I never realised how much bearing grudges could really screw me up, till doing so left me reminiscing and regretting my actions. Little did I know till I wrote this, that one act of unforgivingness can lead to a chain reaction of problems: and many sour friendships. Till God finally got—or rather grabbed—my attention, I never realised that my failure to forgive a group of people who hurt me way back in Junior High School had created an emotional wound within me.
A friend of mine told me this about a year ago, “before you give your heart to someone, make sure that you have fixed [or are fixing] the things within you that make you unlovable.” I am paraphrasing her words but you know, she is very right. Unforgivingness is a seed which when nurtured by other hurts and poor communication (in a relationship), grows into a tree bearing fruits of hatred: and it is at the apex of this hatred that divorce, separation, murders and so forth take place.
Unforgivingness really sucks; I never in a thousand years thought that my future relationships had anything to do with my hurts from Junior High School. But you know, the truth of the matter is this, every experience and lesson from a past friendship or relationship (depending on how we take the lessons) tends to become the foundation for the future relationships we will have. What we see and (unconsciously) take from the relationships of others around us as well, greatly affects how we treat the people we end up giving our hearts to.
Some memories will never leave; you will always have people who will trigger different hurtful memories, even if they don’t know it—yes! even the people who greatly love you will sometimes do things that will remind you of a person who really hurt you in the past. But that isn’t the problem, for you see, if you have truly forgiven the people who hurt you, not a memory from the past can break you.
And now, with that said: this is where the article begins: at a point where I began to ponder and ask God questions about unforgivingness.
What is Unforgivingness?
Unforgivingness is simply paying back a person for the wrong they have done to you, rather than turning them over to God. It’s looking at a person or the people (you love) and seeing nothing but the wrong they have done to you: things like that call they didn’t answer, a text they ignored, an insult uttered and more. Many times we hold these things within us even when the people who offended us don’t even know; sadly the more time goes by the greater our hatred for them; this is because they no longer appear to us as people, but as objects of our hatred or a bad memory.
So I have another question: Is it easy or possible to forgive a person without being able to tell them what they did wrong to you? I guess it is but usually you need to be able to see and understand the value of the relationship. There are times when you’re unable to tell people what they did wrong: maybe they are deceased, in another country, out of reach and so forth but the pain lives on; and you just can’t let go, you can’t live with yourself until you have been avenged. But how do you truly let go? This was the question I asked God as I lay in bed trying to understand what forgiveness was all about. How does God let go of the things we do to Him? My mind went back to the book of Revelation; the part where Jesus said:
“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.” (Revelation 2:20 KJV)
How does God forgive when He has something against us? This was the question I had in my mind. And the answer or thought that came to me was this: Forgiveness means valuing the relationship more than the hurt. Forgiveness is when the prodigal son comes home and you care more about him than the mistakes he did because you know that he has truly changed. This is how God forgives and wants us to forgive. But what if that person never comes back to us to ask for forgiveness? And how do you let go of the pain if you see no value in the friendship? The answer in this case is to look to God for understanding: to understand your purpose and how He can turn the hurt and pain around in your favour.
Bear this in mind, every great man and woman in the bible went through some degree of hurt and pain, but it was how they handled these issues the way God wanted them to, that helped them fully fulfil God’s purpose for their lives. Can you imagine how different the house of David would have been if Absalom had forgiven Amnon, and sought the face of God for a better way to handle the situation (See 2 Samuel 13)? It’s sad to see how unforgivingness led to the death of young man and division in the house of his father King David (See 2 Samuel 18). And if we will be true to each other you will agree with me that unforgivingness in the long term brings nothing but loneliness, paranoia, pain, emotional instability and sometimes death.
Sometimes unforgivingness is the only weapon the devil can use to destroy your family, marriage, business and consequently your destiny. The truth is, forgiveness can’t be done without God. It’s easy to think you can just say “I forgive you” to a person who hurt you and go about your life living like nothing happened; in reality, however, this doesn’t happen. Unforgivingness like love, hate, joy and peace is more spiritual than we think. The only way to truly forgive is to make a sincere decision to forgive; turn to God firstly to forgive us for our own sins and secondly to heal us of the pain caused.
Forgiveness to the grave
“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59-60 KJV)
As I was discussing this final verse with a friend of mine, it occurred to me how much Steven didn’t want to ever take the weight of unforgivingness with him to the grave. He chose not to give the devil any power over him, and for this reason, two things happened: one, Jesus stood to acknowledge him (See Acts 7:56) and secondly Saul who became Paul the apostle was greatly influenced by what he saw. In seeing how much a man could live for God and even forgive others at the time of his death: he (Paul) in his time as an apostle did greater. For he knew and understood that the only thing that would stand between him and his work as an apostle was unforgivingness: that is, not forgiving the Jews and Gentiles that would be used against him in his ministry.
To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Corinthians 2:10–11)