I Finally Was Able to Forgive

This is one of those “bare my soul” articles. I don’t do this very often. But the other day I got a spiritual nudge to write about a private part of my life. I’m hoping it will help others, including you if you can relate to some of what I have experienced.

First, whenever I write about friends, associates, or family members, I do my best to respect their privacy. Even when someone has treated me poorly or been downright wrong, I “cover” for them. So I don’t use names or descriptions. I just use the term “loved one.” I’ll share more about this personal policy in a few minutes.

For now, I am going to write about a loved one in my life who hurt me deeply. It wasn’t a one-time occurrence. The harm, insults, and abuse transpired over many years. Not all interfaces with this person were bad. In fact, most of them were okay and some very good. Maybe you can relate to up-and-down relationships. You endure the rollercoaster ride because there are enough pleasant times. The painful experiences are brushed aside and you go on. That was how this relationship was for me.

After many years on the rollercoaster, the ride finally went out of commission. The “operator,” or in this case my loved one, decided to search out a different ride. The ongoing relationship ended and I entered a different season of my life.

 

But here’s the thing . . . the painful memories remained. I still heard the put-downs and the verbal abuse in the recesses of my mind. And the messages would often come at the oddest times. Like whenever I stoked the fire in my cottage’s little wood stove, the unkind words from this person rang in my ears. I felt the pain again. Over and over. It was like the simple movement of stoking the fire triggered the tape player in my head.

Even though the relationship was over, I remained in the shadow of its influence on my life. The pain morphed into bitterness and resentment. And while the loved one was gone and probably doing fine and enjoying another “ride” in the amusement park of life, I was still slogging around in the muck that I had not been able to escape.

By that time I had been a Christian long enough to know that I was commanded to forgive. I tried. I really did. Over and over again in prayer and in conversations with God I would try to forgive and let go. But then I still stoked the fire – and the painful put-downs would echo in my mind. Or I would be doing something totally unrelated and a memory would fly into my consciousness and sadness and hurt would ensue.

Finally, after several years, I got to the point that I didn’t want to carry the weight of the memories, or the burden of the bitterness and the resentment, any longer. I wanted to be free from the pain. I wanted a breakthrough. And I knew that total forgiveness was the avenue to the desired end.

But I was challenged? I knew I needed and wanted to forgive. But obviously I didn’t know how! After all, in my numerous previous attempts, I still had not been successful. I remained stuck in the muck. I still had not been able to move on. And I still had the bondages on my soul.

Maybe you can relate. You want to “shake it off” and move on. But it’s just not that easy. And that’s where I was.

My change point: it was the beginning of the year in 2007. I remember saying to myself, “This is your year of forgiveness.” And I then started a quest. I read books on forgiveness. I read magazine articles and blog posts. I listened to video teachings and podcasts. They all helped. Bit by bit I gathered fragments of information and discovered steps that would take my further in my mission. But I still didn’t know the steps. I knew I needed and wanted to forgive. I knew more than ever about forgiveness. But I still didn’t know how to go about it so I could reach total forgiveness.

I remember reading a really helpful article written by the daughter of a woman who had been tragically betrayed. The author of the article described the circumstances of the situation and that her mother had finally been able to forgive the offender and move on. But like the books, and the videos, and the podcasts, and the articles I had already read, the “how-to steps” were missing. I wanted to know how she did it! What did she do to get to that place of forgiveness, release and peace?

The question burned in my heart so profoundly that I decided to write to the author of the article. I found her email address and sent her a message asking if she could share with me the steps her mother used. I explained that I had a situation in my life that I desperately wanted to resolve through forgiveness.

Within 24 hours I received a response. She explained that she would like to tell me, but she didn’t really know the answer. She went on to explain that her mother had passed away, so she couldn’t ask her. She agreed that knowing the steps would be a valuable asset and that she would do more research and let me know her findings. I responded with a note of profuse appreciation, but I never heard from the woman again.

