We all have wounds.
Not long ago, my wound got stomped on by people close to me. Things were said. The message conveyed felt like a snub, and it stung. My first response was to leave the situation.
I moved on from the incident, but that re-opened wound festered, leaving me stinking on the inside, insecure in my thinking, and holding onto a grudge. My first thought was to ignore the pain caused by words.
But, ignoring rarely heals.
And, in my case, ignoring paved the way for bitterness. It doesn’t take long for bitterness to creep in and dig roots down deep into a heart.
Recently, our pastor shared about Jonah and how he responded to God’s decision to forgive the Ninevites after they repented from their sin. God’s example of forgiveness was as much for Jonah as it was for the Ninevites.
As I listened, I began to squirm. The faces of the people who had hurt me flashed across my mind.
Jonah didn’t remember the grace God gave him . . .
. . . when he ran away on a ship bound the opposite direction from where God instructed him to travel.
. . . when he chose death over obedience.
And yeah, God dealt with that, didn’t He?
Spending three days in the belly of a large marine animal is an experience I’d rather forego.
The Lord showed me I couldn’t move closer to Him in our relationship with all this in my heart. He wouldn’t bless the work of my hands or allow me to move forward in some endeavors if I chose to cling to unforgiveness.
We can’t hold onto our dreams and onto unforgiveness. We need to be willing to release that hurt, that pain, that wound into His hands. Then our hands are free to hold the dreams He gives us.
As I considered the people who hurt me, God gave me His eyes to view them as He does—as His creations. God’s forgiven them. Who am I to hold onto their offense?
How do we move beyond the pain of our wounds being stomped on?
Here are five things I’ve learned when it comes to releasing offenses:
- Forgiveness begins by acknowledging to God the hurts we’ve held onto. We must confess our sin of unforgiveness in humility.
- Evaluate if we’ve misinterpreted someone’s words or actions. There are times when we filter words or actions inaccurately. It’s important to pray and ask God to show us His perspective. If there’s a genuine offense, perhaps we need to talk with that person and work things out. If we received things inaccurately, we need to bring that before the Lord and ask for His perspective on the matter.
- As many times as our thoughts drift back to the offense, we need to turn them over to the Lord, to ask for His help in letting go of it. For me, this is a constant choosing to remember I’ve handed the hurt over to Him, a continual releasing of the pain into God’s hands.
- Remind ourselves we’ve chosen forgiveness. We’ve chosen to let go of the “right” to get even, the right to hold onto the hurt.
- Taking this a brave step further, choose to love as Jesus does, to the extent that is safe for us. And we need to love knowing the other person may never change. This may or may not mean trying to build a relationship with those who have hurt us. God needs to be the Guide in that decision. But, choosing to have a heart that’s open to loving those who have hurt us reflects Jesus in a way little else can.
Forgiveness is an ongoing choosing to let go.
It’s only as we relinquish the pain into God’s hands that we find healing for our wounds.
And it’s only as we release our grip on the offense that we can have both hands open to receive God’s grace and whatever else He has for us.
This process takes time and deliberate action in our thoughts and hearts.
And, as for the people who stomped on my wound, I’m working through the process of letting go. I’m setting thought-boundaries in place, but I’m also asking the Lord to help me love them bravely.
What about you? What helps you choose to forgive when the pain of an offense stomps on one of your wounds? What’s one way you love well?
Click to Tweet: Forgiveness begins by acknowledging to God the hurts we’ve held onto
I’m linking up with #RaRaLinkup
Sign up for monthly notes filled with encouragement, updates, and glimpses of how God shows up in each day. Receive free encouragement resources!
I pray often for God to make me unoffendable. Somehow I think I’ll have to pursue incremental improvement, through prayer and positioning myself at the foot of the Cross, instead. I’m learning to rely on the Holy Spirit to change my heart. I want to be that forgiving person.
Suzette, what a great prayer! I need to remember that. And yes, remembering to position ourselves at the foot of the Cross is a great visual. I so appreciate this perspective! Thanks so much for visiting!
Hi Jeanne, Those five points are so true, and yet so hard to do. Thank you for such insightful reminders of the ongoing process of forgiving.
Thank you, Kathy, for your kind words. Yes, forgiveness can be so hard to do, to live out. I appreciate you.
Such a good article! How we all struggle with these moments of pain and need to step out of unforgiveness and offense. Thank you, Jeanne! And the photos are absolutely beautiful. They added so much to the reflection that this piece stirred.
