“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Mark 11:25 (NIV)

For a long time, I thought forgiveness was impossible. There were people in my life who had harmed me beyond forgiveness. They stole my innocence and tainted my mind with messages of unworthiness and uselessness. They corrupted my soul while acting out their own sickness. The hate lay deep in my heart.

I never told this to anyone. I carried the unforgiveness with me and pretended that all was well. I thought I had to show the world that I had forgiven so that I would be viewed as a “good girl,” but deep within, I seethed with self-pity and anger.

After surrendering the substances that I used to numb myself from feelings, I knew I had to talk to someone about this forgiveness thing. I still didn’t see a way to forgive, but I had heard others share that keeping secrets isolated in my heart would eventually lead me back to those addictions from which I had finally been freed, and that was certainly not something I wanted.

In a conversation with a trusted friend, I shared that I had difficulty saying the following line in the Lord’s Prayer: “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I told her that I knew that God would never forgive me because I have never forgiven those who have harmed me. She gently squeezed my hand, told me that she understood, and guided me through a process (with the help of a professional counselor) that started me on a path to forgiveness.

Over a four-year period, I shared my anger and hatred with a support group, wrote letters (that were never sent) to people who had harmed me to tell them how angry I was with them, and prayed for guidance towards acceptance. The relief I had just from being honest about these feelings was overwhelmingly freeing. It was like a load of elephant dong was removed from my back. I realized that while these harms did happen, it wasn’t because of anything I had done or not done and it wasn’t because God hated me and wanted me to suffer. It just was. In a world filled with human beings who make mistakes and have been harmed, people are simply going to hurt each other.

And, after much listening to messages on forgiveness and reading God’s word in the Bible and through the writings of those who follow His word, I had an awakening that allowed forgiveness to flow over me as if it were a cool breeze on a humid summer afternoon. That awakening was that even if these people came to me and told me they were sorry for what they had done, they could never give me what their harms had taken from me. There is no way to give someone their childhood back. There is no way to snap your fingers and change life-long messages of low self-esteem and self-deprecation that are instilled during certain abusive situations. Furthermore, my anger, hurt, self-pity and blaming of others was ME continuing the hurt that someone else started! If I didn’t forgive, I would only continue to carry the burden of someone else’s hurt.

In reading the words of Jesus in Mark 11:25, that awakening seems so clear that I can’t believe how long it took me to get to it. Jesus told us to forgive because He knew the anguish it would cause within each of us to not forgive. He knew that hate only fertilized more hate. He knew that when we looked at others through the eyes of God, we could also see ourselves through the eyes of God. He wanted us to know the love our Father has for us through the personal experience of loving others – ALL others.

My heart swells with gratitude as I write these words. I feel blessed to have traveled the path of forgiveness, and to continue to travel that path. Yes, there are occasional moments – and sometimes entire days – when I suddenly forget everything I went through to get to this place. I feel the mumbling of anger ruminating in my belly and have a horrid thought of wishing harm on someone who has said something hurtful to me or ignored my needs. But, because of the steps I take on a daily basis to stay close to God, the moment – or day – passes and I am reminded of the freedom and peace that comes from accepting all of God’s people exactly where they are today. And my heart swells with gratitude again.

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