Finally, I took all the bits and pieces I had gathered from the research I had completed and started a process. For me it was like beginning a journey and taking one step at a time toward the destination I wanted to reach. The goal was in sight, but still off in the distance.

What I discovered along the way was that forgiveness can be a process. Sometimes, like a dog shedding its winter coat, we need to slough off layers of memories and emotions over time rather than being skinned all at once!

I also learned what forgiveness is . . . and what it is NOT! Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you approve of the actions. In fact, forgiveness doesn’t even mean you must like the person or restore a relationship with him or her. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean you will totally forget the offences, although sometimes that can happen.

Here is the truth I learned about forgiveness: Not everything is acceptable . . . but everything is forgivable.

I also found that forgiveness includes scriptural disciplines, including not talking about the offender in a derogatory way or doing anything that would bring him or her harm. That’s why I rarely write about times when I’ve been abused and also why I use the term “loved one” when I teach.

I studied the life of Joseph, who had been terribly abused by his brothers and by people he had befriended. His tenets of forgiveness serve as an excellent model for us to use when we want to totally forgive a loved one.

floating leaf 350x200One of the most powerful activities I used was a symbolic time of letting the offenses drift out of my life. The action became one of my “how-to steps” for forgiveness. Here’s what I did: I gathered about a dozen fallen leaves from my yard. On each of the leaves I wrote one offense or memory that I wanted to forgive. I then took the leaves outside and stood on the bank of a little creek on my property. One by one, I read the notation on the leaves. I said aloud (I lived in a rural location with a lot of open space), “I forgive __________________ of this offense. I am dropping it into the water and sending this pain out of my life.” Then I watched the leaf flow down the creek in the current and disappear from my sight. I followed the process over and over again until all the leaves were gone.

Taking this symbolic action helped me in the physical act of forgiveness rather than just the thought of it. It started a shift in my thinking. I also used other exercises.

Later, I entered into the most profound experience of total forgiveness during a powerful meeting time with Jesus. I can still picture our time together in my mind’s eye now, even though it was so many years ago. I set up two chairs in my front yard, one for me and one for Him. And then we started the process of forgiving and me casting my cares on Him. Truly, this was the biggest turning point and within a short time, I can honestly say I was finally able to totally forgive!

I am here today and can proclaim that I have truly experienced complete forgiveness. I’m free of the bitterness and the resentment. Only on the very rarest of occasions do I hear the old tapes in my head – and when I do, I now can shake off any sting. I remind myself, “Susan, on November 6, 2007 you totally forgave __________________.” That was my meeting with Jesus that transformed me forever. I know the date because I logged it in the margins of my Bible right above Matthew 6:12, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

So if you still have bitterness, resentment, or painful memories that you’ve not been able to shake, know there is hope for you. You can forgive. You can be free. You can get on the other side and one day experience the complete freedom that total forgiveness allows.

If you’re ready to enter into the process of total forgiveness, then you can learn more by clicking on the link below.

25 Comments

  • Susan,
    I am in a fasting prayer group that fasts once a week. Our leader highlighted the Daniel fast which brought me to your page. I was very moved by your blog about forgiveness. I am in awe of the work you actually did to learn how to forgive. I can completely relate to the desire to forgive and have thought about Matthew 6:12, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” as in the Lord’s prayer as a daily directive of what we need to live our lives each day. I so appreciate you sharing your story. The exercises with the leaves and the 2 chair conversation with Jesus is so inspiring. I am not sure I am up for all of the research you did about forgiveness as it seems a little overwhelming, but the exercises are definitely something I think I can do and I know God will work with whatever efforts we give Him. I know I do not know you but I just wanted to send my whole hearted thank you for touching my life in this way. God is very good and directed me right here today. There are no coincidences! Thanks for being one of his Messengers in my life! God bless you on your journey!

  • Emily says:

    Thank you for this essay. Mother’s Day is a day in which i am stoking the fire of past hurts and resentments. I, too, have read many books and essays on forgiveness. I hope that each time i do that i am a little closer to forgiving. Also, I hope that I can learn to forgive myself in addition to others. One thing I do know, with certainty, is that God will heal me. Thank you again.