Pam, thank you so much for your encouraging words. It seems like many of us deal with/have dealt with issues of unforgiveness. But the only way to really move beyond the pain is to release it. Thank you so much for visiting!
Jeanne, I’m so sorry your wound got “stomped on,” as you say. That’s such a good visual of what these hurts are like and why it’s so hard to let them go. There’s great wisdom in all your five points … so true that “this process takes time and deliberate action in our thoughts and hearts.” It sometimes feels really good to hold tightly to these offenses, doesn’t it? But how much better it is when we ask God to help us get rid of them. I love your transparent heart, my friend.
Thank you, Lois. I struggled when I first realized the process of forgiveness and letting go takes time. I thought I should be “holy” enough, good enough to be able to forgive completely the first time. But, alas, I’m human. 😉 I’m thankful for God’s grace that enables me to forgive when my heart is aligned with His. Your words resonate with me, friend. Thank you so. much for stopping by!
It’s a life-long leaning, this forgiving and letting go! Sometimes I think I’m done and then those feelings of feeling offended rear up again. I know I’m less peaceful when feeling offended and that strive causes only harm. So sometimes I’ll think, “would I want this to be my last thoughts or feelings if I was to die a second later?” And then change my mind onto loving things. 🙂 It don’t always succeed, but helps me to stay present and grateful. It never feels good to be hurt by others actions and words. I pray God continues to give you the wisdom on boundaries and forgiveness, J.
Lynn, you’re right . . . learning how to live forgiveness is a life-long process. Those feelings that rear up can be so frustrating and detrimental. I like the filter you use to choose forgiveness. That question cuts right to the point. I, as usual, appreciate your perspective, my friend.
I absolutely loved this post. Thought boundaries really stuck out to me. What is your method for setting thought boundaries? This is where I really get tripped up.
Alexis, thank you so much for stopping by! I don’t actually have a method for setting thought boundaries. But, what I’m learning is that it can be healthy to determine in my thoughts how much time I will spend with people who I know will hurt me again, intentionally or not. And I can love them, with God’s help. But, I can also protect my heart by taking control of the time spent with them.
In my thoughts, I have certain reminders I set up for when my thoughts begin to wander in a certain direction. I’ve memorized verses that apply to the areas where my thoughts struggle, and I remind myself of those verses. For example, when I begin to worry about “What if—— happens?” Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on what is TRUE. A What if isn’t true, if that makes sense. So, then I start thinking on what is true–especially about the Lord. It’s true that He loves us, that He cares for us, that He protects us. It’s true that He walks with us through the hard situation we may be facing.
I have looked for verses that apply to our thoughts, and I pray these and think on them when my thoughts go to places they shouldn’t. I try to remember God’s character aspects that can help me with the areas I may be struggling in. I don’t know if this makes sense or not. Does it help?
Jeanne, while we hear and read messages on forgiving often, you provide fresh insight. For one thing, I never thought about how it’s not possible to hold onto dreams and unforgiveness at the same time. And I really like asking the Lord to help us see the offender as He does and love them like Jesus. That takes forgiveness to a whole new level. Setting thought-boundaries is great too!
Karen, you are such an encourager. I love how God can speak to us through others’ posts. I always come away from yours with new thoughts. I’m so thankful God calls us to holiness, in part by letting go of offenses, and that, as we release those to Him, He can help us with our dreams because there’s nothing hindering Him. So thankful for you!!
I think because we’re told as Christians that we should forgive, we think it should come quickly and easily. There have definitely been times when I thought I had forgiven but really I was just ignoring it. It’s much better to acknowledge our feelings before God, and then we can move on to truly forgive. I like your point that it’s a decision we may have to make time and time again.
Lesley, YES! We have this idea that forgiveness should come easily, simply because we are Christians. But, we are human, and it takes time for us to work through the act of forgiving. I believe when we engage God in the process we are able to forgive completely, even if it does take time.
It can be doubly painful when it’s someone close to us, right, Jeanne? Thank you for your wise insight here. A big one for me is to evaluate whether my hurt reaction is coming from the old insecurity in me. I can easily take a comment as giving me a dig that I’m not enough whereas my husband can see it more like a joke or else not meant at all what I thought. I am so sensitive. And even the person truly doesn’t understand, it helps me to focus on how God always accepts me as I am and understands me. Thinking it over longer and reminding myself of who I am in Him helps so much. And like you say, we need to love like Jesus, even if we know the person may never change. It’s so true that it’s “a continual releasing of the pain into God’s hands.” Thank you for this encouragement! Your nature photos always calm and refresh my spirit, too! When I woke this morning, I saw a pink sky in the east – “YES! God is still with us!” Love and blessings to you!
