How to Get Through the Brutal Stages of Forgiveness
By Jaunyce Priester
The Raw Symptoms of Betrayal
I believe we’ve all had at least one person in our life who has hurt us so much that we wanted to pray fire and brimstone down upon them and their entire household.
You know the feeling. The hurt runs deep. It’s only when you slowly take the knife out of your wounded back and fragile heart that you begin to realize the depth of the pain you feel.
With every moment, you begin to wonder how someone could do this? Your thoughts progress to wondering how anyone could care for the person who could do this? Maybe even asking Jesus how He could love them?
You then find yourself thinking of everything you believe this person deserves in order for this wrong to be rectified, to bring justice to this pain, to redeem this wrongdoing.
Your list looks a little like this.
They deserve to hurt as much as they hurt me.
They deserve abandonment.
They deserve unhappiness.
They deserve unforgiveness.
They deserve heartache.
They deserve to be exposed.
They deserve to be mistreated.
They deserve any negative thing that comes to them because of what they did to me.
When we hear of anything negative they experience or any misfortune that befalls them, a small part of us is satisfied. We think to ourselves, “They deserve it."
In conversation with mutual friends and acquaintances, we relish the moments when negative attributes about the offender are brought up, further affirming the truth we hold: “They deserve everything that is coming to them."
I remember being in this place. Holding tight to every offense and my firm belief that the assailant of my heart deserves to pay for every thing said and done that broke me and my spirit.
I held to it so tight. Unwilling to let it go no matter what it was costing me.
I Was a Victim of Forgiveness
The whole 70 times 7 thing was a joke. Why would God even say that we should forgive someone over and over? I was actually convinced that I had surpassed my forgiveness quota.
Do you know how many times I have forgiven him, Jesus? Do you know how many times I responded to him with love? With grace?
I refuse to do it again. I simply refuse to be a victim of forgiveness. I absolutely refuse, Jesus.
A victim of forgiveness…hm. Typing those words actually hurt my heart. Knowing I once believed that statement could possibly be true breaks my heart for that broken young woman, the woman I once used to be.
There are no victims of forgiveness. To believe so shows a deep lack of understanding of the meaning of forgiveness.
But there are prisoners of unforgiveness. And to be honest, many of us are cellmates. Many of us are unaware of the unforgiveness we harbor within our hearts, that seeps into our souls.
After my time of believing I was a victim of forgiveness, I finally got to a place where I believed I had extended it. I kept telling myself and others, “I forgive him, I really do."
One of the most beautiful things about Jesus, is how he accepts us where we are, all while patiently inviting us to achieve more. Despite how deeply convinced I was that I had extended forgiveness, Jesus knew the truth, that I had not even begun on the journey of doing so.
He first showed me through a counselor. She continued bringing up the topic of forgiveness. I was slightly confused as to why. I accepted the handouts she offered me on the subject and went on my way.
Within moments of reading the material I was very aware that unforgiveness had taken root in my heart.
One of the handouts had a metaphor written by Stephen Hayes that read,
“Being in unforgiveness is like being on a giant hook. Next to you on the hook is the person who has hurt you. The hook is extremely painful. Wherever you go, so does the hook and so does the offender. The only way you can get off the hook is if you allow the offender off first…"
Let him off the hook? Absolutely not. Of course, that was my heart’s initial and adamant response.
I am so glad that did not remain my response. In time, I intentionally and consistently let him off the hook.
In moments when I found myself reliving conversations, I would silently whisper, “I forgive you."
Forgiveness Is Not a Declaration It’s a Process
After a while I was very certain that unforgiveness had no place in my heart as it pertained to this situation.
Until I was triggered again.
Here I was, again, faced with unforgiveness. I was disappointed in myself. How are your here again, Jaunyce? Forgive him already!
Convinced I had failed, I chastised myself.
Then came grace.
Jesus patiently showed me that it wasn’t a matter of me not forgiving, but that forgiveness is a process.
Forgiveness is not a blanket statement, but a process that requires naked honesty and vulnerability.
So yes, I have extended forgiveness, but forgiveness is not past tense, it’s ongoing. A process that will continue until each and every broken piece of us has been restored.
Instead of looking at God and what he says about me, I looked to the person who hurt me. I looked at their offenses and allowed their mistakes to define me. That’s what unforgiveness did to me.
I Had to Let Go of the Ghosts of Unforgiveness
As I continue in this process of forgiving, I acknowledge my unforgiveness, I share it with Jesus and from there we deal with it—me and God, replacing the unforgiveness with truth. As we do so, my mind is renewed and my heart is restored.
My heart deserves that.
For the one who hurt me, there is unconditional love, grace, mercy and freedom still available. You deserve it. Not because of what was done, but because of what was done for you through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
A broken heart desires payback in the severest manner. But, the cycle that causes hurt people to hurt people can only be broken by grace, love, and forgiveness.
I didn’t deserve what was done to me. Yet, he still deserves forgiveness.
We all should live free from the ghosts of unforgiveness. There’s no need to continue carrying the burdens of those who have hurt us and the wrongs that have been done to us. We need room in our hearts for deeper love and connection.
So bon voyage unforgiveness, your time is up.
Keep up with Jaunyce on Instagram, @JaunyceNichole.