Remember that eighties song, Love is a Battlefield? This post is not about that song. But it does describe a battle similar to the one in the song.
Love is difficult. To keep love alive and your heart pliable, you need to learn to forgive. Forgiveness is hard, but not impossible. You can practice forgiveness daily, just by reading your social media timelines. Remember to keep an attitude of forgiveness as you read!
A few weeks ago, I wrote about courageous forgiveness (you can read that post here). Often, forgiveness requires great strength. Forgiveness also requires something else: endurance. It’s not a sprint, it’s a cross-country run. You need to think in terms of forever.
How do you achieve the forever forgiveness? Being stubborn really helps–take it from one who knows. But it can also work against you. Stubborn refusal to forgive someone holds them captive…in your mind, emotions, soul. In your heart of hearts.
Let them go.
You may feel you have every right to hold someone captive in your emotions. Their treatment of you was horrendous. He stole your innocence. She lied about you. Your father hit you. Your mother called you stupid. Therefore, you decide they will never hurt you again. Because you mean never to speak to them again, and if they even look your way–
Are you familiar with this kind of pain? The crying out? The anger?
When others meet the angry person you have become, they will want to turn around and run the other way. Can you blame them?
Not forgiving someone doesn’t always manifest as anger. Fear is another symptom of not releasing forgiveness. You may not want to leave your house, for fear of running into the person who hurt you or caused you pain. You may even consider changing churches, or leaving a job.
You’re on the run. And that’s not healthy, either.
In that post about courageous forgiveness, I talked about facing the hurt. Forgiving the perpetrator. Moving forward. Every time you remember the hurt, turn it around and say a prayer for the person who hurt you. This way, you’re taking ownership and retaining your freedom from the past.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.–John 8: 14-15 NIV
But you can’t do it alone. I have faith in God. I’m confident that when I pray, He listens. I’ve seen prayers work in my life. Sure, there were times when my prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling. Everyone goes through that. It’s a time of testing. Persevere.
Why? It’s worth it, to gain the confidence that comes with freedom. And now, I can move beyond what happened to me so long ago. I can trust and love, not just because the one who hurt me is long dead, but because I made peace with what happened. I released that person from the memory of guilt that kept a part of me in chains.
When I truly forgave and overcame the memories, the chains loosed and fell away. My freedom was complete.
I still have memories that pop in for a visit now and then. I see something on television, or hear someone talking about a similar event, and I’m tempted to experience that pain again. The chains rattle, as though they’re ready to jump back into place. But I refuse. I whisper my thanks to God for His everlasting forgiveness and mercy. My heart is free.
I’ll end with this story of an ongoing situation in my life. Someone among my relations can’t stand me. The problem started a long time ago through no fault of mine. Though I’ve tried over and over, I can’t fix the situation. My apologies for whatever it was that happened (I truly don’t know) were not only not accepted, but publicly rejected. I’ve even received letters calling me ugly names.
I was tempted to be angry, and actually gave in to anger for a while. I mourned the relationship that this event blocked. The sorrow, the anger, the mourning–these can also be stepping stones along the way to healing. Like when someone dies. When I finally recognized that, I was able to face the pain and let it go.
I can now say that I have forgiven this one also. I still hate the circumstances and mourn the loss of relationship–that’s only natural–but I love this individual with all my heart. I pray whenever I think of them. I bless them and hope for the best in their life. Will I ever see this relationship healed?
Though I would love that, it really doesn’t matter.
I’m no longer bound by the dark, hateful unforgiving nature that presses in on the bad circumstances of life. Neither am I bound by the temptation to hold a person captive with that hate. You see, holding them captive keeps them in my thoughts far longer than letting go of the bad feelings.
Love is a daily, ongoing battle sometimes. The battle is for your soul.