Trudy, I’ve been one who feels hurt because I filtered it wrongly too. It’s definitely something we must learn to bring before the Lord for His interpretation. It’s so good to have trusted ones in our lives who can help us see comments/actions more accurately. And you’re so right! When we remember who we are in the Lord, and how He sees us, this can help us to not internalize others’ words so deeply. Trudy, you are such a blessing and encouragement. Thank you for your gift of friendship!
I am thanking God for His forgiveness. I am thankful that He is softening my heart towards people who have hurt my family and me.
Melissa, our Father is so faithful, isn’t He? I’m glad He’s helping you work through forgiving those who have hurt you too. I’m sorry people have hurt your family and yourself. May He continue to heal your hearts as you continue to forgive. Hugs, friend.
Jeanne, this is just beautiful. It’s something I am working on in my life right now. I look to my Amish neighbors as a wonderful example of immediate and complete forgiveness. I tend to hold on to hurt feelings too long. I love your last step, to take one step further and not only forgive but to love as Jesus showed us how to do.
Laurie, it’s always a good (if not sometimes convicting) thing to have those near us who live out a character trait we may struggle with. Having an Amish community nearby must be good on so many levels! I have come to believe that loving in and after choosing to forgive brings healing to our hearts. Again, loving as is safe for us and the situation. 🙂
Dear Jeanne – I especially appreciate this right here –> ‘As many times as our thoughts drift back to the offense, we need to turn them over to the Lord.’
Our humanness seems to pull us back to replaying the offensive scenario in our minds. To take those thoughts captive and call them what they are and release them again to the Lord is a huge step indeed.
Linda, God has helped me see that forgiveness is not a one-time, one-and-done decision, unfortunately. Because those hurts do come back around, we have to choose not to hold onto the hurts many times, don’t we? Than you for sharing your insight!
I am so grateful for the forgiveness that’s been extended to me, and this is the truth that motivates my own letting go of past offenses. In fact, just yesterday I had a conversation with God about a particular failing of my parents (both safely in heaven!), and agreed with him that it was time for me to let that one go.
I’m with you, Michele . . . so grateful for the forgiveness God has extended to me. When I catch myself holding onto those hurts, I have to remember what Jesus paid so I could know forgiveness. I am also thankful that the Lord can be so tender in showing us our need to let go of offenses. Thanks for sharing a bit of your day!
Jeanne, thank you so much for this. We all get hurt (and hurt), don’t we. I have to remember my own potential. Sometimes I am the offender knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. I have to remind myself that I am in dire need of forgiveness and an understanding of the cost it took to redeem me. Often my anger and self-righteous attitude slowly fade.
“Lord, keep us submitted to one another out of reverence and fear for you. Help us see the cost of forgives and then easily apply it to others as well as to ourselves!”
Heidi, I like what you said about keeping the perspective that we need forgiveness just as much as those who hurt us. We are all on even footing at the base of the cross, aren’t we? And you’re right. When we stop to think about the price Jesus paid so I could know forgiveness? Why wouldn’t I forgive?? Great wisdom here, friend.
Oh how true this is. Bitterness does creep in, and we don’t even see it coming sometimes. I’m learning that forgiveness doesn’t come naturally for me. Some people seem better at it than others by nature. But that doesn’t mean I can’t forgive. I just need to start from an obedient heart rather that what my heart feels. Then God changes my heart over time.
Rebecca, I used to think I was a forgiving person. But, there are some hurts that I’ve really struggled with letting go of. I like what you said about starting with a willingness to be obedient rather than allowing our feelings to dictate if/how/when we forgive. We forgive because we were forgiven of much, right? Thanks for your transparency!
I’m known for those whom I have mauled
and it takes not sage nor seer
to show that crossing me is called
a really bad-eyed-deer.
I take my insults with a smile,
and let them wash on past,
but then you’d best put on the miles
’cause I’ll be coming, fast.
‘Tis honour that’s in play, you see,
and you may think me cruel,
but I long for when one’s destiny
could be settled in a duel.
So please, my friends, don’t light my fuse,
for if you do, you’re going to lose.
Andrew, one of our guys is similar in sentiment to this. Your passion for those you love is amazing. I’m praying for you, my friend.