setapartformyking asked a question:
What is your best method you have used or use to let God fully take away any remainder of bitterness? Been struggling with being free from the chains of bitterness and fully forgiving and I don’t like what it’s doing to me.
Hey dear friend, thank you for being so honest and please know: forgiveness is an immensely difficult, uphill climb that often takes a lifetime.
Perhaps the best thing I’ve learned about forgiveness is that forgiving someone doesn’t always happen in one shot. Though it can certainly happen this way, for most of us, it takes a daily wrestling to really be free of our old wounds. I tend to be a slow forgiver, and it’s a process that needs daily work, sometimes even multiple times per hour.
The tricky thing is to not measure your progress; simply move forward on it each day. Whenever a negative thought comes up, this is where I need to ask God for grace, for both me and the other person. It’s okay that the anger pops up, because the hurt inflicted upon us is very real. But when the anger comes, I have to let it pass like the flu. I cannot let it settle in like poison. I acknowledge how badly I’m hurt and how wrong it was — and then I take on the mind of Christ in having grace for everyone involved.
Eventually, I get to a place where I’m both outraged at the injustice and compassionate in the situation, at the same time. That way, I don’t deny what happened, but I’m also not allowing it to determine who I am. None of this is easy, but it’s because we’re human. None of it was ever going to be easy.
The other thing is that forgiveness does not necessarily mean friendship. If someone hurts my wife or my family, I can forgive them, but I don’t have to hang out with them. Forgiveness is so often a gift for you, so that you can release the knife of the wound and move on. It will hurt, but the hurt doesn’t get to say who you are or what you’ll do. If you see them again: you can feel what you feel, but so we must accord those feelings their proper place and to continue despite ourselves. Part of healing is getting on with your mission and your God-made purpose, because you’re more than what has happened to you.
7 thoughts on “Forgiveness: Not a One-Shot Moment, But a Daily Battle”
Such a hard truth. I struggle with this every day with something that happened long ago. It really is a knife in my own side, although it affects my relationship with the other person as well. I struggle the most with knowing how to act towards this person despite my feelings of bitterness that are still there. It’s definitely a daily process and struggle.
Thank you for sharing, dear friend. I think having grace for yourself is the important thing. Oftentimes the church-world tries to hurry this process, and while it’s out of good intentions, it’s still harmful to rush healing. I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’s quote here:
“You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again.”
This is so true. I struggled a lot with forgiveness, and what it means. My biggest problem was thinking that it was a one-time deal, and if bitterness arose again, it meant I hadn’t done it right the first time. Learning that it was a process took some time, but makes much more sense to me now. Also loved what you said about forgiveness not necessitating friendship. Oftentimes though, I wonder if I sometimes use that as an excuse to not try to restore the relationship..
Yes you’re right, I definitely think that many of us look for a way to remain bitter, hence use this idea of “slow forgiveness” as a loophole. It’s a tricky balance. Forgiveness does take time, but there’s a point when our agenda really does drag us down. Sometimes bitterness feels like it’s the proper payback, as if we can “send hate-waves” at another person to punish them. I think Romans 12:18 always needs to be the priority.
At the same time, there’s no need to remain friends with an abusive user or a dangerous, toxic person. I would never tell someone to become friends with their attacker or a burglar who ransacked their home. There’s a wisdom to each situation.
I’ll toss in my two cents, coming from a long life of offenses both received and given, and having seen much bad understanding from the church regarding forgiveness. There seem to be two prevalent misunderstandings which I desire to address here.
First, many will say that we need to “forgive and forget, as that is what God does with our sin.” This sounds good, but it is dead wrong. Nowhere does scripture say that God forgets. No, dear friend, he chooses to not remember (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:12), which is a greater blessing than if he simply forgot. I do agree that we should follow his example of choosing to not remember, acknowledging what Joon says above that this is an ongoing, daily-choosing-to-let-it-go process.
Second, in Ephesians 4:26, Paul tells us to “not let the sun go down on your anger”, which many misinterpret to mean that all conflicts must be resolved before the end of the day. This, however, can be discounted by a simple reading of the text, as Paul is not in any way advocating a total resolution by bedtime. No, Paul stretches us more than that, warning us that harbored anger leads to grudges and bitterness. What Paul is saying is that we should strive to let go of our hard feelings and resentment before the sun goes down. This too is something that Joon advocates for in his response above, also acknowledging the difficulty in it along with the daily need for it.
Yes! To be fair, I think it’s a good idea to follow Ephesians 4:26 as close as possible, at least in marriage or between roommates and other close proximities. Or perhaps it’s talking about letting go of uncontrolled rage, while the wound does last longer.
You’re right on here. It’s a daily fight. I remember reading a very extreme book on forgiveness that sort of accused all Christians of doing it wrong. I kept wondering, “Has this author even been hurt in real life?” I mean it’s easy to say, “Forgive and forget!” — until the thing happens to you or a loved one, which makes me want to “lay hands” on the offender.