Everyone always says forgiveness is more about what it does for you, the forgiver, than for the person you are forgiving.
This never made complete sense to me.
As I have been peeling back the layers of my life, I recently had an epiphany about why forgiveness and letting go has not come easily to me.
Learning forgiveness and understanding what it can look like in your own life, and what the steps are can help you find your own power again. It can and will help you let go of the hurt that has stolen from your life. Forgiveness can be life changing to anyone. But it’s not a simple formula. It’s a process and it’s personal to each ones circumstance. There is no magic cure. It takes time, it takes courage in facing the what’s and the why’s, to see the beauty of how and end result of true peace.
I have many stories in regard to this subject but today I’ll start from the deepest cuts and hardest “what’s”.
I can’t name a time or a specific childhood experience in which true grace was extended to me to fully grasp or understand it. My memories are laced with guilt trips and reminders of the things I had done wrong, things I said that stirred pots, and lives I somehow negatively affected in just my existing.
I’m speaking of my childhood first because this is where my basic understanding of what forgiveness was -originally formed.
Now this doesn’t mean that I wasn’t eventually forgiven for whatever I had done. Of course things go on, people forget, they do move forward. With or without me.
I just cannot remember doing anything wrong, recognizing my wrong for what it was, even apologizing for it, and honestly having it be forgiven without serious strings of guilt trips and moments of pure shame.
Maybe I was just a sensitive kid, maybe. Nonetheless, from a young child on I took everything I had ever done wrong to a painfully dark level of shame.
Presently understanding how the sexual abuse I received shaped my identity then, I understand this behavior and my skewed thought process now completely.
When I was a child, like most kids, I did many wrong things. I pushed limits, spoke out of turn, and had owed my fair share of apologies and extended them to many.
But my perspective and process of taking personal accountability for my wrongs took a major downward shift around the age of 8&9.
Lots was happening then, around me and to me. My parents were working through some serious adultery issues and aside from the sexual abuse taking place on a weekly sometimes daily basis, I also was being bullied at school.
It’s crazy but little girls that bully don’t have to physically punch you (though that had happened too) to scar someone badly. It’s difficult writing this because of how sad this makes me feel. I always had issues with feeling safe in my environments.
I had an extremely low self esteem, and the constant fear of abandonment because of all the instability going on with my parents at the time.
At school, I really would do ANYTHING to be seen. And I mean anything.
I felt stuck there and I wanted so badly to be able to be accepted and to feel like in some small way good. I had to spend 8 hours of my day there then go home to a lot of fighting and crying so I really wanted to make the best of it.
Bullying has many forms. In my case, it was more passive aggressive then literal. Certain girls would have me perform tasks in order to “earn” their friendship. The tasks were stupid, degrading, and they knew it but I did it anyway. Little to my knowledge, they didn’t really want to be my friend to begin with, so the tasks would never be completed to their satisfaction and their rejection was ALWAYS the end result.
I remember pounding my hands into my head crying and thinking to myself … what more could I do to get them to like me?
Day after day being rejected and ignored, I would repeatedly apologize in the hopes they’d give me another chance.
Eventually they would get tired of my begging and allow me to try again.
I remember feeling so pathetic. But I was desperate.
I would LITERALLY apologize for being me.
I hated myself so much that I affirmed their hatred for me through my own pathetic behaviors.
I thought that maybe if I could do more, change something about myself, that maybe they could overlook my flaws, and just FORGIVE me for being this pathetic excuse of a person and let me in.
But grace was never shown then. Even if I “earned” it.
After school or on weekends, I went to the babysitter, which was also the home of one of my abusers.
A few relatives that didn’t like my mother hung around as well and would gossip about her in front of me. Not caring once that it was my mother they were bashing and how the things they repeated in front of me made me feel being her daughter. I never felt welcomed because of the strained relationships that they all had with my mother. I always felt bad for them having to watch me because there is nothing worse than being a kid who hasn’t the power to able to leave a place you are considered a burden.
