I remember vividly sitting in his office. He was someone who was supposed to be my leader. Instead he was asking inappropriate questions and requests. I found myself in the middle of a spiritual crisis. My gut told me one thing, while he told me another. I was confused and ill-equipped to handle his advances(I was only 15). Even in those moments of complete confusion, my gut said no! And, I chose to follow my gut, but it wasn’t without questions and confusion because of the respect I had for him.
Without going into more detail, he moved away(he was asked to go) and I didn’t see him for two years. For those two years all I wanted was an explanation. I wanted an apology. I wanted to believe his intentions were good. But they weren’t, and I had to face that harsh reality. Although I held onto the hope that I would receive a phone call one day asking forgiveness. I was stuck in a space of confusion.
Soon I found myself a freshman in college and decided to go with some friends to a Billy Graham Rally. I looked behind me and there he was! In the entire stadium, his seat was behind me! As everyone was doing introductions, he put his hand out to shake mine and said, “Nice to meet you.” In that moment, I felt gutted. In my naivety, I thought he would apologize, acknowledge how wrong he had been. But instead, he pretended to not even know me. It was then, I realized he felt no remorse. And for a few month following that encounter, I questioned many things, including my faith.
About six months later, I was at a church service. I desperately wanted to be free from the pain and confusion, but I didn’t know how to do so on my own. How do you forgive something that you cannot even understand? How do you reconcile when the other party will not acknowledge the inappropriate behavior? I remember going to the altar and asking God to take those broken pieces and heal my heart. I cried, and cried, and cried. But when I stood up, I felt this weight lifted from me. Words escape me at the moment to truly express what happened within my heart. I had forgiven him. It was over. My heart was healed. I knew in that moment, whether I received an apology or not, forgiveness had taken place within my heart. No longer did forgiveness and understanding have to come through an apology or admission of wrong doing. No, God performed a beautiful work in my heart and I could move on.
I encourage you today to forgive and let go of the hurt you have been carrying for years. It’s toxic and like cancer will spread and leak into numerous aspects of your life. You are not condoning another’s behavior by forgiving them. Instead, you are choosing to be released from the bondage unforgiveness has over you. You are choosing freedom instead of a lifetime of resentment and bitterness.
If you are like me and are already physically sick, it is imperative to remove as much toxicity from your life as possible. You don’t get better holding onto grudges. In fact, it can actually impede your ability to heal. Negative emotions effect our physical health. One article I read said, “Negative attitudes and feelings of helplessness can create chronic stress, which upsets the body’s hormone balance, deplete the brain chemicals required for happiness, and damages the immune system.” It also said, “Poorly managed or repressed anger (hostility)is also related to a slew of health condition, such as hypertention, cardivascular disease, digestive disorders, and infection.” When your physical health is already compromised like mine is, negative emotions will only exacerbate your symptoms. I am not saying it will be easy. But I am saying it is possible. And in the end, you will have taken the power back. You no longer allow the actions of someone else to dictate your life and choices.
I will conclude with a quote I love. “He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.” Thomas Fuller Forgiveness does not mean you are allowing the other person to win, but rather allowing yourself the opportunity to heal and move forward. You are breaking the chains that have held you hostage in your own mind for years. You are not condoning inappropriate behavior but rather reclaiming your life. Your mental and physical health depend on it. The longer I live with chronic illness, the clearer I see. Unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, hatred, etc. will only weigh your already compromised body down. When you truly let it go, there is a freedom that awaits you. You walk differently, talk differently, and even think differently. It is possible to move forward! But you have to take the first step.