So…I have a confession to make. I have unforgiveness in my heart. Eeeeeeek! OK, pause: I really don’t know how I feel about how much one bares their soul with each of one’s pieces. Because I mean, hey…unforgiveness is a pretty big thing. It’s a big thing soul-wise to have so much yuck stuck (see what I did there, hahaha) in your heart. But, OK. It is what it is, LOL. Don’t judge me.
So back to that unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is one of the heaviest weights we can carry. It stings. Often, it also stinks. It poisons us and it can often make fools out of us. I don’t mind so much the other things (kikiki), but I ain’t tryna play myself, so no siree to being a fool because of unforgiveness. But also, seriously though, it sucks to just move through your days with all of that resentment and anger that unforgiveness breeds. Granted, some or much of that may be a result of the actual hurt and offense you experienced and that spurred on your hard, unforgiving heart, and so it may all feel justified, but just how much does it truly benefit you?
Let’s see: me, I am #teampetty allllllllll theeeeee waaaaaaaaay yo! I am petty. Petty Petunia, Petty LaBelle, all that. I. AM. PETTY. And I love it. I love it. So in a sense, holding onto anger and not forgiving works for me. Keeping it real right? Has it felt good to walk past the person I am angry with and have not forgiven and just totes ignore them? HA!!! That’s like asking a kid if they like candy! Hahaha. I thrive off such pettiness. Because, why would I want to respond to the greeting of someone who has disrespected, hurt or deeply offended me? Why would I give someone that KNOWS that they did something WRONG the pleasure of acknowledgement? The pleasure of MY conversation, no matter how trivial? Me? To exchange so-called pleasantries or chats about the weather with someone that has not had the decency (or emotional depth and capacity) to apply their minds to our situation, place themselves in my shoes, do some self-introspection and realise HOW they were wrong and FURTHER think to make a way to offer up a sincere, well-thought out apology that covers EVERYTHING?! So, how does being this hard-hearted, attitude-y person benefit me you ask? LOL! It gives me IMMENSE pleasure, people. Immense. Immense pleasure, to see the other person shrink and basically feel that they are persona non grata to me, because that is what they deserve. Hahaha! So, basically my ego is fed, my sense of justice is satisfied and emotionally, I feel GOOD passing on the hurt to who I deem to be its originator. Because hurt people hurt people. But the thing is, if you’re waiting for that kind of apology, it often never comes. Further, if your forgiving and moving on is contingent upon receiving said apology, maybe you ought to reconsider how forgiveness actually (mostly) works.
Also, though, there’s the other side of this all. That hurt. That hurt that must be acknowledged. Let’s see: every time you think of the offense or that person, your heart literally stings and your mind floods with thoughts of “I was played”; “They made ME a fool”; “They took me for granted”, and you inevitably spiral into a vortex of feeling disregarded, diminished, and that your sense of worth was grossly impinged upon. All those kinds of thoughts and feelings HURT. Whether this is what the offender intended to do or not, the fact is that this is the consequence of their actions. But only that every time something to do with them or that situation comes up, you relive the offense. Now, you are hurting yourself. You prolong the impact and consequence of the offense. As they say, you give that person power over your emotional wellbeing, even if you think you are wielding power by not forgiving them. You think you are hurting them (and you may) by denying them you, but whether you’ll admit it or not, you are also hurting yourself.
Every time that I have thought of the situation towards which I harbor unforgiveness and those thoughts of having been diminished and feelings of having my pride (severely) dashed flood me, I have been weakened – just flattened by the amount of pain I feel and find myself in. Often times, it has led me to break down in tears and just sob. Now, perhaps, this is good. I believe crying it all out works. It helps. As strong as I like to think I am, I am also an advocate of crying. Thankfully, I have learnt and grown enough to see that, not as a weakness, but an outlet of all my anger, fears, frustrations and pains. I still don’t like the thought of it all, but come on now, none is made of stone, and if you are, well, hey now. I am pretty sure that soon, you will crack in some way and then need a whole lot of extensive and in-depth counseling, so just save yourself all that and cry! But what if I’m just crying and crying and crying and not getting anywhere? And I’m not getting anywhere because I haven’t yet forgiven. I relive my offense and the hurt and pain associated with it but I am not progressing towards healing and closure or just laying it down, and gracefully moving forward.
