Is it possible to forgive someone who is still hurting you?
Should you even try?
I wish that I had had a Q&A after my sermon on forgiveness yesterday. Body language indicated that everyone was intensely listening, immediately thinking about people who had hurt them, and who were great candidates for forgiveness.
Or, maybe great challenges and obstacles to forgiveness.
How can you forgive someone who is still hurting you? It’s easy to imagine forgiving someone who comes to you with sincere apology and remorse. But, the person who keeps on wounding you whenever you are in range – what do you do with them?
That person is usually a family member, like a parent. Perhaps, as an adult you have realized that some bad patterns in your life were installed there by a parent, who keeps on servicing those bad patterns with neglect, criticism, or disapproval. Or, maybe, it’s an ex-spouse, who long after the divorce keeps your life miserable with manipulations and attacks. Can you really be expected to forgive them?
Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of those who were responsible for his death while they were killing him. Hmmm . . . . how could he do that?
Here’s the deal – forgiveness is something we give, on purpose, not something that someone has to earn. Forgiveness depends on us, not on someone else.
Forgiveness does not mean that we sustain patterns of abuse. Forgiveness can give us the power to break away from those patterns. To take charge of those patterns, to resist them.
Forgiveness means that I have made a decision to reject the hurt that has been given to me by another. And there is potential that my rejection of that hurt may give me the strength to not accept it again. Don’t misunderstand this. What was done did hurt, and it should have. It was wrong. In forgiving, I don’t ignore the hurt, I’m honest about it. But, that hurt is not going to define my life experience with that person.
Forgiveness takes us out of the bulls-eye for the other person. We step out of the target because we cease to become the main focus. We’re too caught up with God’s forgiveness of us to take others so personally. We may actually take ourselves out of range of the person hurting us. It just simply doesn’t matter as much because we’ve closed that account. Not easily. They still try to make deposits into it, or rather withdrawals until they bankrupt us. But, it’s closed for business.
Yesterday I was thinking about someone I need to forgive, and later someone, out of the blue, told me something bad the person had said about me. I had to laugh. But, I don’t think it stuck, because I had closed that account. I wasn’t worried about defending myself or protecting myself. (I know you are wondering how anyone could ever say something bad about me. What can I say? There are some really messed up people in this world. And, one of them happens to be me.)
Ask God to guide you, give you wisdom and insight about how to forgive the person who only knows how to wound you. See what happens. God wants to close that account, too.