I got a barrage of emails after my book about fatherlessness came out, all centered around the same subject—how did you come to a point where you weren’t angry or resentful towards your dad?
That’s the million dollar question—how do we forgive someone that we feel has done has great wrong?
The answer is—only God.
Forgiveness is not our idea. We did not come up with it. We got the idea from forgiveness from the Father of all mercy and forgiveness. God who loves us, created us for communion and connection with each other and who forgives us all our sins and transgressions. When I fully understood the forgiveness and love of God for me, when I let it sink in that He wasn’t holding me hostage to my sin and rebellion and pride, when I sat long enough in His unconditional love and mercy to see that there was NO LOGICAL reason that He should come to me with forgiveness, but He did? Then it was easy.
And that’s when I saw the magic.
Me holding onto resentment and anger was a bit like me holding onto a porcupine and wondering why I’m hurting.
Our body’s are brilliantly programmed to mix up concoctions of feelings to match our thoughts, so when I ruminated on what had been done wrong to me, my body made a special blend of RESENTMENT AND ANGER that ONLY I GOT TO EXPERIENCE. This cocktail of molecules circulated in MY OWN BODY for years, poisoning me from the inside out. I thought my unforgiveness was “teaching them a lesson,” but instead it was training my body to be a specialist in holding the porcupine and then wondering why I felt so bad.
To forgive is to let go of the porcupine that is currently making you miserable.
To forgive is to decide that you no longer want the special cocktail of resentment and anger coursing through your veins.
Forgiveness is God’s Gift
To forgive is first and foremost a gift you give yourself, and it is possible because you have been given this gift first by God our Father. To forgive has NOTHING to do with the other person. AT ALL. To forgive goes against all logic and is perhaps the most powerful thing in all the world.
When you truly see yourself for who you are behind closed doors, when you take inventory of your thoughts and grudges and resentments and sin, you won’t be able to hold the porcupine and you won’t want to. And then you will be free.
When I became an adult and mulled over what happened to me in my childhood, it was super easy to just fall into resentment and blame and anger. Of course, I’m a good Southern girl, so it was all buried in there, and I tried to put on a good face, so it’s just eating me away from the inside. When I was writing my book about all these issues, it was easier for me actually to write about the things that happened TO ME, but when I got to my young adulthood where I set my own life on fire, where I was the perpetrator, where I was the one who needed to be forgiven, it changed everything.
When I really let it sink in that God forgave me all of that, how could I even pretend to hold on to these wrongs that have been done to me when I have been completely forgiven?
It reminded me of the parable in the Scriptures where the King has a servant, and this servant owes the king 10,000 years wages and the King forgives him all his wages. But then somebody owes him like two months wages and he won’t forgive the debt and kills the guy who owes him. That’s us. We demand our rights. This person has wronged me, we say. But what we forget is that we are also the perpetrator.
When we really get honest with ourselves— the thoughts that we have, the grudges we hold, the secret resentments, the secret habits, the secret life we often live—when we get really honest with ourselves, we’re just like the next guy who wronged us. It’s just a matter of degrees.
I finally saw that I was really no different than my dad. And when I looked at his life and the things that had happened in his life that possibly led to him being an alcoholic and led to him being absent and led to him not parenting me in the way I wanted, I realized he was probably doing the best he could do.
Then I became a parent and I realized how hard it is, and I just could no longer in good conscience hold on to this grudge and resentment that I was holding, because I saw myself for what I really am.
I embraced the forgiveness of God, who meets me right where I am, who knows my sin, knows my wretchedness, knows my heart and loves me anyway, and for the sake of Jesus forgives me. And I was finally FREE.
Resentments are just thoughts
The abuse that happened to me as a child happened a few times, but I have abused myself with that story my whole life. I mistakenly thought that it was important to hold tight to my painful story, because I don’t want to let them off the hook, but I’ve realized that the only person I’m holding hostage is ME.
Do you know where resentments and anger come from?
Us, our thoughts. Not from what the other person has done, but from the way we choose to think about it. I had important thoughts like:
This shouldn’t have happened. I was treated poorly. I had an awful childhood.
