hostility, we keep ourselves in a form of bondage. Please realize that I am not suggesting it is easy to forgive but I am suggesting that deciding to forgive releases freedom.
I Can Forgive... But Do I Have To Forget?
When you forgive someone, often it is difficult to forget what they did and that becomes a struggle. When I choose to forgive someone, it is common sense that I will always remember what happened.
The difference lies in not allowing your thoughts to consume you and maintaining a proper attitude toward the person who hurt you. I have learned that I can glean wisdom from even the most awful things that happened to me.
I can draw strength from these experiences and help someone else going through a similar demise. I determine what I can learn from the experience.
Unforgiveness can consume you.
Anger can consume you and will eat at you like cancer because it is venomous. "What they did was unforgivable.” I challenge you that if you ever feel that way, consider the alternative. You will suffer a great deal more by not forgiving.
When you decide to forgive someone, you are the bigger person and will realize the good fortune of being healthier as a result.
Being unwilling to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.