If you’ve ever been wronged this chapter is for you. Welcome back to the Simplify series. Today’s chapter, from wounded to whole, shows us how and why making room for forgiveness can simplify our lives.
Bill Hybels says relational breakdowns extract energy from us. I’ve known some people who walk away from relationships, even longtime, intimate alliances with family or close friends, because they don’t think they have the energy to try to repair the damage. Walking away doesn’t bring peace, it simply adds more soul baggage.
If you want peace of mind and satisfaction with life, Hybels uses strong language: We cannot live simplified lives without attending to broken relationships. I absolutely agree! He also advises, if you have done the hard work of forgiveness and also done everything in your power to restore a relationship but the other party is unwilling, get on with your life. Let it go.
Jesus set the example for us when, hanging on a cross, near death, He called out to heaven, Father forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing. Torturing and executing an innocent man would be grounds for a lawsuit and huge payout in today’s world, but Jesus forgave. You can tell a lot about someone’s heart by how that person prays when he or she has been wronged, Hybels says.
As a pastor, Hybels is often asked to step in when transgressions occur. While listening, and before responding, he determines which category the offence falls into:
- Category 1: minor offenses. These people often realize they have overreacted to a minor slight as they talk. They are able to say, Thanks for listening. I guess it wasn’t such a big deal. When they just can’t see it on their own, Hybels grins and sarcastically retorts: Really? You feel wronged by that? Really? Personally, as someone who used sarcasm way too much all my life, I would not adopt that tone. But I would try to open the wounded person’s eyes to the reality that they are giving far too much weight to an insignificant (often unintended) event. Simplify your life by letting go of Category 1 offenses.
- Category 2: legitimate wounds. This is more than a speed bump. It’s a betrayal. These wounded people want justice. Hybels reports that punishing the offender doesn’t bring satisfaction to the victim. …at the end of the day we…must come to terms with what has happened to us, and we must forgive. Forgiveness is not a simple process: we must acknowledge the wrong, grieve over the loss, and let the other person off the hook. Forgiveness in God’s time is the only door to healing. Hybels lists five “go” statements that guide the forgiveness and reconciliation process — we will spell these out in the Action Steps below.
- Category 3: life-shattering injustices. Thankfully, not everyone experiences an unthinkable tragedy that forever changes the landscape of your life. Forgiving the drunk driver that stole the life of your child doesn’t happen overnight. For many, it requires a lifelong journey of working out their forgiveness. Hybels recommends Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go because author Adam Hamilton describes two dimensions of forgiveness: (1) your internal release of bitterness, anger or desire for revenge; (2) the extension of mercy toward the one who has wronged you.
A. RELEASE (category 1) MINOR OFFENSES:
If little things become big things…
- do some exploring inside and journal what you find. Ask yourself why you’re so sensitive. Examine the triggers, peel back the layers.
- fill up your heart by purposefully seeking ways to let God’s love fill you.
- ask for Gods help and His perspective. Ask yourself if this minor offense is worth getting upset over.
From my experience, 99% of the difficulties in marriage fall into this category. We make assumptions about our partner’s behavior far too often and hold grudges against him/her based on those assumptions. Did he refuse to open that car door for me or simply forget because he was focused on other things? Go ahead and talk about it in an inquiring, non-confrontational way if it still bugs you but then let it go!
My friend Cindy Buntain, who looks like Tinkerbell, has hide like a rhino! She taught me years ago to shed minor offenses by not letting them stick. When words or actions that might irritate or wound others would come her way, she simply assumed they were unintended or that she had misread the situation. She let it go before it could take root. She was almost always right and didn’t waste valuable energy gnawing on possible grievances.
B. RESOLVE (category 2) LEGITIMATE WOUNDS
If someone has disappointed you, abused you, betrayed a confidence, or broke a promise and it is unresolved, now is the time to let it go. Use one or all of the five “go” principles:
- Go — you take the first step, no matter who started it (see Matt 18:15).
- Go alone — keep it private, just between the two of you. Instead of telling anyone else, go directly to the one who has offended you.