So the foregoing vis-à-vis how satisfying it is to hold onto unforgiveness may all seem pretty dark and self-indulgent. It is. True story. It also posits me as some sort of master and proprietor of morality, kikiki. Basically, you can get so swept up in all of that “exacting revenge” stuff that you miss out on key aspects of the situation, some of which may not necessarily be in your realm of knowing or understanding. And even if you have all the details regarding a situation, you can end up looking and acting a fool because pride and the ego will feed you so much of that, that appetite for self-avenging and revenge, that you end up doing the stupidest and most foolish things, because uncontrolled, that is how strong that basal human element of us is. The Bible rightly states that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
So acknowledging that this is a pretty self-centered/indulgent and emotionally draining, harmful and destructive way of operating, how do we address and rectify unforgiveness? I think that realizing that there’s something wrong going on there is the most important step. Self-awareness is the best gift we can give to ourselves in this thing called life. You save yourself so much strife, embarrassment, confusion and hurt. If you know about yourself, no one can tell you otherwise. Likewise, you are in a position to use that self-knowledge for self-betterment. Secondly, I like to dissect things, mull over them in my mind for a whiiiile and pick them apart, from every possible angle, and then decide whether I am justified or not in feeling offended and harboring resentment. It may just be a sensitive ego that’s bruised and not really that the other party came at you with ill-intent. But also, people’s shortcomings can cause harm. So someone may not mean to harm you, but they’re just operating from a place of limited capacity – they are not as psychologically or emotionally evolved as perhaps you are, and you just end up as collateral damage. All these kinds of considerations matter to me – they determine the extent to which I can/should be offended – kinda-ish. Thirdly, talk about it. Talk about it to people whose judgement you trust. The Bible says in Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” Consider other people’s perspectives and try and adjust your position accordingly. Or not, LOL. But at least listen; hear those people out.
My fourth suggestion would be to pray about it. I know others would say that this should come first. Yeah, I can concede to this, because of the importance and power of prayer, but I am writing from a “keeping it real” perspective. For me, I started praying about the heaviness in/of my heart when I realised how poisonous my thoughts about the person had become; when I realised generally, that there was nothing, I mean nothing, pleasing about my demeanour before God with regard to this situation. I just knew I had begun to seriously veer off the recommended or acceptable course. So then I took it to God. And God gave me Matthew 5:44. Ha! I thought, “What a joke my darling”. So basically, that scripture says “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” LOL. OK. God. So, the challenge had been released from heaven. And I knew that this would be His response, because I knew full well about the command to forgive those who hurt us. But verse 45 of that same tract says “…that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” And my main goal was to remain pleasing to God right? And I knew I’d fallen off course and then He says forgive “that you may be sons of your Father”?! Eeeeeek! That is what convicted me. I can’t overstate how finished it was for me guys. Finished. Like 😩😩😩 finished, hahaha! However, as much as I was touched, angry and in pain, the fact that God says that forgiving further affirms us as His children was the thing that did it for me. And in verse 48 that same tract says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Now this verse has always bothered me. Always. Like, God knows we can’t be perfect, so why does he utter out such a command? Grrrrrrr! But again, with the things of God, the understanding necessary here is that it’s not you that shall fulfill the commandment, in and of your own strength & capability. No. But if you claim Christ and have Him in your heart, He shall sanctify thee – His Spirit shall do that work. Yours is to surrender to their way and forsake yours. So, I had to quit with all my craziness? So not really impressed. But I started to actually care about my ‘ignoring the person and wishing them ill’ shenanigans. Because before that, I was unfazed. Unmoved shame. People were simply getting their just desserts. But also, God reminded me in the second part of verse 45 with all that causing the sun to shine and rain to fall on all deepness that He also loved that person. He was basically saying ‘Hands off. That’s my person!’ Dang! I was deflated. #SorryNotSorry. This stage, praying about it, made it clear to me that I had much work (or growing up, LOL) to do.
I think that what unforgiveness has shown me is, again, how much people need God; how much we need spirituality and a compass for morality. Because, imagine if we all lived out our darkest depravities?! We’d all be murderers. Because, trust, it is not far-fetched for people carrying offense to wish death on their offenders or even actually murder them. Jeremiah 17:9 says that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” So, essentially, with black hearts, we are murderers, especially if we think of how Jesus said that if you have so much as thought of something and entertained that thought in your mind, you are it. You have committed such act. Again, we need God because the ability to forgive is God-like. It is not a necessarily human trait. I sincerely believe that there is a laying down somewhere, of offense, and that somewhere is a spiritual shrine of sorts. Jesus said give me your stuff and I’ll give you my burden, which is light. Jesus’ burden is, quite simply, LE-TTING GO! Finish. And so, the other thing I am learning about having given it over to God is that I have to trust Him to deal with my pain. He says that He is near to the broken-hearted and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Pick me, pick me!!! That is me. So I have told God to Deal. With. It – that pain of mine. I gave up the offense and His is to give me the peace and healing.
