The first Bible verse I ever learned was, “Love one another.” Then, the Lord’s Prayer—”Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I got older and found in red letters, “To be forgiven, you must first forgive, for as you forgive, in like manner you will be forgiven.” OUCH! Now I’m older, so what has changed? Surely not the Bible!
All of my life I was taught that the Scriptures tell us “forgive and forget,” and “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” Well, first clarification. The “hate the sin” thing did not come from the Bible, but rather the Dalai Lama. And as far as forgiving and then forgetting, God is the one who throws our sins into the Sea of Forgetfulness, if we confess. So, where does that leave us on the whole “forgive and forget” issue?
I’ve studied my Bible, paying special attention to the red letters in the four gospels. We are clearly told that in order to be forgiven, we must first forgive the one who has wronged us. I am open to correction, really I am. After looking and studying, nowhere have I found we are required to forget the wrongs. I’m not saying we should fret and ponder and mull them over on a continuous basis, pouting and singing, “Poor, poor pitiful me,” but rather, we can utilize them as learning tools so that we do not make poor choices or mistakes in the future regarding similar circumstances or people. But, yeah, the forgiving? We pretty much have to do that. It’s not an optional selection, as in “I’ll take what’s behind door #2…”
Here’s how I learned the power and ability of forgiveness. It did not come easily, and quite candidly, it didn’t come willingly at first. I just know it was like the Holy Spirit of God was getting in my face, saying, “Are we ever going to confront this thorn in your side, or are you quite happy living out the remainder of your life seeing yourself as a victim? And by the way, how’s that bitterness working for you?” To that I replied, “Ouch! Not so fast. You don’t understand.” Then I realized how ridiculous I must have sounded. I mean, the Sovereign Creator of the whole entire universe who created me, every cell and fiber of me, would not understand His very creation? What was I thinking?
You’re going to love this next part. It still amazes me I was so cocky, but strictly to clear my conscience and get Him off my back, I cut a deal with God. Yeah, I know, kind of like putting a deck of cards on the table and telling God, “Cut the deck,” so we could see who got the higher card—absurdity at its finest. The conversation went something like this:
“Okay, God. You know and I know there is absolutely not a part of me, down to the smallest atom, that wants to or is even willing to forgive those slime balls. I have suffered irreparable harm and damage, and nothing in me feels I should be asked to extend forgiveness.” Well, you know how God gets. He just remained silent. I hate it when He does that. He’s there waiting for me to come around, but it’s my call. That’s the free will part. I’m not sure, but I think I could hear Him tapping his finger on the card table…
“Okay, God, here’s the deal. I give you permission to plant a seed of forgiveness in my heart and cause it to grow.” Now, first off, I was giving God permission? Like He needed permission? Well, I didn’t want to miss making it into Heaven, and quite honestly, I did not want to disappoint my Heavenly Father, either. So, every day, sometimes more than once a day, I’d pray again, “I give you permission to plant a seed of forgiveness in my heart and cause it to grow.”
It took many months, but eventually I actually started meaning the words I was praying. Then, from out of nowhere, I found myself ending the prayer with, “. . . and Father, please speak to their hearts and share your Word and your Love, bringing them to salvation.” Dang! Amazing! First of all, God didn’t just zap me when I was preposterous enough to think He needed my permission to work in my life, and secondly, how remarkable to see and consider the mountains that can be moved when you just step out in childlike faith, saying, “Okay, God. You take the wheel. It’s all yours. I’ll be over here for the ride.”
It took far too many years, but once I got it, I really GOT IT! Forgiving is releasing the offender from his/her power and control over your mind, heart, emotions, and sometimes, even your body. As long as we hold anger, animosity, or resentment, they still win! They still maintain a level of control, and we will continue to lack that freedom we deeply desire.
Remarkably, I didn’t forget the past, but did manage to move forward. The past is a place for learning from, not living in. The lessons from my past have now been turned to helping other victims of molestation and/or domestic violence. In the meantime, I am finally free—free to be me, the “me” that God our Divine Creator meant for me to be all along! How great is that?
Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Life Direction & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, and bringing training to organizations seeking to help victims. Listen to Carolyn’s interview with Cynthia Brennen, on “Help, Hope & Healing.” Visit her website: orangeblossomwishes.com.