Offering Forgiveness When You Would Rather Not
By Vanessa Rasanen
This Spring was hard. Well, about 6 months of this year was hard. I’d like to say that was solely due to our losing three babies early into the pregnancies, but to be honest, peace for our lost little ones came somewhat quickly. Much quicker than I expected.
Yes, even after the first loss. Instead, I traded grief and mourning for bitterness and frustration. Okay, frustration is a lie. I was pissed. Hurt, angry, enraged. Seething, might be a good word.
Someone’s words regarding that first miscarriage had hit hard and cut deep just a day or two after we found out. The initial shock and disbelief soon gave way to the anger, and oh my old Adam enjoyed it. I immediately contacted my pastor who did as he absolutely should — steered me toward forgiveness.
“We forgive, because we have been forgiven,” he told me. And I nodded to myself. I know, I know, I know. This is the Christian thing. 70×7 and all that. I’m supposed to forgive.
But I didn’t wanna.
For two days I let my Old Adam take over. I wallowed in that anger, and I sought to validate that anger, telling myself I was justified to be mad, that I needed time to be hurt and offended, that I couldn’t forgive. Not yet. Later. But not now. I just couldn’t.
But I knew that was crap.
Sure, it felt good to hate and take all of that energy and grief and emotion and direct it at those who had wronged me. It felt good… for a bit.
But I knew that was a lie.
We met with our other pastor later in the week, who found us at peace over our loss, but struggling with how to deal with the social hurts that had come along with it. Thanks be to God for the service of our pastors, who care for us and guide us whether that’s in mourning or in anger, in grief or in grudges.
We discussed many things in that short visit, and I can’t remember all that was said. Between that visit and the many conversations I had with fellow Christian sisters online, I found some strength to forgive. This is what I know and what I want to pass along — in case anyone is currently wallowing in a similar anger, struggling to forgive….
We forgive, because we have been forgiven. Yes, you know the line. You know its Truth. And I know it’s so easy to hear that and let it slide off your back without it sinking in. It’s easy to say “sure, sure, I know”, as if we’ve forgotten who has forgiven us, what we have been forgiven of, and just how huge a deal that really is.
We forgive our fellow brothers and sisters, because they are, in fact, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. They have been forgiven — for their past sins, and for their sins against us — yes, even the recent ones. God, in Christ, has already forgiven them for the hurt they caused us. How can we, then — how could I, then — deny what God had already given them? How could I so defiantly withhold that which wasn’t really mine to give at all?
Forgiveness isn’t easy, and after all, wiping that slate clean isn’t something we sinner/saints can really do. Forgiveness doesn’t come from us. We can only truly forgive, because we have received forgiveness in Christ for our own sins, for it’s His forgiveness we give to each other — not a forgiveness of our own making and devising.
So while we may not so quickly be up for a cup of coffee or a social get-together with those who hurt us, we can — with the help of our wonderful pastors and some blessed Christian neighbors — forgive.
And it feels so much better than wallowing in that muck of anger.
Photo credit: “untitled” by Jorge Ferrufino, Creative Commons
You don’t mention it, but did you approach the people who had hurt you and tell them that what they said hurt you? It’s never fun, but I have found that telling someone who has hurt me that they have hurt me helps a lot with letting go of the anger and forgiving.
Besides the above, the other person may need to know what hurt, so perhaps they will think before saying something like it to someone else.
Sometimes people don’t mean what they say the way it feels to you.
My son died at 44. Several people, meaning to console, said to me, “Mothers shouldn’t have to experience the death of a child.”
After three or four of such ‘sympathetic’ remarks, I wanted to ask if they meant I should be dead. That would have hurt them, so I didn’t.
What they didn’t know hurt more. My grandmother lost a son, my father; my mother lost a child, my sister. So, it was all too much, but… why should I get off any easier?
I only said that to my Pastor. I thank God for that Pastor!
Yes. Thank God for pastors! — Mine sent me this. Thank you for your article/blog.