Finding Freedom In Forgiveness
It's hard to forgive people who have wounded you when they are convinced they've done nothing wrong. Or worse, they gaslight you into thinking that it was somehow your fault.
We've all been there at least once in our lives. A loved one, friend, co-worker, or colleague does something or says something that hurts us, and then when we confront them with it, they make it seem like we are to blame for being so sensitive.
We get responses like this, perhaps:
"Well, I'm sorry you got your feelings hurt," "You need to stop wearing your feelings on your sleeve," or "Seriously? I'm the one that should be upset because of _________ that you did."
That last one is especially hard to take, isn't it?
And yet, even though these people refuse to accept responsibility for the things that they've done, we are compelled to forgive them if we will wholly follow Jesus.
In fact, Jesus told his followers that they needed to forgive repeatedly because it was considered a requirement by God. The exact number he offered was "seventy times seven," which is four hundred and ninety times, according to my math.
That's a lot of forgiving.
I'm probably not the first person to think that this aspect of following Jesus kind of sucks. It doesn't even seem fair or right or anything that feels good.
Why should we go out of our way to offer forgiveness, grace, and mercy to unrepentant, calloused, manipulative, and awful people? Why should we hand over our hearts to someone who is just going to crush them in the end?
Then the answer comes to us from Jesus, who taught his followers that they could not possibly live the full, abundant, and vibrant lives they were meant to have unless they forgave.
The answer comes from Jesus, who hung on a cross in agony and despair, looked out over his tormentors, and said, "Father, forgive them because they don't know what they are doing."
Bishop Desmond Tutu knew a thing or two about how hard it is to forgive. He had lived his entire life under Apartheid in South Africa, experiencing hatred, bigotry, violence, racism, oppression, and so much more.
His work to bring reconciliation between whites and blacks in South Africa is nothing short of miraculous. But what Tutu knew was that there would never be peace in his homeland if that work was not done.
He once wrote this about what it means for us to forgive:
When you forgive, you are free to move on in life, to grow, to no longer be a victim. When you forgive, you slip the yoke, and your future is unshackled from your past.