Forgiveness

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Earlier this week I was working on writing the congregational prayer for my church for Abuse Awareness Sunday. I have cerebral palsy—which affects my arms and legs—so often I will have someone else type for me. On this day, my friend happened to be a seminary graduate who had written many more prayers than I have. In the prayer, I talk about trust and abandonment, quoting Psalm 22:11, “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near, and there’s no one to help.”

I won’t describe the whole prayer, but as we were finishing up, my friend asked, “Are you going to pray about FORGIVENESS?” Yikes! I hadn’t seen that coming! But I actually had no problem responding “Yes, we are.” Personally, I have forgiven my perpetrators after many long years of therapy and reading The Shack by Paul Young.

The word “forgiveness” has sent my mind in a thousand directions. Those who have survived abuse are all in different stages of healing. Will my prayer to help survivors forgive those who have abused them make them angry or set them back in their journey towards wholeness? For many years, when people brought up the subject of forgiveness, I was convinced that they did not understand my pain and were just giving me a pat answer. Did I feel pressure to add forgiveness to the prayer? Would I have added it on my own? Yes, I felt pressure. Yet, isn’t asking for forgiveness, or for help with being able to forgive, a part of every good prayer?

Is there a right time to bring up the subject of forgiveness? Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24). Of course He was perfect, we are NOT! All I know is that with me, when it was not in God’s timing and in his way, when it did not come from above, being pushed toward forgiveness by others hurt my own journey.

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Community Builder

Thank you for your post Elizabeth. I found the same thing true for me. Forgiveness came in God's time and in his way. Often a little at a time. I wonder if sometimes survivors are "pushed" to forgive because it more comfortable for the other person than really sitting with the survivor in their pain and anger.

Thanks, I agree it's often difficult for others to listen to, and sit with someone's pain. I've always been selective about the people who are allowed to see the deeper pain (scars)that I live with.I'm glad the post resinated with you..

For sure I too an careful about who I 'let in' to my deep pain.
I do consider it an honor and a gift when others share their pain with me. Not that it is easy but it is important to do.

Community Builder

We must guard against the tendency toward quick forgiveness that doesn't fully acknowledge the harm done. The journey toward healing is not a straight and easy path; rather it is most often painful, complicated, and difficult. Forgiveness is an important part of that journey, but one does not arrive there early in the process. There are no short cuts. Pushing forgiveness too soon can impede the process and delay healing. 

I appreciate how thoughtful you were about this prayer and if you would talk about forgiveness or not.
I too have been hurt by forgiveness being pushed on me.
People think that forgiving a person means that what that person did does not matter, or you cannot hold them to account.
One thought I had was that if I forgive then it negates what was done to me, as if it wasn't that bad or it did not really hurt me.
Talking about forgiveness needs to include what forgiveness does and does not mean.
Having said that, I have come through a long journey to understand that forgiveness is a Gift.
I am thankful and appreciate it that I have been forgiven by God (and others) and i am thankful and appreciate that I have been freed to heal more when He enables me to forgive those who hurt me.
 

Community Builder

Thanks for your thoughtful response. We must be clear that forgiveness is NOT an alternative to justice. Those who hurt others must be held accountable, harm must be acknowledged, there are consequences, an opportunity for restitution must be given. Forgiveness does not negate the need for any of these things.

Nor does it necessarily mean reconciliation. I've had someone recently tell me that reconciliation is the ALWAYS the goal to forgiveness. It may be Christ's example, but I do not believe that God would want us around toxic, un-safe people.

I agree with you both.

Some people never repent or change and are unsafe.
With serious offense, true reconciliation can only happen when the offender is repentant,  asks forgiveness,  walks with accountability, proves themselves, takes responsibility, makes restitution......
However, I have been able to have a good  kind of a relationship with some people who seriously hurt me,  where I chose to walk in grace and forgiveness and they did not know how hard that was for me. I was able to choose to love them and help care for them. God brought this about in me where i did not think that was possible.