On Forgiveness

Have you ever wondered how some people can forgive some things that most of us couldn’t even entertain the idea of, let alone form our mouths to say these words? It wasn’t that long ago (maybe a year or so) when I watched a video posted by a man who forgave the person who killed his mother. The words didn’t come out easily; I could tell he was struggling with it. Yet it seemed important to him to put this message out there. The person who did the crime was locked away in prison, and otherwise unreachable, so he made the video. I remember wondering… how could he find the strength to do it?

When you come to understand what Jesus was saying when He explained multiple times to his disciples and others who gathered to hear Him that in order to be forgiven, one must be able to forgive, as well, you realize that forgiving someone who has done a great wrong to you is not just for them, but it’s for you. It’s a way of releasing any anger and sense of unrequited injustice, a way to stop someone from living rent-free in your head and a way to put God in control of your life. Give these things to Him and He will lead you to the right solution every time.  By giving it over to the Lord, who is the one to Whom vengeance belongs, the burden you’ve been carrying is lightened considerably.

In fact, as I finally realized during my journey in seeking the Lord Jesus, repenting of what I’d done (and most of the time I’d never apologized for) as well as forgiving others who had hurt me and weren’t sorry they’d done so took a huge burden from me. The cloud of depression that constantly rained on me finally lifted.

I finally knew true freedom.

It’s not just the big things that people have done, but the small things, too. I remember one day showing someone I knew that I wasn’t just imagining things, that total strangers really did often treat me in a negative way. Not everyone, but many of them. At the time, I didn’t understand why.

But, just to prove to this person (the one who thought I was just imagining things) how the way a stranger I’d meet for the first time would give me a nasty look or treat me in a rude manner, I picked a random store and we went in.

I picked up a few items and went to the cashier up in front. There were several people in line ahead of us and I pointed to the cashier and whispered to my companion, “Notice how nicely he treats the people ahead of us.” (No, he didn’t see me point at him, I made sure of that). And we watched.

Each person received the standard store greeting, the cashier smiling and chatting with each shopper as he rang up their purchases. Then he bid them a good day, thanking them for shopping at Whatever-Mart. As I approached the counter with my basket of purchases, I gave my companion a quick look that silently said, “watch this.”

The man refused to look at me, even though I smiled at him and said “Hi.” He remained quiet as he rang up the items and dropped them into the bag, then only spoke when he told me the total amount due. I paid for the items, still smiling politely, and said “Thank you,” as he handed me my bag. He didn’t say anything in return. When we got outside, my companion had a furrow in his brow and I could almost see the gears turning in his head as he was trying to work out some kind of explanation for what we just saw. We had even heard him greet the person in line behind us as we walked out the door.

Finally my companion said, “Maybe you just reminded him of somebody he knows and doesn’t like.” I laughed and replied that this happens to me all the time, and has happened to me as far back as I could remember. It affected me deeply while growing up, never understanding why people instantly disliked me as soon as they met me. It was like a curse of some kind. For a long time, I figured there was something wrong with me, something about my looks or my presence, perhaps the way I carried myself that I wore like an invisible “Kick Me” sign stuck on my forehead. It didn’t matter how nice and polite I was, it just kept happening.

So we went away from that little “test,” and my companion even more mystified than before. A few months later, while at a big box store in town with this same companion, the female cashier behind the counter immediately became rude. Even my companion was treated badly. She put on an attitude right away and we had done nothing but smile at her and ask how her day was while she rang up our purchases. Again, my companion left the store mystified. This kind of thing never happened to him before, as he’s quite an amiable guy. But it did happen when he was standing there with me. He couldn’t deny that something was downright strange about it. And it doesn’t just happen to me in a store or wherever, but it happens when I talk to people on the phone and online. There is something about me that sets people off, even when all I did was walk by or speak some vague generality to them.

So after I found Jesus and called out for Him in 2012, one of the first things I prayed about was why this “thing” happens to me. Over the passing months, a series of strange events would happen to me (which I’ve touched on in other posts and won’t get into here, at least not yet) that finally convinced me that there is darkness (dark entities, very possibly) in certain people, and it reacts very negatively when they see me for the first time. They feel the need to be rude to me or say something outright nasty. Some have even caught themselves doing it, felt bad about it and later apologized to me when they’d see me again in passing.

