Robin W Pearson: Remember those days when your parents made you apologize to your sister or brother, even when you hadn’t done anything wrong? “Say you’re sorry. And even if you think you’ve done nothing wrong, tell them, ‘I’m sorry if you think I hurt you.’” The pain you’d inflicted paled in comparison to the agony of mumbling that apology.
But there comes a time when you are the injured party. And it isn’t a swiped toy or a scraped knee in question, but a broken heart, a lost life, or a crushed spirit. Something unreturnable, unfixable . . . unforgivable. You may feel incapable of mustering the oomph to lay on the altar those three words: “I forgive you.” The hurt is simply too raw. The wound too deep. The apology insincere or unspoken altogether.
It may seem at those moments that offering forgiveness will kill you. Yet it’s then that your very life depends on it. Though it feels impossible to break the tight seal on your lips and heart you should consider these five reminders:
You’ve been forgiven.
“But I didn’t . . . ,” “I’d never . . . ,” or “You don’t know what he . . . ,” you might be thinking. True. You’re hurting, agonizing even. This offense seems unforgivable, yet no one is innocent; we all make mistakes. Even you. At some point in the past, someone forgave you; at some point in the future, someone else might not be able to. So get out of line, drop your stone, and offer absolution, “so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).
What you hold on to will never let go of you.
When you can’t forgive, you grip those hurts and keep them close. You replay the events; all the whys and hows haunt you. Often, the offense grows bigger in your mind, much as yeast dough continues to rise when you leave it in a warm environment. It ferments. Left too long, overproofed dough becomes tough. When you bake it, it has a gummy texture and it tastes acrid. The bitterness of unforgiveness festers and takes root in your spirit. By not letting go of the pain, the pain will soon not let go of you.
That which doesn’t kill us . . . will, eventually.
In A Long Time Comin’, my main character, Granny B, was well acquainted with the ache that just wouldn’t let go, that burden and regret she couldn’t set down. While the original wound hurt, it wasn’t fatal. Yet over time, the bitterness and unforgiveness became the rust upon the sword. And they aimed to take her out long before her cancer. They didn’t stop with killing her own body and spirit but infected her relationships with her family.
Like most people, Granny B wore her life—her suffering—on her face. No more laugh lines. Little joy. The evidence of her hard-heartedness creased her brow, tightened her lips, and burned like fire in her eyes. Emotional and spiritual pain wears down the body and zaps the strength. It attacks you by interrupting your sleep patterns, raising stress levels, and causing or exacerbating other health conditions.
You can’t change what happened, but you can change your response to it.
No, you can’t control the past, but when you remain mired in it, you hand over the keys to the car and direct it to drive you where it will. It colors your relationships by affecting your ability to trust, sways your decisions and makes you second-guess yourself, and hinders your emotional recovery.
Repeating the mantra “The pain will fade” only dulls the ache; it doesn’t heal the wound. True healing requires actively applying a salve of prayer, faith, and yes, forgiveness. Redirect your thoughts and focus on “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report . . .” (Philippians 4:8). Stop up your ears and ignore the lies that bitterness whispers and shout, “I forgive you!” “I forgive myself!”
Forgiveness is more than a Band-Aid.
It may feel like an alcohol swab when you first apply it, but gradually, forgiveness starts to burn less and soothe more. Mending works from the inside out. It knits together gaping wounds and sure, it will probably leave a scar. Yet this mark represents stronger tissue, wisdom, and experience. Healing. You can’t peel it off and replace it because it’s part of you.
Yes, forgiveness seems impossible at the moment. Right now, you can’t even imagine feeling resentful because you’re still reeling from the shock and anger—from someone’s actions or even your own. But take heart. Instead of planting the seeds of unforgiveness, nurse the promise of Psalm 30:5, which reminds us that the weeping that endures “for a night” is followed by morning joy. And it can last all your days.
About The Author – Robin W. Pearson’s writing sprouts from her Southern roots and her love of her husband and seven children. Both lend authenticity to her debut novel, A Long Time Comin’. After graduating from Wake Forest University, she has corrected grammar up and down the East Coast in her career as an editor and writer that started with Houghton Mifflin Company twenty-five years ago. Since then she has freelanced with magazines, parenting journals, textbooks, and homeschooling resources. Follow her on her blog, Mommy, Concentrated, where she shares her adventures in faith, family, and freelancing.
A Long Time Comin’ releases on January 7th.
BTSCelebs sends a special thanks to Robin W. Pearson and Tyndale House Publishers for the article and images.