  • This was a great read. This is the third day in a row that I believe the Lord has spoken to me about “not talking about the offender in a derogatory way or doing anything that would bring him or her harm.” When we talk about all the terrible things that have gone wrong, we are glorifying Satan for his actions rather than listening for God’s answers to glorify Him. I have a long way to go so please pray for me and healing. I have begun a journey to heal, and I believe God has many answers for me.

  • Regina says:

    I have learned over the years that forgiveness is a process and God knows when we can handle letting go. I had to forgive one who I thought would never hurt me or cause pain. Through all the pain I endured the Lord spoke to my heart and told me if I didn’t forgive I would not be able to move forward with what he had for my life, and I realized I loved the Lord more then the pain. I wanted to be free, not to hurt, cry, scream, or ask God why me. The Lord gave menthis verse: ,Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the wound I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you and I ordained you a prophet to the nation’s.
    Now I am a Pastor and our church is currently doing the Daniel fast this month. We are looking for great revelations from a great an awesome Savior, Jesus Christ.
    Be bless my brothers and sisters in Christ and know that He is in complete control.☺😇😀

  • Brianna says:

    This was a great read. This is the third day in a row that I believe the Lord has spoken to me about “not talking about the offender in a derogatory way or doing anything that would bring him or her harm.” When we talk about all the terrible things that have gone wrong, we are glorifying Satan for his actions rather than listening for God’s answers to glorify Him. I have a long way to go so please pray for me and healing. I have begun a journey to heal, and I believe God has many answers for me.

  • Jay says:

    This is an area that I believe God has called me to this year. I know I should forgive, I even call the offender and told him that I have forgiven him but I am still looking and waiting in the wind for him to pay for all the things that he has done; all the pain he has cause me, and all the things I’ve lost in the process. I get angry when I see God blessing him and wondered how could a loving God seemingly bless someone that is so cruel, manipulative, immoral, and malignant. I know God is a merciful father but it angers me to see it.

    This article is really a huge help for me. It normalizes what I am feeling and proves that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am on a quest of fasting and prayer because I know only God can break me free from this pain of un-forgiveness.

  • Shavonne says:

    I felt like you shared my story of the wounds incurred by a loved one;however this process of forgiveness seems to have accelerated due to my time spent with God who comforts and heals all our wounds.This Daniel Fast seems to be addressing the deep hurts and is giving me the strength and courage to forgive. I am slowly healing. Thank you Father!

  • Beverley says:

    Wow. This is very inspirational. I struggled with forgiveness for a long time it ate away at me day after day but I’m almost there, about 5 pr cent😊but it’s been a hard journey since 2012. I like the idea of the leaves and I’m definitely going to try that. To help get rid of the residue… this post was captivating right to the end. I’m glad you have found peace as pain can last along time without Christ. I have found forgiveness to be the hardest in my Christian walk. But yeah, I’m nearly there God bless and thank you.

    • Susan Gregory says:

      Yes, a challenging road when we have been deeply hurt, when we care so much, and when we have been badly wronged. Lots of layers. I’ve watched many whoe don’t know Christ continue to struggle for decades with bitterness. I am grateful beyond words for His grace, His ways, and His love.

    • Terri Gutter says:

      my husband lied and told me he was going out with his uncle. after being gone for maybe two hours, his phone called me and I heard him with another woman he did not know I was on his open line ; I heard him offer to go in a room with her after I heard that I hung up and called him I didnt want to hear what was going to happen in the room he said it was not him and then he told all kind of lies. this just happen last Friday im still hurting all over but all I can think about is wanting him to be with me to do to me what he did to her when they got into that room. im having a crazy hurt that feels like hate but I have been saved for many years

      • Susan Gregory says:

        Terri. Open your heart to a trusted friend or your pastor. Don’t walk this part of your journey alone. I have had a similar experience. It’s very hurtful and betrayal by you husband hits you at the very core.

        Please, be good to yourself now and get help. A mature friend and/or your pastor is a good help for you.

