“I really want to forgive; but I can’t. They hurt me. They don’t deserve to be forgiven. I feel like my hurt will never go away. Why should they be let off the hook by me? I know I should; but I don’t want to. Why should I? Why should I forgive when they aren’t even sorry?”
I had to ask myself those same questions about my Boy Scout leader when he sexually abused me for over 10 years.
Bruce is his name. Some might wonder, how could anyone ever forgive a man that would do something like that?
Sexual abuse was not the only harm imposed on me. When I told my mother . . . she didn’t believe me. That hurt more than Bruce’s abuse did. How could I forgive a mother who doesn’t believe her own son?
No matter how much I wanted and waited for apologies – they never came. My mom already passed away, and an apology probably will never come from Bruce.
The gnawing bitterness and resentment will kill you emotionally – that’s what it was doing to me. A stranglehold. I wanted to be able to willingly forgive my mother more than just by obligation – and I knew I needed to forgive Bruce for my sanity.
If Bruce and my mother weren’t enough, I continued to be tread upon by some who needed more forgiveness than even they did. Betrayal had become my normal. Dwelling on it did as well. I thought I could reference all the forgiveness scripture I could find and convince myself it would work. I pretended that it did; up until I saw Bruce face to face again.
God quickly reminded me that it was He who had brought me through the abuse, chaos and loss in my life in the first place. Otherwise, I would not be here today.
Yet, I still wondered if God could really, truly get me through to that tough forgiveness part.
My foolish-self wised up through a forgiveness seminar. God shared his wisdom through a man named Dean Smith, founder of Live to Forgive Ministries.
Some might think, “What could be worse than being sexually abused for 10 years?” Well, Dean’s stepfather, Bob, brutally took the life of his mother by killing her with a baseball bat. Dean was only 12 years old.
Dean forgave Bob.
I knew if someone could forgive another person for doing something so horrific, I needed to listen.
Dean says, “Through God’s love, my focus was redirected from my own tragedy to His awesome grace. Get honest with God about the ‘Bobs’ in your life.” My “Bob” was Bruce. Not to mention all the other “Bobs” I still had encircling my soul. His words resonated with me; especially, “One step of forgiveness can lead to a lifetime of blessings.” I wanted those blessings!
Dean got through to me, and taught me what God wanted me to know. It was apparent what had begun to stir up in me – the wanting to forgive. Then, the blessings began to flow. Not in the form of monetary things; but a peace He placed inside of me. God’s priceless gift given abundantly when I finally let go and let Him help me forgive Bruce.
His peace is more satisfying than any apology could ever be! Thank You, Lord.
"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
What I’ve learned; and want to relay is, rather than using these words in a context of complaining just to talk ourselves out of forgiving, transform them into a prayer of purpose and use them to talk with God instead:
“Lord, I really want to forgive; but I can’t. They hurt me. They don’t deserve to be forgiven. I feel like my hurt will never go away. Why should they be let off the hook by me? I know I should; but I don’t want to. Why should I? Why should I forgive when they aren’t even sorry?” “Lord, please show me how to forgive like you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
Be deliberate, be prayerful, and see how the Holy Spirit will work in you, rejuvenate your life and release you from the burden of unforgiveness. It’s not about them anymore. You are worth more than what hurts. You are worth more to Him.
Thomas Gregory Stewart is the author of The Broken Scout: A Story of Abuse and Redemption (April 4, 2017, Redemption Press).
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/smphoto
Publication date: April 12, 2017