I used to think that forgiveness meant pretending nothing bad ever happened, and going on as before.
That’s not right.
I think forgiveness must begin with acknowledging that evil was done, that there was hurt, pain, damage, and wreckage. Think of the original sin: It caused separation. It separated man and woman, and God from mankind. It broke relationship. Forgiveness doesn’t dismiss the wrong. It also doesn’t mean all the pain will go away, because it won’t.
What I see then is Jesus on the cross, here on Good Friday. He asked of God: “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” That is so true. They just don’t know. They are blinded by the devil, by their own selfish desires, and by what the world says. They are deceived. They still chose to do the wrong thing, and they will reap what they have sown, but they are also victims of the spiritual war raging around us. They lost that battle. But that doesn’t mean they have to lose every battle. God turns all things for good.
Forgiveness doesn’t happen all at once. You can choose to forgive, and then the next day feel so angry that you want to hit a wall. Pour it all out before God. Ever read the Old Testament? He knows what it feels like to be betrayed and hurt. He knows what it feels like to be angry and compassionate at the same time. He knows.
Fight for their souls. If anything, it will keep them from turning into an enemy in your mind. The real enemy is out there, and he’s there to steal, kill, and destroy. Pray for those who have hurt you, even if it’s as short as: “God, help me, and help them.” It won’t take away the bitterness or the pain, but it will keep your heart, soul, and mind in God’s will. And in God’s will there is protection.
Then come the boundaries.
I used to think that after you forgave someone you had to let them back into your life again. That is not true. Sometimes people don’t change. You have no control over whether or not they will change. I’ve been friends with people, both guys and gals, who have never changed. They would hurt me emotionally, and then expect me to be okay with it and for things to go on as before. Sometimes they would even blame me for how they hurt me. Or they would mock me saying that I was stupid to feel hurt.
Those people are not good news. You are precious to God, and you don’t need to let people like that into your life. I learned that around age nineteen. One of my guy friends was hurting me over and over in what he said and how he treated me. He never changed, and he was full of lust. He obeyed God in how to treat girls physically, but emotionally he was willing to use them for his own selfishness, no matter what it cost me. I’d been friends with him for a long time, and we’d had a lot of ‘good’ times together, but he needed to be cut out of my life. That is a healthy boundary.
God wants the best for us, and sometimes that means to stop being around ‘bad company.’ Bad company will affect us one way or another. Either we will become what they are, or if we don’t conform to their ways, they will hurt us very badly. Choose this day whom you will serve.