So can I just say that it’s still early days? I have not much to report in terms of progress except that I am DEFINITELY feeling lighter, emotionally. And I mean SIGNIFICANTLY lighter. No more heaviness of heart or that vicious, bilious anger that was literally threatening to give me an aneurysm. Whew, chile! We thank God for intervening, cos that is NOT a good look. AT all. There isn’t anyone worth THAT much emotional energy. Nope. So, I am just glad to be doing better there. I trust that this will work itself to my mind in due course. Whereas the thoughts were mainly (or only) “X is SUUUUCH an idiot bloodclot and I wish Y would happen to them”, we are now more at “Lord, how could such an offense be perpetrated against me? Where were you?” And I can live with the latter kind of thoughts. Because perhaps God can (hopefully) fill in those blanks for me and it is in that posture that He comes in and soothes my heart. And can I also just say that the prayer point/step often has to be repeated multiple times?! It’s just the act of inviting the Holy Spirit over and over again into your heart and mind. It is the Spirit that liberates; so, not by might, nor by power but by the Spirit. I have found that I have had to invoke the Spirit into my situation numerous times. Generally, the act of forgiving often has to be re-stated multiple times. Like, as in, your emotions may trip, and sometimes your mind too, but you have to speak the word. You must remind yourself and that situation that you already forgave concerning it when the emotions and thoughts seem to say otherwise. Forgiveness is a decision, one that you must continue to live out yes, but it’s a decision. It’s not necessarily a feeling. In due course, I believe God works on the feelings and every thought is eventually led captive to the obedience of Christ. I can also link this fourth step to the first step – acknowledging something often also means sitting in it. Sit in your pain wena gal. Sit in it (preferably at the feet of Jesus) so that when you get up, you aren’t a bag lady. By that I mean, so that when you eventually move on, you don’t have unresolved issues that you then carry with you into the future. So cry and cry, moan and moan, ask and ask, but do it before God (people’s ability to be patient with and understand you here often proves limited) and remain open to His leading, correction and revelations. He shall eventually give you peace and healing.
And so in letting go of the things that bugged me, I have also been challenged to let go of the ‘exacting revenge’ attitude. Sigh. Yeah, I’m not so good at this. Guys, I mean?! Like, remember #teampetty? Ja. Ku rough. I don’t yet know what this means for me. A friend and I had such a profound conversation around forgiveness the other day, specifically how we then try to protect ourselves from the perpetrator moving forward, i.e., post the act of forgiving. She introduced the idea of boundaries vs walls. So, when you have been offended and have managed to forgive, you (I would say rightly) limit your interaction with said person. You establish boundaries. Right? OK. So how sure are you about that? Are those boundaries or walls? And the difference here can be quite nuanced BUT you know the answer to that question when you ask it to yourself and are transparent enough with self to answer it honestly. Because building walls can perpetuate some form of low-grade unforgiveness. And this is the call of God on our lives – to love the unlovable and forgive the seemingly unforgivable. And sometimes we may be instructed or need to go back and be in intimate or vulnerable relationship with that person and to do so with no walls, of course. LOL. Can I just say that God is a skhokho (In other words a BAWSE. Someone who is THE master of something & who will flagrantly flex their BAWSENESS on you unflinchingly)? Yeah. God is THE skhokho & master of this life thing & He’ll often have you in ‘the most’ situations. Like, what the heck? Like, I can’t with Him sometimes hey 😂😂😂. And also for me, I am not there yet, but ja! One day is one day. Can I just be allowed to build boundaries (which are healthy, good & necessary)…and some walls? LOL. I know God gon’ get me for this but I shall cross that bridge when I get there. I’m not ready to expose myself to people that hurt me, for them to possibly and repeatedly hurt me again 😩😩😩. Sigh…the call of God on our lives.
A salient point that my friend made was that God instructs us to lay down the weapons of our warfare and leave the revenge up to Him. He has a far more superior sense of justice and righteousness than we do. And if we interrupt that divine right of His, we may circumvent His plan to vindicate us and show Himself mighty and strong and even to use those circumstances as teaching moments for our own benefit. Because God does not want us to be hardened by the things of this world, as painful as they may be. In other words, we are to remain vulnerable and open and Christ-like even in those situations that have caused us pain, not vindictive and constantly and unlovingly “guarded”. Listen, notwithstanding special circumstances or Godly calls on people’s lives, that doesn’t mean going into and making a home in the lion’s den. No. It means maintaining grace, love and genuine kindness towards those that offend us. So not there. So not there. But I am encouraged nonetheless. And I am learning. Baby steps. And can I also just attest to the truth that is in the scripture that says ‘Love covers a multitude of sins’? Man. I am experiencing that. If I didn’t love that person, even if only with a Christ-like love, it would have been so, so over for them. And so it is true then that love never fails. A friend of mine once said ‘If it ends, it wasn’t love because love never fails’. Lol. A bit harsh I’d say. So would that then mean we never loved all of our exes in the world? Haha. Let me not digress here. But it’s always intrigued me what he said, especially because I can tie it to scripture and the Word says love (a real, true love anyway) never fails. So back to my conundrum: I am figuring out what remaining kind-hearted & open means for/to me. And I continue to ask the Holy Spirit to soften my heart. That is all I can do. And I have enough experience with God to know that if your heart is willing and you ask according to His will, He shall do it. So I may just have good things to report about my attitude and actions regarding vindication and avengement and boundaries and walls in this situation…soon.
Another very important thing to consider regarding holding onto unforgiveness is what you then forfeit or lose? In other words, what blessings, meant for you, are you blocking by choosing to not forgive? Because that is a very real soul/spiritual trade-off. One that can be extensively unpacked & discussed. I am interested to find out what others’ experiences of unforgiveness and forgiveness have been. I would truly appreciate such insights as this is such a now test for me.
Click here for part 2 of my journey to forgiveness.
You can also find me at twitter.com/honeybmissg.