I’ve been going through some personal struggles for several years now. I remember calling friends on the phone sobbing because I felt bitter, angry, lost, alone, and downright hateful towards people who had hurt me. I remember one of my wise friends told me at some point I would “just have to let it go” because there wasn’t any peace until I could forgive.
I want to share this story with you guys because it’s been a turning point in my life. I’m not saying I found perfect peace, but I found closure. I’m not saying I don’t have bad days. But I don’t live in daily pain any more. I’m not saying I trust certain people, but I am saying I forgave them. I’m not saying I don’t cry now and again. But I’ve learned that it’s okay to move on. I’m learning that moving on is power, wallowing in self-pity is poison. I’m sharing this because I know that us girls feel deep. We hold onto pain for a long time We carry emotions like a big suitcase. And I discovered that that is not our suitcase to carry. I’s okay to put that suit case on a plane by itself and wave goodbye.
When someone tells you to “let it go” it can seem so harsh, unfair, and honestly, very scary. When you are past a crisis, but living in the after math of it, moving on with your life and working through the raw emotions can sound like the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. How do you forgive? What does that look like? What does “moving on” look like?!?!
Here are 6 things you need to know when you are caught the emotional hurt locker.
- Satan wants you to live in the past. If you live in the past, it’s impossible to live in the present. That’s not very deep, I know. But one day the present will be the past, and you will look back on it and regret that you didn’t live when you had the chance to. Right now, in this moment, I have my new baby. I’m loving every second because one day she’ll be at college and I’ll regret it if I all I could remember was bitterness. Negative emotions leaves a permanent haze on our hindsight.
- Living in the past won’t fulfill you. I like to agonize over myself. But it’s never fulfilled me. I’m not saying a good heart-to-heart-getting-drama-off-your-chest isn’t something you shouldn’t do for therapy, relief, and counsel. But wallowing in self-pity won’t end your pain. It won’t fix it. It won’t make you feel better. It won’t convict the other person into magically apologizing to you. Wallowing does nothing but bring more pain. Life is too short to self-inflict emotional pain we are free to leave.
- Forgiveness isn’t something you have to do by yourself. I used to try and forgive but I ended up feeling SO resentful. I wondered how others I had known could forgive things like rape or abuse, or holocaust survivors forgiving their Nazi abusers. Then one day it clicked—I can’t do it by myself. Incredible forgiveness is a divine gift. It’s not something you can pull out of a hat and choose to feel. I started praying that God would help me to forgive, and you know what? One day several months later, I woke up and I realized I didn’t feel hate anymore. There was still hurt and sadness, but I wasn’t bound by it anymore. I felt truly free. All I had to do was take it to the one who could do it for me.
- Jesus talked about lack of forgiveness hindering you from worship. The Scripture tells us that if we come to offer a sacrifice, but we have an issue between us and a brother, go and fix the issue and then come back to finish the sacrifice. When we have things like hate and hurt that we aren’t allowing to heal, it is an issue that comes between us and God. An uncorrected relationship with one person can warp our entire ability to love others and be loved by others. A past hurt is never worth trading for the love we can give and receive. Love is being close to Jesus. It’s peace and purpose. Hate is never a good excuse to come between us and worship.
- Don’t expect that forgiveness and emotional freedom happen overnight. This is the most important thing to remember. It has taken me years to work through my emotions. And in fact, I will never “get over them” fully. I will still continue to talk to my close friends about it from time to time because it still hurts and it always will. But our pasts, the good AND the bad, is what shapes us into who we are. It’s okay if we don’t fully forget about our experiences. It’s okay to cry sometimes. But the goal is that we are not defined by what others did to us, think of us, or treat us. We are defined by how we chose to live individually before God.
- You are not responsible for other people’s feelings, words, or actions. I have always felt guilty about the way negative people treated me and walked over me. When I realized that I don’t have the authority to control their actions or words, I was able to break free and move on. It’s silly how we hold onto crazy ideas and take on crazy burdens that aren’t ours to carry. Taking charge of the way we chose to respond to others is enough to keep us busy in and of itself. Don’t take blame or responsibility for other people’s behavior.
Forgiveness isn’t about the other person. It’s about giving yourself permission to go on in love.
NOTE: this article is not meant for people caught in current abusive (verbal or physically) situations. Forgiveness is something you address after you are removed from danger. Please seek help immediately from a pastor, counselor, public authorities, or other health professionals if you are in an abusive situation.