Those thoughts feel true and important but the only person they are making suffer is me. And I can choose to hold them tight (I did for 40 years) but I’m telling you that if you want true freedom for yourself, you will have to eventually choose to let them go.
What I realized is that the resentment and bitterness and anger were only poisoning me. I’m the only one feeling this special cocktail of resentment and blame and anger. ONLY ME. They don’t get to feel it—the people that I’m holding this grudge against that I can’t forgive, they can’t feel the feelings I’m creating with my thoughts. It’s as if I’m holding tight to my story (which feel like holding a porcupine) and I’m not letting go of this, NO MATTR WHAT.
But I’m the only one getting poked. When I began to realize this for myself, I realized how much power I’m giving over to the other person. I feel like I’m holding them hostage. But I’m not. I’m holding myself hostage in this prison of anger, resentment, blame. I’M feeling bad from it.
Those thoughts cause OUR pain, not theirs
Our bodies are masters at being like little bartenders and going, “Oh, okay, let me mix up the cocktail of resentment and anger and blame for you, hope you enjoy it!”
Then that brutal cocktail courses through our veins and we feel bad because anger and resentment FEEL BAD, but we feel justified in making ourselves feel bad.
But, do you see that the reason we feel bad is because we keep asking our bodies to make this cocktail for us when we hold these resentments and grudges?
If you look in the dictionary, to forgive means to stop feeling resentment and anger.
So, to forgive means that I ask my body (with my thoughts) to stop creating this special, awful cocktail for me. Your feelings don’t come from what other people do to you. Your feelings are generated in your body by your thoughts, so you’re having these feelings that are coming from your thoughts, and they’re giving you this result in your life of holding a grudge, of being resentful, of being bitter.
You feel like you don’t have a choice, but you ALWAYS DO.
Your resentment, your anger is the result of a painful story that you’re choosing to hold tightly, and my question is, for the sake of yourself, can you loosen that hold on that porcupine?
That painful story is optional.
And if it feels hard or impossible to do, there are some practical steps to think about it. Ask yourself if you’re tired of feeling this way? Have you held onto this long enough?
Here’s when you know that you might want to forgive: when you get tired of feeling the resentment in your own body. You get tired of feeling angry. You get tired of feeling resentful. You get tired of blaming. You can get tired of bitterness. When you get tired of it, then you might be willing to change it. You’re not going to change it because somebody else says, “Hey, you should forgive.”
Are you tired of giving your power away to someone else? When you realize how much power you have to feel the way you want to, to think the way you want to, you might decide that it’s been long enough.
Wouldn’t you rather feel peace and joy and love instead?
It doesn’t mean that you have to be best friends with the person who wronged you in some way. You can put up some boundary for yourself. That’s fine, but most of the time, the freedom that you get when you really grasp the power that you have in your own life to not resent, you don’t even need a boundary because freedom doesn’t really need boundaries. Because freedom is freedom, and freedom is amazing, and forgiveness is like magic.
Forgiveness takes what stirred up in you all this negativity and all these emotions and all this drama, and it just drops it. It just drops it like a hot potato. It just lets go of the porcupine. You’re not making the other person hold the porcupine. YOU ARE holding it. And you are feeling the pain of holding it.
Some of you are not just holding it, you’re squeezing it to your chest because you’re so convinced that you’re justified in feeling this way. But now, it’s only hurting you. It’s poisoning you from the inside out. And maybe it’s time you let yourself off the hook.
Forgiveness is magic
To forgive is to free yourself from something that is harming you.
Forgiveness is a stumbling block to many and is pure magic to the blessed few.
Forgiveness a free gift that you can’t hold when your arms are full of porcupines.
But when you decide you’re tired of feeling bitter and disgruntled and sour, it’s right here taking.
And it’s patient and kind and full of love.
So, no hurry. But when you’re ready, it’s yours for the taking.
I also recorded a podcast on this very topic. You can listen here!
LINKS THIS WEEK:
On the podcast—WHAT needs to change in order for you to feel better!
On video—What’s in my wellness box!
On Instagram—Tom rides a horse! Check my highlights!