- Go to reconcile the relationship — make sure that everything you say points toward a restoration of the friendship. That will keep you from attacking, accusing, belittling, or worse.
- Go now — don’t wait. If you are aware of it, that’s a sign you need to deal with it ASAP.
- Let it go — if you’ve done everything you can but the other person refuses to reconcile, you need to walk away. The only person you can change is yourself. (see Rom 12:18)
My most recent experience with this involved myself and one of my sisters. In this instance, things were said and done by both of us that created a painful rift in our relationship. Because she lives in another city, I held on to my hurt, was in denial about my culpability, and ignored God’s nudges to make things right for a few years. Yes I am ashamed of that.
In a prayer room in Jerusalem (Israel) God got my attention. I was astonished at how quickly and easily I was able to forgive in my heart and let it go. I was flooded with peace and love for my sister. I knew that it didn’t matter anymore whether or not she ever apologized for anything. I didn’t need her apology since the hurt was gone and in it’s place was love.
Immediately I began to make small movements toward restoration. Not surprisingly it took some time because my sister had to learn to trust me again. I had broken that trust and this was a natural consequence. To my surprise and joy, she eventually sent me a beautiful e-note asking my forgiveness.
I have more often had to ask forgiveness than extend it. At one point I considered writing a form letter so I would have something on hand! Seriously, as far as I know, I have tried to repair and restore any relationship that has been harmed by me or by others in relationship with me. Everyone, every single one, has accepted my apology and allowed me back into their heart. If I have any enemies, I am (blissfully) unaware. Feel free to message me in private if you want to steal my joy….
C. FORGIVE (category 3) LIFE-SHATTERING INJUSTICES
If you have experienced this, you have my deepest sympathy and respect. I will never forget the woman who stood in line at my book table to buy a book and have me sign it (I thought) but when it was her turn she blurted out, “my five-year-old grandson was killed last week!” I leapt to my feet, reached across the table and grabbed her. We both just hung onto one another and bawled. “I’m so sorry” was all I could say over and over.
Hybels invites you to continually move toward forgiveness with the Holy Spirit’s help. He suggests that this is a difficult, complex, but rewarding journey of faith. Like any long journey, we need to follow mile markers:
MILE MARKER 1: NAME WHAT HAPPENED
I have never experienced a C3 injury like the loss of a child but the closest I came to it was when my mother was sexually assaulted in the middle of the night in her own home. Mom was a fairly new widow and was dying of cancer herself. Her preschool granddaughter was asleep in another room and my mother was horrifically aware of the danger that child was in should she awake and reveal her presence to the attacker.
As I write these words I realize I have never even considered forgiving that man. I considered some other things that I can’t print, but forgiveness? Not for a second. Crap. Seriously????
MILE MARKER 2: IDENTIFY WHAT YOU LOST
Hybels says that eventually we have to move from what someone did to us to what we lost as a result.
What did I lose? That’s a tough one. It was 25 years ago, we had small children and lived 3000 km away from my mom. I guess I lost the assurance that my mom was safe in her own home in her final days. And there was nothing I could do about it. I felt scared for her and helpless. I may have lost trust in God as well. I was still young enough in life and faith to assume that God’s job was to protect us from all harm. He was obviously asleep at the wheel, I thought.
MILE MARKER 3: BE OPEN TO FORGIVENESS
Once you have given yourself sufficient time to grieve the sadness of your loss, you will eventually be ready to say yes to the possibility of forgiveness.
As I said, my mom passed away many years ago and this horrific event got buried deep inside me. Hybels suggests a prayer to those who feel ready.
Here goes: Father, forgive him; and help me to forgive him too. I release my right to exact revenge. I release my desire for control. Forgive him; for he knew not what he did.
I know that I am not ready nor do I want to see that man’s face in my lifetime; but in my heart, I sense a release of something foul that I didn’t even know was there.
If you’re still with me, thank you for allowing me to pull back the curtain on a dark scene. Thank you for sharing my journey of healing. Please join the conversation in the comment boxes below so that others can benefit from your experiences.