Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Forgive and Forget

There’s a phrase that people use that kind of drives me crazy. “Forgive and forget.” I have gone through my fair share of hurt in my lifetime, and while I have forgiven people, it’s really hard to forget about it all. Frankly, I don’t know that we need to forget about it either. How does one forget about the scars that have forever changed the way they look at themselves?

I spent a little while this afternoon in conversation with a friend. Amidst our conversation, I reminisced about a past experience that had caused both me and my wife (and probably our immediate family as well) a good deal of hurt. In the midst of the reminiscence, I got pretty agitated and frustrated. It’s hard for me not to get somewhat upset when I remember that time and the emotion that my wife and I both felt as we felt that we were so helplessly navigating the waters of our situation.

I guess what really matters in the forgiveness is that we not forget, but that we truly forgive. It can’t just be lip service, we need to really exhibit behavior that tells everyone that we have forgiven. It’s easy for me to say that I have forgiven someone while still holding a grudge in my heart. I honestly thought that I had forgiven the people who had caused us such pain, but after this afternoon, I’m not so sure that I did.

Jesus said, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” I have found that it’s incredibly difficult to stay angry with someone when I am praying for them. It’s not easy, and it takes time to move past those prayers like, “Lord, I’m praying for them, but I don’t like it.” Or “Lord, I pray that you will teach them a lesson that they won’t ever forget.” Those aren’t the kinds of prayers that Jesus was talking about when he said what he said in Luke 6. He meant that we need to pray for them and ask that God would bless them.

That’s no easy task. It takes a process of praying. It can’t be something that we do once and really expect that we will be transformed. Transformation is like what happens to a caterpillar when it turns into a butterfly: it takes time. It’s not something that happens overnight. As we pray for those who hurt us and mistreat us, God changes our hearts, He breaks our hearts for these people.

I realized this afternoon that I had stopped praying for the people who had hurt me. My reaction really came out of the fact that I had shirked my responsibility in praying for them. I’m not sure when I stopped praying, but it must have been long enough ago to have had me have the reaction that I did when speaking with my friend.

So, if you have experienced hurt, which I know you have, try praying for the people who have hurt you. Sometimes there are opportunities to talk out the situation with those people. I had those opportunities, took those opportunities, and have come a long way from those opportunities. Maybe you still have those opportunities. Take them. Also, as you pray for the people, pray that God would change your heart and help you to forgive them. Holding a grudge never hurts the people who you hold a grudge against, they don’t even know that you’re holding it against them. But it does hurt you.

May we pray for the ones who hurt us in order that God might transform us into people who love Him and others more and more every day.

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