Do you struggle with forgiveness? Is there some coldness in your heart, some negativity that rises to the surface whenever a certain person or situation comes to mind?
I’ve been struggling with this lately. I guess it’s been longer than lately, but “lately” is when I’ve admitted to myself that it needs to be addressed.
And I’ve been kicking myself because I should have known better. I do know better.I know that when you refuse to forgive, you’re really only hurting yourself. But knowing it and doing anything about it are two very different things.
There are some people who hurt me deeply, and I haven’t known how to move past that. No, that’s probably not quite true. I haven’t wanted to do the hard work that it would take to move past that.
The older I get, the harder it seems to be to forgive. It’s easier to just move in different circles and let the issue drift into the background. Until, of course, it comes to the foreground when you run into them or someone asks you about the situation.
I was recently talking with a pastor who asked how I had been processing and healing from these things, and I did not have a good answer. I knew there was more work that I needed to do. And that might have been the first time I was honest with myself that I didn’t want to forgive these people.
And then inspiration visited me.
For two months, I’ve been speaking affirmations aloud most mornings (part of my “Miracle Morning”—thanks, Hal Elrod), and there’s a line in there that reads “I refuse to judge others, because I recognize that in their shoes, I might talk and act the same way.” And on that day, it hit me right between the eyes that if I was in their position, I might have done the same things—made the same careless mistakes that resulted in others being deeply wounded.
So I spoke these same affirmations I had been speaking almost daily, and on this particular day, I had a particular person in mind and God’s Spirit dropped a truth bomb on me.
__________ is God’s beloved child.
__________ is just as valued, loved, and wanted by God.
__________ has gifts to bring to the world that only ___________ can bring.
It was truth I couldn’t un-hear.
And just like that, the frost started to thaw. Not all the way–let’s be real here. When the wounds are deep, it takes some time. But I said those things out loud with one person’s name, and it wrecked me. Here I was, othering these people, holding up their “crimes” and saying that’s all there was to them. But the truth is, they, too, are God’s beloved children—dearly loved and wanted and created for a reason.
No, we haven’t hugged it out. All is not healed. But it’s a start. Even if the relationships are never friendships again, a crack has opened up through which reconciliation can begin to flow.
There’s tremendous power in seeing the divine in those around you. I used to think the Christian life had everything to do with being “the hands and feet of Jesus.” But the older I’ve gotten, the more I learn that it’s even more about seeing the face of Jesus in everyone we encounter. It’s about seeing everyone as a beloved child of God. That is way harder and way more character-shaping and revealing than just trying to serve others in Jesus’ name (which, of course, is important too).
So if there’s someone you’ve been thinking about as you’re reading this, I encourage you to speak those words aloud with their name—affirm that they are God’s beloved son or daughter, affirm that God loves them and has gifted them and created them to bring divine love to the world. It might just mess you up enough to start letting a little light in.