        I am so sorry. You are in my prayers.

  • Regina says:

    What a beautiful testimony and a great read for day 1 for me. In my opinion, forgiving someone completely is not within our own nature and that’s why we need God who will free us from that bondage. When people say they have forgiven but still dwell on the situation/person who hurt them, that’s not at all forgiving but just empty words. Like you mention, you’d said you’d forgiven but it wasn’t true forgiveness. Satan wants us to stay bound by our hurts so he keeps reminding us which shows us it’s not true forgiveness but Jesus wants us to be set free. I am so happy for you that those chains no longer weigh you down, holding you captive. God works differently in all of us because I had been badly betrayed and that’s when I gave my life to Christ. (9 years next month 🙂 Thank you Jesus for rescuing me.) For me, it was as simple as a spiritual advisor saying “maybe you can just forgive ________.” I walked outside afterward and when God’s sunlight hit me it was literally like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I knew at that moment I had forgiven and been set free of the hurt and anger. Because of God, I was saved and so was my marriage. Thank you for sharing your words.
    ~Your sister in Christ

  • A powerful testimony
    Thank you so much . Truly real and practical and thank Jesus for you .

  • ailyn joy says:

    Indeed! Praised God for sharing those experiences…Honestly..it really touches my heart..Forgiveness is really a key to face those true joy and happiness..its just like getting thorns from our heart that suffered us a lot from pain and releases us to healing and be free fully!

  • Edy says:

    Gm ladies im new to the fast i will be trying it..im looking for God to work on me..forgiveness , Move bck HOME , New job… He will do it…

  • Shannon says:

    The paragraph about a dog shedding it’s winter coat and the pain being sloughing off painful emotions and memories a little at a time was the most healing piece of this article for me after the fact that JESUS showed up and set you free personally. Thank you for sharing this.

    I have heard that JESUS doesn’t peel all these memories and emotions off at once sometimes because it would cause us more pain and He’s not an abuser. He’s our healer, and even in the pain, we get to know Him as our Healer, Deliverer, and once again as our Frien and Savior. I can relate to your story, and I’m still working to resolve old hurts and wounds. So, this morning, I again have renewed hope that I’m not any different than others in that I am struggling to forgive and want to, and I also find greater hope that JESUS will do the same. For me as He’s done for you. Thank you for even sharing how you cover others. In am benefiting from that too. Blessings in Christ!

  • Tony says:

    Thank you for this article. …I have an old matter of not bring able to forgive. .. I hope that following this and is suggestions that I will overcome this terrible anchor that i gave carried for nearly 2 decades.
    Good bless.

  • Annah says:

    During this time of fasting,i asked God to help to walk in unconditional love as He commanded.i literally became sick because I couldn’t do that without forgiving. Just like you I prayed and thought I have forgiven but it always came back like a ton of bricks.Thank God for friends and prayer partners who are helping me through this difficult process of leaving the past where it belongs. Thank u for sharing this with us.i thought I was odd because I couldn’t shake off the pain and bitterness for more tha twenty years.

    • Susan Gregory says:

      Hi Annah,

      Yes, we think we’re “odd,” however I believe this is an issue a lot of people experience, but few talk about.

      I hope you found some comfort and encouragement.

      Be blessed!

  • sharon wilbanks says:

    I an on the 21 day daniel fast it is amazing it is awesome what god shows me & yes forgiveness heal us.love ur testimony.

  • Teri says:

    I just had one of those soul baring moments the other day. I found out a lot about myself in those moments that I was processing a lot of hurt and bitterness. I had to face myself and realized I had been carrying a lie around with me and was holding onto unforgiveness that I thought I had let go. That was a stark moment of realization for me. Forgiveness is a long process, especially if you continue to be hurt, time and time again. Thank you for sharing.

    • Susan Gregory says:

      Yes, forgiveness is a process many times, especially when the pain has been often and over a long period of time. The wounds can be deep and need time to heal as we sort things out and move into this powerful place of strength and renewal.

      Be blessed on your fast!

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