Most folks in my friend circle describe me as friendly, kind-hearted, encouraging, and upbeat. I concur. Generally, my hope-filled, faith-fueled drive presents as a seemingly selfless and sunny disposition.
Typically, regarding people, I believe the best and hope for the best. So much so that I’ve been asked, “How do you pretend to do that?” But honestly, I’m not faking it. Most of the time, I genuinely have a child-like outlook, which is not something I personally cultivated. I can’t take credit or share life hacks on how to obtain or maintain such a propensity. I think I am hard-wired this way.
Yet, in the recesses of my intrinsically positive point of view, behind the inner walls, in the rarely visited coves of my heart, I severely struggle with unforgiveness. This makes no sense to me! How can I believe the best about people, but when someone tramples on me, it’s “Bye-bye brilliant, mild-mannered Dr. Bruce Banner. Hello, Incredible Hulk!” I become a monster transfixed on vengeance.
Several years ago, a leader in my organization called me into her office. She’d misinterpreted my actions, conjured up a crazy story, settled on concocted evidence, and was convinced I should pay a hefty price. To say I was blindsided and stunned by her false accusations would’ve been an understatement. I greatly admired and respected her and had often defended her. Thus, I was paralyzed by the perceived joy she took in tormenting me from a position of power.
As she spewed threats, I cried excessively. Drained, deeply wounded, and bewildered, I dragged myself home. Sulking, I began sobbing out a prayer — a prayer for REVENGE! I cried out to my gracious, kind, and merciful God to avenge me! Can you believe that? You see, my struggle to forgive those who intentionally harm me is real! But there, in my bedroom, in the midst of my excruciating, suffocating pain, where thoughts of an irrational murder plot tasted like sweet justice amid bitter tears falling, where the hurt accessed the massive, ugly, monster-parts of my humanity, God’s presence gently interrupted.
Sweetly, calmly, and omnipotently, God uttered, “You can forgive her.”
I wish I could tell you that instantly I expressed gratitude to God and that my desire for retaliation was resolved. Nope! Instead, I was offended that God would speak of forgiveness while I was in so much pain. Though injured and now insulted, I somehow managed to piece together a few life-giving words to fashion a prayer for her that more closely reflected the character of God. But forgiving her would be an entirely different feat and seemed almost impossible.
The wound seemed too massive to ever heal. The pain felt embedded in my psyche. Anger was infused into every part of my soul. I could not will myself to forgive. I did not want to forgive her. Although I knew that forgiveness was in my best interest, my pain reasoned that she did not deserve my forgiveness. Although I wanted to be free of the overwhelming dread I felt towards her, my road to liberation would be lengthy, arduous, and tumultuous.
I tried all things — praying blessings for her, reading all the Scriptures about how we’ve been forgiven so we should now forgive, listening to great messages that prescribe formulas for forgiveness, journaling in order to get my pain on paper and out of my head, considering and empathizing with her pain so as not to take her attack personally because “hurt people hurt people.” I did it all, yet relief did not come.
The path to forgiveness was exhausting. I felt like I was wrestling with a mammoth-sized, prehistoric, octopus-like creature. I was overwhelmed by the enormity of its grabby arms while they squeezed and sucked the life out of me. It was a losing battle. And failure to reach the forgiveness summit compacted my unforgiveness with shame. We are all familiar with Marianne Williamson’s quote, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.” Well, drinking the poison seemed easier than exerting the strength to forgive. And because the offense was so painful, the poison of unforgiveness didn’t seem to hurt at all.
I was terrified that unforgiveness would be the death of me, that I’d be discounted in God’s eyes. It didn’t seem fair or logical that I had been burdened with the consequence of forgiveness. But with time — and I mean, many, many years — unforgiveness loosened its choke hold on me. Or maybe I grew stronger in my ability to restrain it. Or perhaps both.
Either way, more than anything, I needed time. God met me in the weakness of my unforgiveness and gifted me with time. And time cultivated endurance to do the work of forgiveness.
If you’re in the midst of unforgiveness, let God meet you in your weakness and experience His strength and grace.
our confident hope of salvation.
Romans 5:3-4 (NLT)
Tell me about a time you were surprised about God’s strength that
emerges during times of weakness when it comes to forgiveness?
If you're in the midst of unforgiveness, let God meet you in your weakness and experience His strength and grace. -Lucretia @brownicity: Click To Tweet