These days, when this happens I just let it go. I shrug it off, give it to the Lord God and Jesus Christ, and I forgive the people a little while later. I know now why they are reacting this way to me, or more specifically, reacting to something within me. I am a Christian, have always been, even before I knew it myself. This light of the Lord Jesus is what they react to. It wasn’t long before others who are devout Christians told me that they experience the same phenomena in people.

I realized that this wasn’t a curse but a way of helping me to discern. How? If someone immediately reacts negatively to me when I haven’t said or done anything to them to deserve it, that’s a clue in big blinking lights that there’s something going on in that person that must be prayed about. So I take it to the Lord.

Others who have done things to me (some things so bad I can’t repeat it here) were the hardest to forgive. But I didn’t do it just to win brownie points. I did it because to do so allowed me to grow closer to the Lord God, to get to know the Lord Jesus and to understand when the Holy Spirit is trying to teach me something important. Being without forgiveness was a big obstacle for me. I wore my grudges against people like they were badges of honor. I finally saw this and began the long process of getting past it. It’s difficult at times, but I keep trying and trying eventually leads to doing.

This is why I see every person who instantly dislikes me as yet another learning experience. It’s nothing new; I’ve seen this before. Forgiveness is how I let go of the sorrow and self-hatred that ruled my life for so many years. That huge obstacles had to be overcome and removed in my life in order for me to grow closer to the Lord God, In turn, it also allows me to learn to discern things far better than I ever had before because I consider even the smallest of interactions with people. I still view people with suspicion from time to time – life taught me to be wary and it’s a very hard habit to break, but I’m getting there, with God’s help.

The Lord God and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit have taught me this by the Word and by watching how He moves in my life. I would have never thought it possible before to be free of the crippling depression I lived with for over 30 years. But it happened. I am a witness to the power of the Lord God Almighty and to the power of forgiveness. I may never be able to directly atone to the people I’ve wronged (most have moved on to other places or else passed on from this life) but I can go to the Lord for forgiveness.

There is freedom to be found in forgiveness. A freedom from the burden of all the world has thrown at me for years and years. I still make mistakes every day and there are still people who give me nasty looks, mock my speech or just act jaw-droppingly rude to me. But I can let it go. If Jesus can forgive those who crucified Him, then I should be able to forgive people for the far lesser things they’ve done to me. While it may disturb me from time to time, it doesn’t last long. It’s par for the course when you’re a Christian, and eventually you learn to let these fiery darts and flaming arrows fall away from you, and no weapon formed against you may prosper. If someone hurts me now, I take a step back, consider the nature of the problem and I forgive them.

When I do wrong, I try to apologize when possible. I did it just the other day, after I “lost it” for a moment at work while under deadline pressure. I spoke in a terse tone that I didn’t mean. One person jokingly mocked me but soon forgave me, the other copped an attitude and left. But, that’s okay. I reached out to them and maybe after they consider what really happened, they’ll come around. I still give it to God to handle.

Sometimes, it occurs to me well after the fact that something I did or said may have hurt someone else. In that event, if I can’t apologize (or if doing so will just make things worse), I go to the Lord with it. In time, things usually work out and I count it as yet another lesson learned. If someone slights me, I might get riled for a time – I’m a human made of flesh and sharp words get to me every now and then – but I do repent of it and ask for forgiveness. If something I’ve said made you feel bad, I ask for your forgiveness. I apologize for my tone, for my mannerisms and for being blunt.

When you apologize, you “own” what you did and you make it known to the other person so there can be a pathway opened up to resolve the issue. Sometimes I even apologize when  I can’t figure what I did wrong, just to make sure the person knows that I still care about them, still love them no matter what the confusion was. I’m not going to shirk my portion of responsibility in it.

Paul the Apostle said, in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8

“If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.”

Jesus Himself said to Peter, in Matthew 18:21-22
“21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!…”

When I don’t know, I think of Jesus, and what He would have me do. I say these things to relate to others my own personal journey in seeking the Lord Jesus, what I went through in trying to learn these things so that others may understand and the process be a tiny bit more understandable. That’s all. I’m not out to prove my righteousness. That’s for God to decide, and again, I defer to Romans 3:10-12 on that one –

10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”

Until later,
Jillian

 

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