Is Forgiveness Even Necessary (If So, Where Do We Start)

Is Forgiveness Even Necessary?

We’ve all been hurt as single parents.  We’ve been a recipient of offense in some way, shape, or form.

Sometimes, we tend to respond to these offenses by washing our hands of the situation, picking up the pieces of our lives, and moving on.  However, some of us get stuck on the offense and, as a result, fall deeper into resentment and become a victim, which we know is not healthy.

From a faith perspective we’ve all heard the narrative of how important it is to forgive.  But why is it so important?  Is forgiveness necessary when sometimes it feels like the person who causes the offense is not worth our time, effort, or grace?

Marissa Lee will walk us through forgiveness and whether it’s necessary or not when dealing with people.

How and where did you come to the realization that forgiveness is necessary?

Marissa shared that growing up in the church and her relationship with her siblings shaped her perception of forgiveness.  The church stressed the need to forgive offenders based on Jesus’ teachings and Marissa’s parents emphasized the need for her to forgive her siblings whenever they wronged her.

Marissa said she entered her marriage with the same mindset about forgiving.  She thought she would be a wonderful, dutiful Christian wife, and forgive her husband.  He would hurt her, and she would forgive him, but he would do the same thing to hurt her repeatedly.  She would ask, “how many times will I keep forgiving him?”  Jesus said, “seventy times seven” and so Marissa said, “I’ll have to keep going.”

The first week turned into months, which turned into years, and it drains on you as a wife who is continually having to forgive.  You don’t see change, and the heart of the offender has seen you for who you are and the amount of work you are doing forgiving.  Marissa admits that she got to the point in her marriage where forgiving became tiresome, and she wondered if it was necessary.  Unexpectedly, things got worse for Marissa when her husband died amidst all the anger and hurt in her heart.  She was bearing so much hurt for her husband, his family, and his friends who did not support them but made life harder.  Marissa then realized that the burden of hurt and anger in her heart would crush her if she didn’t offload it, and that was when she returned to God.  God told her to forgive.  God said you must forgive.  I know it hurts and it is the last thing you want to do, but the weight will crush you, it will eat you alive and hurt you more than what your offender actually did.

Robert adds that we have to choose if we want to tackle our resentment or stay stuck in our resentment when we get to our breaking point.  Marissa adds that she reached a point where she chose to build a wall to protect her heart, however she realized that wall blocked forgiveness.

Was your tendency to get stuck in resentment, or did you choose to suck it up, brush it off, and move on?

Robert shared how he didn’t have the experience of sitting in resentment and believing he was a victim when he was hurt, but instead he chose to move on – he was determined to make life better. Robert claimed to have forgiven his ex and move on, but he didn’t really do that because he did not understand the gravity of it.

Robert adds that most people tend to move on quickly, but it’s deceitful because you can maintain that for a while but still carry things with you.  It took Robert a while to understand real forgiveness.

According to psychologists, forgiveness is the conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment towards a person or group who has harmed you regardless of whether they deserve your forgiveness or not.

Why is forgiveness necessary?

Forgiveness is beneficial to your health

While researching why forgiveness is necessary, Robert stumbled on an excerpt from a John Hopkins medicine report entitled, “Forgiveness: Your Health Depends on It.”

Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attacks, improving cholesterol levels and sleep, reducing pain, and reducing blood pressure and levels of anxiety, depression, and stress.

Forgiving helps us take inventory of what happened

Robert states that although science has given facts about why the act of forgiving is healthy, other benefits are not health related.  For example, not forgiving can keep us from not really looking at a situation and owning our own part for ourselves.  We have to take inventory of what actually happened because we can get stuck, and it can cause blind spots for us.  

Forgiveness gives us the freedom to move into the future

According to Marissa, letting go of the past allows us to move into the future.  She believes forgiveness is a journey, and for her, she has chosen to forgive her husband until the day she dies. She also thinks that learning how to forgive is essential for our kids.

Many of us think about forgiveness as a gift we give someone else, but that is not true, it’s more about internal care for ourselves.  People with resentment can start believing they are always the victim. Playing the victim changes everything about our self-esteem when we start internalizing everything that has happened to us.

Robert shares another excerpt from his findings in the John Hopkin’s report on forgiveness.  Studies have found that some people are just naturally more forgiving, subsequently they tend to be more satisfied with their lives and have less depression, anxiety, stress, anger, and hostility.  People who hang onto grudges are more likely to experience severe depression and post-traumatic stress, as well as other health conditions.

Marissa shares that one of the things she has noticed about herself is that when she doesn’t forgive, she experiences the pain repeatedly.  The first time around hurts and then when it comes back, the sting is very real.  Although forgiveness will not make the pain disappear, it can soften the blow, so that we don’t have to feel it the same way - it doesn’t have the control it once did.  “When I forgive, I release control so God can have control, instead of the person who hurt me having control, says Marissa.  Forgiveness for Marissa is letting go of today’s battles instead of re-living and re-fighting the battles of yesterday, which she doesn’t have the bandwidth to fight.

