She was angry and felt rejected, and she shared bits and pieces of conversations that she had. These conversations had been held, never believing that confidential moments would be publicly aired. But they were being aired now. “He said this, and I said that….” Those sentences, spoken freely months ago, were now pinned up for inspection, criticism and judgement. My friend had broken up with her boyfriend. The last time I had seen someone so passionately plead their case was after a family had left a church, feeling misunderstood and insignificant. Hurt and offended, they spoke, believing they needed to be heard and understood. In both cases, mutual respect had been thrown to the wind.
Forgiveness can require more energy than we think we have when we are wounded. God doesn’t ask us to do things that we can’t do. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 addresses this;
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
While the answer is to wrestle with forgiveness until, with God’s grace, it is accomplished, we sometimes believe the lie that it will be better to hold onto it.
This is when we may begin to share our situation and hurts with others. I speak with experience. Decades ago, a Christian woman I know was very critical of me as a young newlywed. In her mind, she was being helpful, maybe even mentoring me for my perceived failings. For example, I remember her inability to understand why I didn’t iron my clothes. It was a big deal to her. It wasn’t to me. Her actions were a constant flow of disapproval, even though I didn’t see her regularly.
I cared too much what people thought, and I began to strive for this lady’s approval. Instead, I fell short. I needed to forgive her, but I didn’t understand the importance of forgiveness back then. I became resentful toward this church-going woman. This is the natural progression of unforgiveness. It becomes resentment, and this is where the offense takes root. If left untended, the roots will grow deeper. They did.
My defenses were up, and I fed into the enemy’s plans to destroy the relationship and to steal my peace.
This relationship lasted for years. I had little experience with drawing boundaries, and I expected the offenses, and they came. Forgiveness wasn’t on my radar. I stopped hiding my anger. It grew to hate. I let it grow. I wouldn’t have said that I hated her, but I did. She had grown secure that she could say anything to me, and she did. The next step in this spiritual process is murder. I knew I would never do that.
But one day God showed me that I would, and I had. Many, many times I had made sure that my friends and family would sympathize with me by sharing our exchanges with them. I engaged in the “I said….then she said….” story-telling activity. I effectively led most of my close associates to sympathize whole-heartedly with me. They all avoided her because they, too, thought she was horrible. My anger became hatred. I didn’t feel like I hated her, but my actions showed I did.
My horrific gossip had reinforced and cursed our relationship.
Praise God, a fresh start and perspective is available to us every day;
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
When we are hurt, we want to lift ourselves above the person or persons that wounded us. I’ve often told my kids and students that “People put you down to raise themselves above you.” I’ve also heard people say “People knock you down so that they can step on you to raise themselves up.” Neither picture is pretty and neither picture glorifies God. These are pictures in the enemy’s playbook.
Our personal conversations become assassin’s daggers.
Psalm 15:1-3 describes the person who is blessed, the person who resides in the Lord’s presence. It says of him;
“O Lord, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
He does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor takes up a reproach against his friend.”