Forgiving Past The Person

“Consider this,” a new thought suggested recently: “What if hurtful words said to you are a reflection of pain in the speaker; not really meant to wound you at all, but to actually defend themselves? What is behind their behavior? Think about that before jabbing back!” 

Finding myself pondering reasons for why I am so repetitively hurt in some ways (truly a conundrum in my mind) opened a new door. “Get Teflon,” our son wisely admonished me one day when thinking about how easily my spirit sometimes feels the verbal spear-tip. This has resulted in a process of becoming more objective about the spear-thrower, rather than receiving the thrust subjectively, personally. I will admit, I have to keep practicing this new dance, for just as surely I win the match one day, I am bruised the next. It has given me more insight into the experience of jousting. Admittedly, it is no fun when it seems to be at my expense! I hope I am learning to dance in a way that the one whose words wound me will not be wounded in my response. One can be strong and victorious without crushing another. It is more fun when both parties win!

In nursing school we learned that “all behavior is meaningful.” That sounds a bit like a no-brainer, yet says to me that behind words that hurt is a larger story. When I am irritable and out of sorts, and answer a loved one rudely just because I’m grumpy, how sad it is that I may have hurt them unintentionally by my tone of voice, facial expression, out of control response. Scripture states, “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil. . . Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (see James 3:1-12). Even if I have not had actual cursing coming out of my mouth, wounding words or attitude still war against those around me. It truly seems like a losing battle. And would be, but for forgiveness.

I have found that the more I nurse my wounds, hold a grudge, feed my resentment of those who have wounded me, the more bitter, angry, depressed, tired, and separated I become. I presume my withdrawal from that person does not effect them really, by avoiding the hard stuff of trying to get real and reconcile. Yet, I imagine the truth of it is, I am hurting myself much more, emotionally, physically, and spiritually in negative ways, than if I would but deal with the issue. Not only with what it is that’s bugging me inside, but also those problems I might have with someone else. Risky business, for sure, yet oh, so beneficial for the trying.

A bit like tightrope walking, it can be totally terrifying, not knowing how the other person will respond to my olive branch. And bumpy, too, with emotions guarded, both parties unsure, getting weary of the awkward dance. Happily, I have found I do not have to do this uncomfortable job of reconciling alone. I have a Helper to go with me, the Comforter. Because I have been forgiven so much in my life by a God who willingly died to save and redeem me, I am learning, by doing, how to forgive, through love, others who have hurt me.

Spending time getting real with God has helped me risk getting real with others. I am learning more of who I am, where my promised value comes from, about God’s trustworthiness and unchangeability, and as I grow more confident in Him I find I am becoming more sure of me. My value does not depend on the opinions of others, no matter how wonderful it is to be loved and affirmed. Conversely, if others’ opinions of me are negative and demeaning, usually what wounds my soul, it is, in truth, not the reality of Who or what measures my worth. Only God does that. His death and resurrection for me (and you) prove His love in action towards us. He has forgiven my rejection of Him, my misuse of His blessings, my wounding of others of His creation, the list goes on and on. Through His patience and transforming grace I am seeing the results of forgiveness as I try to practice towards others the grace He has given me. Like dumping a backpack loaded with rocks, it lightens my load each time I look beyond the person to search for where they need forgiving and healing of their pain. I hope, too, as I ask for forgiveness when I am wrong, they will do that for me!

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