Where do we start forgiving from?

Robert lists four things that are fundamental to moving towards forgiveness:


•Changing our inner dialogue
•Moving towards forgiveness
•Forgiveness must become a rhythm
•Become someone that’s quick to forgive and has a short-term memory

Changing our inner dialogue

The story we are telling ourselves is why we tend to get stuck; it can keep us in a victim mentality.  You can’t move towards forgiveness until you understand the situation.  There are times when the grievance or offense is a deliberate act to us, however sometimes the things that happened are not directly pointed toward us.  Unless you can untangle the story of what is going on, it’s hard to move towards forgiveness.  We must pay attention to our heads and ask, is it a grievance or are we just misreading the whole situation?

It can become worse for those with active imaginations because they can see something and make up a story about what must be happening. Imaginations, gossip trains, and many things can keep things moving in the wrong direction.

We need to stop our mental runaway with what could be, or what people are probably doing, or what we’re understanding.  We need to go back to what we know and actually see; these are the offenses that we need to forgive.  If we don’t know what is happening on the other side, we need to not borrow trouble from tomorrow and deal with what today is presenting.

Roberts states, “If we are not turning on this part of our brains, where we’re aware that we can make a mountain out of a molehill, we will start attaching resentments towards people that don’t even know they are doing something.”

There are indeed genuine grievances, but we must walk towards forgiveness.  Let’s start with the baseline of asking if an offense is directed towards us or if it’s just a general personality difference.  For example, Robert admits that he has realized that some of the things that happened in his former marriage were not intended to hurt him, it was just how his ex-wife reacted to her hurt because she was coming from a wounded place.

Marissa adds that we must be able to separate the moment or what is happening right now from the past.

Moving towards forgiveness

Kim shares her insight from watching a documentary about the shooting at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where a Caucasian boy entered the church, sat through the entire Bible study, and then shot at the African American congregation.  The interesting part of this story was during the court trial.  The judge asked the victims’ families if they had anything to say.  Shockingly, they stood up one-by-one and told the shooter they had forgiven him, however one man said he hadn’t forgiven him yet, he said he might forgive him one day, but he couldn’t today.

Robert asks, “If we rush the timing of forgiveness, are we really forgiving, or is that performance?  Is it something we’re trying to do to avoid the gravity of the pain of the situation?  Codependents tend to want to rush things because they don’t want to feel abandoned or feel the pain of the offense.”

Paying attention to the process and timing of forgiveness is crucial.  We must not say empty words because that is not real forgiveness.  Don’t hold grudges forever.  Don’t remain angry.  Pay attention to timing in the process of forgiveness.  There is value in honoring the timing of forgiveness.

The scripture in Ephesians 4:26, suggests we shouldn’t let the sun go down while still angry doesn’t mean we must forgive before the sun sets.  Anger is not the same thing as forgiveness.  Anger is an emotion.  It is natural for us to have anger.  Forgiveness is a response.  Waiting can make forgiveness happen naturally.  We don’t need to force things.  Forcing or controlling forgiveness is not a bridge to forgiveness, it just placates it.

Forgiveness must become a rhythm


Forgiveness as a rhythm is about releasing control and trusting that God has your back.  If you forgive something, it doesn’t mean the tendency to feel hurt or the hurt itself will completely disappear.  It’s the rhythm that you go through that makes it slowly go away.  The longer you let go of the feeling of control, the more discipline of releasing it and feeling the release of it.

Marissa shares that rhythm is like a breathing exercise.  Inhale the forgiveness that God has given us and accept that we are forgiven no matter what we’ve done.  Then, we exhale the forgiveness we need to give to others, knowing that he who has been forgiven can forgive others.  We can practice with the little things.  We can take baby steps; it doesn’t have to be overnight and with the big things in our lives.

Roberts states, “It doesn’t have to be one time for all.  It’s a constant practice to live as a grace-filled person.”  

Become someone that’s quick to forgive and has a shorter memory

Marissa shares that she read about a condition where someone can accurately remember eighty percent of what happened in the past.  Although this sounds like a wonderful ability, these people could remember verbatim the hurtful things their spouses said to them in the past and held it against them. This makes their spouses feel they are not forgiving them or moving on.  So, amnesia, the ability to forget something, in some cases is an enormous blessing.

Robert agrees that it’s good to forget because the Bible teaches us to be quick to forget.  Having amnesia is deciding that not only am I going to be a person full of grace, but I am going to decide I have to move on.

Takeaways:

  • Forgiveness is necessary for our well-being
  • Check your inner dialogue. Is what happened really an offense against us or just how we perceive it?
  • Pay attention to the timing of forgiveness
  • Forgiveness must become a rhythm, so release control and become a person of grace
  • Have amnesia and a short-term memory and let go of grievances

Resources:  Forgiveness: Your Health Depends on It

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