This particular location not only holds memories of being a burden to everyone there, but was also the home where my life was changed, my innocence was stolen and the place where most of my abuse had occurred. He would validate the feelings of the girls at school by calling me a fat pig, pushing me around, or just ignoring me all together. Unless I was in his bedroom allowing him to touch me, I was worthless. It was then I learned that the only way to be accepted in this world or to be forgiven by someone was to be able to offer or DO something.
I was then I was relevant.
I was then someone who mattered.
I was then someone who could be beautiful.
I was then someone who could be forgiven for being me and being a burden.
Processing and then writing these very personal experiences here, I realize that regardless of my age and whether or not I deserved the treatment I received back then, I never was taught how to emotionally forgive someone.
Because grace had never been extended freely to me, it wasn’t a part my life where I naturally understood how to let go. I never had the foundation blocks in which to appropriately learn what forgiving myself could look like, let alone when I eventually became very angry about things in my life how to extend grace to those who had hurt me.
On Sunday, my forgiveness epiphany finally happened. A breakthrough moment. An Aha moment of all Oprah moments.
You see, throughout many years of my life lived destructively, as well as healing in recovery, I believed from my heart that forgiveness is black and white.
You say your sorry and I forgive and we try again. Well with some people, this is good, this can bring healing and new found hope and changes in lives and even when I read the gospel, forgiveness like this is biblical.
Turn the other cheek right?
I have also heard the saying that just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you have to have them in your life. Well being the black and white personality I am, I have struggled with this statement because in my head, how is this true forgiveness really if you can’t be around me? If I TRULY forgive then I should look at it with a clean heart/slate/new fresh start.
Ok and in my case I have been there and done that. My heart has been softened and changed immensely. However , this doesn’t mean the person I’m forgiving is really changed or even near the level I might need them to be for me to “let go” of the hurt they are repeatedly causing maybe through triggers or just being them and the memories they provoke.
So with all that being said Sunday Pastor Janes said it pretty simple enough for this black and white minded girl to understand forgiveness in a new light.
He said forgiveness doesn’t mean you tell them you have forgiven them, it means you go to God with it because he knows your heart and will allow it to be set free. But here it’s comes… My revelation, he said forgiveness means they no longer OWE you anything. That you have come to the place where you can say there is nothing they can do, give, say, nothing and you are okay with it.
You make your peace with God, and you allow it to go to him. You allow it to be worked through by trusting HE, the creator knows exactly what to do with it.
If they come to you to apologize, you THEN should accept and forgive out loud, but only until they who have hurt you come. It’s not your job to go to them and tell them you forgive them. You might be stealing the blessing God has in their own “coming to” process.
In order for Forgiveness to bring peace to our heart it is not just between you and that person, but instead between you and God. Getting right about it with him.
So that is what they mean when they say it’s about us… Not them.
I cannot ever think of anything the girls from my old school could say to me that can replace what they took from me.
I cannot get back anything from the person who stole my innocence even by his acknowledgement of any wrongdoing now.
Or even the way those relatives made me feel when they considered me a burden because of who I was.
There is nothing they can do.
I’m okay with it and really okay with not having them in my life.I now accept that they owe me nothing. Because nothing will changed what happened.
What I owe myself, my husband, my children, my future, is the gift of accepting that simple fact that Gods got this.
My hope is not in what could have been replaced or what could have went differently.
My hope, my comforter, my peace comes from HE who is bigger than I can even comprehend.
HE who knows everything single thing about me and loves me anyway.
HE who was there when I was at my lowest whispering to me everyday… “Chantel, You were made for more then you can see right now.”
” Hold on.”
He knew One day I would see how none of them would have the power i once believed they did.
One day I would see the power I had been given the day I decided to look up, surrender, and receive it.
So yes, Forgiveness really isn’t about what it does for them. What it does is, it opens your heart to be filled with a deeper beauty and peace beyond what you ever could comprehend.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”