I tend to be a black and white sort of person.
While I see a lot more gray in the world that I used to (and am grateful for this!), I still tend to view and speak in absolutes.
Which makes me sound pretty stupid a lot, and gets me in a lot of trouble and hurts others.
I’m a work in progress, by the grace of God.
I’ve found this trait tends to link itself to feeling a need for justification. Sometimes for myself, sometimes for others I love, or sometimes there is no connection and I just want justice.
This means when someone does something wrong to me or my family, I have a really hard time forgiving, and want the wrong righted.
I think we can all look back and see situations in our life where we were done wrong by. For whatever reason I have an extremely long list of very pivotal situations in my life where I was treated wrongly.
After thinking and praying a lot about this, wondering why these situations occur over and over in my life…there were a couple possible scenarios I came across:
– God is trying to teach me something through these situations
– There is something unhealthy in me that allows these situations to keep playing themselves out
I strongly believe that we choose our emotions and how we react in the midst of those emotions.
One of the biggest life lessons I’ve had to learn (over and over) is that forgiveness is a choice. I can choose anger and bitterness, or I can choose forgiveness, but I am making a choice. While there is a natural inclination to emotion in situations, we make the choice of what we feel and how we react. Even the law recognizes this. Assault and abuse are crimes in this country, because we control how we react and are expected to have a certain level of control. Twitter feeds are dominated by jokes about a football player who runs his mouth in the midst of a surge of emotion. Job applicants are turned down because of their emotional reaction on social media. We choose our emotions, and when we forgive, it is because we made the choice to.
Can I tell you how easy this is to say? I have done studies, read books, and talked endlessly about this idea of forgiveness and how to get there. There are no step by step instructions to be found. In 95% of my situations there has been no justification, no apologies, no righting the wrongs. I am left to deal with the pain, the hurt, the slander, broken reputation, bruised ego, and more. It is my choice to hold onto all of that, or to let it go, and forgive.
There is absolutely no way I have the ability to forgive outside of Jesus. None. Even with Him, learning to let go of the pain has seemed insurmountable at times. At the end of the day though, it is a choice. Forget even a daily choice, there are times it’s a minute by minute choice to shut down my thoughts and replay of the circumstances and make the choice to forgive. To hold on to all the bad and wrong, or to forgive, like Christ has forgiven me. I deserve death, and I have life. I deserve hell and yet have the promise of heaven. So why do I expect perfection and justification from others when I haven’t been held to that standard?
For me the answer is pride. Is my being done right by more important to me than forgiveness? Is my need to see that person get what they deserve, more important than forgiveness? Is my need for an apology and public righting of a public wrong more important than forgiveness? Unfortunately, too often these answers are yes. Me, and what I want are more important than grace and what Jesus has commanded.
It doesn’t make sense, I know. Initially, it feels wrong and like the person is getting away with what they did when we make the choice to forgive. Really though, isn’t that exactly what our salvation looks like?
We have done wrong and terrible things, we have turned our backs on Jesus, lied to Him, pushed Him away, we have chosen to feast our eyes on evil and give our bodies over to sinful urges, we choose ourselves and our plans over and over and mock His divinity, we let hatred spill from our tongues, and turn our backs to those He told to love. Yet in those moments, not only did He see us, He loved us. Jesus hung on the cross and felt our ridicule, every time we turned our backs to Him for our own desires, every time we spit in His face and did things our own sinful way. He felt all of that, and in THAT moment…not our pretty sitting in church or serving the poor moment, in our dirty, disgusting and repulsive moment He forgave us.
He made a choice to forgive us. We are called to make the choice to forgive others. Not because they deserve it, but because we have been forgiven. Choose forgiveness today.