Between Hurt and Forgiveness
Have you ever noticed how much time and energy you spend on “between” moments? Of course, there are various types and sorts of “between” moments. For instance, the time between sin and confession or the time between contracting an illness and wellness or the time between hurt and forgiveness or the time between injury and recovery. If you’ve been involved in an automobile accident and were injured, you’ve likely spent a considerable amount of time and money “between” the accident and full recovery. In this case, the between time is filled with anguish, suffering, changing your daily schedule, adjusting to the injury, protecting the injury, talking about the injury with others, negotiating with your employer for time-off, filing claims with insurance agents, going to medical appointments, paying medical bills and possibly talking to a lawyer and going to court. If nothing else, especially when we are injured, we look for the shortest route possible to reduce the “between.”
Have you ever wondered why we want to reduce the “between” in nearly every circumstance except the “between” hurt and forgiveness. So why do so many people hold onto unforgiveness? In my experience, some hold onto unforgiveness because they see it as something the offending person deserves. You might say they feel it puts them in a position to impart justice. I’ve routinely heard offended people make statements like, “I’m not going to forgive him because he’ll think he’s off the hook.” Others have avowed, “People who do things like that don’t deserve forgiveness.” In addition to that, more than a few have used unforgiveness as a way to create a protective barrier because they fear a repeat of the hurt. I’ve even observed people using their unforgiveness as a tool of manipulation to persistently shame the offending person or leverage their guilt for personal gain.
Speaking of manipulation and leverage, what are possible reactions to being hurt by others? My list includes unforgiveness, revenge, overlooking a fault and forgiveness to name a few. However, only two of these are proper Bible-based responses. Do you know which two? Yes, overlooking a fault (Prov 19:11) and forgiveness (Eph 4:32). In addition, the Bible warns that we must not harbor bitterness in our hearts (Hebrews 12:15) or repay evil for evil (1 Peter 3:9). In fact, adhering to Biblical principles helps us significantly shrink the “between.” Knowing that, maybe it’s time to stop and evaluate your responses to being hurt and offended by others and what it is doing to you and others around you. Be on guard, because the lingering outcome of unforgiveness is bitterness, resentment and a desire for revenge. And when this happens, you become like an undercurrent in the Missouri river sucking everyone around you down with you. Yes, this all but guarantees perpetuating the “between.”
In case you’re not convinced, the impact of unforgiveness ranges between burden and bondage. Indeed, as stated by Lewis Smedes: "To forgive is to set a prisoner free . . . and only to finally discover that the PRISONER WAS YOU!" Yes, I know. When we are offended or hurt by another, we often focus our justice so much on the other person we forget to measure the impact on ourselves. Even worse, we fail to take responsibility for our own thoughts and actions. If we’re not careful, we find ourselves looking out behind the bars of unforgiveness. And then, as the bitterness and resentment smolder, and our actions become revengeful, we become locked away in a dangerous solitary place as if the bars were replaced with concrete block walls.
As C.S. Lewis is quoted, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” So then, how is it possible for a Christian to receive forgiveness from a holy and righteous God, and then respond to others in unforgiveness? It helps to understand how dreadful our heart can be by reading “The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” in Matthew 18:21-35. This should make us stop and think for a moment. It may be the time to ask, besides getting caught in the “between,” what happens to my relationship with God in my unforgiveness? Matthew quotes Jesus, MT 6:14 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Just so we are clear. Our ultimate salvation is not based on forgiving other people; however, our relationship with God will be damaged if we refuse to forgive those who have offended us.
As we willingly apply our time and energy in reducing the “between” injury and healing resulting from a car accident, we should seriously apply the Biblical principles of forgiveness and thereby shrink the “between” hurt and forgiveness. After all, God knows what’s best for us. He is our master designer and His instructions (Bible) provide the best insight into our proper care and protection. Oh my friend, savor the sweet aroma of forgiveness that restores relationships and lifts the burden. Otherwise, as penned by Marianne Williamson and a few others, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.” So I hope you’re ready. Yes, that’s right, ready to forgive as it’s the shortest route possible to reduce the horrifying “between.”
A Work in Progress,