What Forgiveness Might Really Look Like

Column Post by Laura Hyers

“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.”
C. S. Lewis

Isn’t forgiveness so much more fun to talk about than to actually partake in? Not to mention that it’s always way better to be on the receiving end of forgiveness than the giving end.

Truth is, forgiveness can be really, really hard.

We are fragile, fallible people—some with a keen sense of right and wrong, others with seemingly no conscience or even a remorseful cell in their bodies.

Circumstances and perspective can make forgiveness seem impossible or downright stupid, but I think sometimes we think forgiveness is another word for “deciding it’s all okay and going back to the way things were before (insert thing being forgiven here) happened.” And honestly, I don’t think that’s the truth, friend.

We are commanded to forgive one another. That’s just the way it is. The Bible is blunt and matter-of-fact when it states, “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6.14-15)

This is one of the most sobering verses for me. I am quick to close myself off from those who have hurt me, put up walls and hide behind them, make pleasantries and small talk but avoid depth and intimacy. And I understand why I do this: being hurt isn’t fun.

And I know I’m supposed to forgive, but I find myself pleading, Can’t I just leave them alone? Can’t they just leave me alone?

And here’s what the Lord has revealed to me, through time and pain and healing and (you guessed it) forgiveness: forgiveness does not mean things return to the way they were.

Forgiveness does not mean the people who have proven themselves untrustworthy are welcomed back with open arms, told the family secrets, given privileged information. The gossip will likely continue to run her mouth, and the abuser may still raise his hand against you.

Forgiveness does not mean a willingness to put ourselves into dangerous positions. Protect yourself, use good sense, and go to the Lord in prayer about what your relationship with the person you need to forgive will look like—or if there will be a real relationship at all.

Merriam Webster defines “forgive” as the act of giving up resentment or claim for requital, granting relief from payment. Forgiving those in the back of your mind as you read this means letting go of your need to exact justice upon them, to make them pay for what they’ve done. Forgiveness won’t make the pain disappear, but I think once we can let go of our need to get even God can begin to heal our hearts.

The Lord is righteous and pursues justice for His children, but His version of justice rarely looks like ours. Throwing away the scorecard of hurts done to you can be the beginning of a beautiful healing process.

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P.S. We would love to know what you think. Won’t you please leave us a comment?

Laura Hyers is a Tampa native, writer, and the newly wed wife of musician Caleb. She recently graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in literature and is currently teaching preschool. When not chasing a class of two-year-olds, Laura is writing and fighting fierce bouts of wanderlust. She loves music, reading, being near the ocean, and dreaming big over huge cups of coffee with her best friend Lakin. Laura blogs at http://littlebirdmarie.wordpress.com.

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