Here we are at the end of another year. As I have said in previous articles when I tackled the upcoming new year, I do not do resolutions anymore – at least in the traditional way of thinking. I prefer to put thought into things that I need to change or do better and just work on it – no pressure involved.
As 2021 sits, glaring at me, just daring to indicate that I will have to continue on with the horrors of 2020, I want to do my best to continue focusing on the positive. (I tried to do that through all of this year and believe I was successful for the most part.) However, there were things said and things done that really were not very Christ-like, both from me and directed at me. I want to change that. One of the ways I can change it is if I become aware of anything I said or did to someone else, then I need to step up and apologize. I also need to choose to forgive any words or actions directed at me, for any reason. In other words, I need to forgive. Whether or not I can also forget will depend on how serious it was; but, to be totally honest, there was little directed at me personally that hurt me enough to be very concerned. However, because forgiving is such a critical and truly necessary action for Christians, I just wanted to pursue it further.
I am going to indulge in a bit of personal history this week to set the stage for my point, so please bear with me. Hopefully it will help you relate to the topic at hand.
I can still remember as clearly as though it had happened yesterday – when I was about 16 or 17 years old, my Mom said to me, “You trust people too much. You need to be more careful or you are going to get hurt.” I do not remember the context of that conversation or what had happened that my Mom felt the need to give me that warning. I do not know if I really even understood her point. As a typical teenager, I probably just blew it off. But, over the years, things have indeed happened in my life that has brought that warning to fruition.
I also remember clearly the first time that someone betrayed me in such a way that her warning came into real clarity for me. I was 19 and had a friend/roommate that was the closest thing to a sister I had ever had. We had a great relationship. In fact, to this day I have not ever had another friend that I was that close to. I will not bore you with all the details, but yes, it had to do with a guy. It was someone I had been involved with off and on for about 3 years and cared for very deeply – and she knew it. But, she chose to go behind my back and tried to edge into his life. When I discovered what she had done, I was livid and our friendship fell apart. (By the way, her plan did not work – he was not interested.) I could never have trusted her fully again at the same level I had before. I did eventually forgive her, but I never forgot.
Those of you that have been reading my stories from the beginning know some of my history with my marriage and the breakup of that relationship. But for the sake of any newer readers, I will share a snippet of what happened.
I married shortly before I turned 21 and was married for over 31 years. During that time my husband cheated on me repeatedly. Each time it happened I was emotionally crushed. Each time he would tell me how he loved me and it would never happen again. When you love someone, you want to believe what they are saying, so you work to move forward. However it would happen again. I still do not know why I finally broke enough that I could not deal with it any longer, but I finally knew that I was done. As I put that part of my life behind, it took me a very long time, but I finally forgave him – but I have not forgotten.
So, that warning my Mom gave me those many years ago still rings in my mind at times. And, the pain inflicted by that very close friend and my chosen life partner still harbor a place in my heart. Although forgiveness can be hard and at times can take a long time to come about, forgetting is much harder and in my personal opinion, mostly unnecessary.
When I think about that, I do not believe that remembering is necessarily a bad thing. It reminds me of that saying: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.” The painful experiences we all endure can be difficult, maybe even impossible to forget, but they can help mold us into a stronger person. A person that learns to be more cautious about where we place our trust. It is rather like a shield to help fend off those fiery arrows intended for harm that come our way.
If we find we cannot forget, the thing we need to always keep in mind, is that we should never allow those memories to plant bitterness in us. Memories that help us to be cautious can be a good thing. Memories that morph into bitterness and unforgiveness are very harmful.
“Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God’s best blessings. Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.” (Hebrews 12:15 TLB) [Emphasis mine]
I have read the above scripture a lot of times, but as I read it again preparing to write this story, the words that I emphasized really jumped out at me – especially the word “many.” I have heard the talking point about how unforgiveness does not hurt the person you are harboring the feelings for, it actually is hurting you. (“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.” Marianne Williamson) So I wondered about how it could/would hurt “many”? Then it dawned on me that as we hold onto the unforgiveness that turns to bitterness, it will affect us in ways we may not even realize. It will cause us to act and react to others – to things they say and do, that on the surface is totally innocent and harmless – but will offend us in some way. Then what happens? We react in a way that we normally would not. Possibly offending, even hurting them.
We also need to keep in mind the scripture tells us how when we hold onto anger (which unforgiveness and bitterness will foster) we give Satan a hold on our lives. “But don’t let the passion of your emotions lead you to sin! Don’t let anger control you or be fuel for revenge, not for even a day. Don’t give the slanderous accuser, the Devil, an opportunity to manipulate you!” (Ephesians 4:26-27 TPT)
Not only that, holding onto unforgiveness will hamper God forgiving us. It is laid out very plainly in the Bible when Jesus says: “‘If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.’”
Of course, our greatest example of how we should forgive others is Jesus Christ. He walked on this earth as a perfect man and was repeatedly mistreated and at the end of His life He was brutalized. They spat on Him, tortured Him, then hung Him on a cross to die a horrible, painful death. Yet while hanging there, suffering in a way none of us could even begin to comprehend, He spoke out and said: “…’Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:34a NLT)
So take a good look at our world today. There is so little decorum. Family members and friends turn on one another. Things are said and done that would not have been conceived as a possibility in the past. People betray, lie, cheat and deceive others with little thought and no guilt. Yet they seem to just go on living their lives as though nothing had happened. That can be offensive.
I believe that is why it took me so long to forgive my ex-husband. He moved right into the home of his girlfriend – I moved into an apartment, alone. They bought and remodeled a new home together (about the same size as the home we had lived in) – I moved into a much smaller home. They got married after a couple of years – I was still alone. After some time they bought land and an even bigger home, were buying at least one new vehicle every time they turned around, spending money on home remodels, RV’s, etc etc. It was hard for me to grasp as to why he seemed to have it all when he was the one that wronged me. But karma eventually visited them.
Do not get me wrong – I was happy with my life for the most part. Loneliness wound its way into my heart many times and pulled me down into an abyss that was difficult to handle. But I overcame and truly would not change my life accomplishments for his no matter what. Eventually, God dealt with me about the unforgiveness, then over time showed me how I should pray for them – I do, every day.
So in our crazy, mixed up world there is no way we can totally avoid all of the meanness and deception, etc. There is no way we can avoid being offended and hurt at times; but, our reaction to all of that is what is most important. We need to just forgive them and then move on.
I know that there are Bible verses that talk about remembering the sins no more. However, when I say not to forget, I do not mean in an angry or mean-spirited way. I mean for it to be in such a way that it is just a reminder of how their words and actions affected us. That will in turn help us to be more aware of our own words and actions and will hopefully help prevent us from perpetrating the same things onto others. Forgive – but do not forget.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Written by Karran Martin – December 15, 2020