What it Really Means to Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt You

I’ve been hurt before. I’ve felt abandoned by friends and had mean things said about me. I’ve gone through a lot. But nothing compares to what I’ve been dealing with the past couple of months (read my short blog here for reference).

As I’ve struggled through this season of life, my first priority was survival. I had to get through the hardest weeks first, which was a very difficult thing to do. Then I got my own apartment and physically distanced myself from the situation. I adopted a cat and started going to a new church (and joined a life group). I changed the things I could control so that I felt like I was starting over. I wrote poetry and spent hours with my therapist processing my emotions. I listened to a lot of music, both sad and inspiring. I truly started healing.

I’ve known from the beginning that I need to forgive my ex for what he did. However, I’ve been patient with myself because I knew I needed to focus on me for a while. I needed to clean the wound before I could have any hope of it getting better.

And I’ll be honest, I forgot about the need to forgive for a while. I got busy. I didn’t think about him for weeks. I was doing well.

And then social distancing (to fight against COVID-19) happened. I live alone and have had very limited interactions with other people for two weeks now. This has caused me to think and reflect. It has caused wounds to start bleeding again. It has caused anger and sadness and regret to bubble up inside of me.

A friend I went to high school with got married, and I saw video clips from her wedding. I saw how joyful it was. I saw how connected to God both she and her spouse were. I felt myself regretting ever getting married in the first place. Let’s get real: I’ve dealt with a lot of anger. My therapist talked to me about the five steps of grief, and I thought I had gone through everything and just skipped the anger part. Well, I was wrong- it’s here now.

I’ve looked through a lot of pictures and memories, and have stewed in anger and regret. My ex was a part of my life for five years, which is a quarter of my life. He was there through a lot of milestones, like graduating high school, starting college and my adult life, and when I did the Disney College Program. All of my memories around these huge events include him. For a long time, I’ve let this hurt. I even told my sister that I’m not sure if I ever want to get into another relationship again because the painful fallout and memories aren’t worth it.

But do I really regret my relationship? I hate how it ended, I don’t think that will ever go away. I’m not sure the pain of that will ever go away either. But the memories, the good times, the milestones- will I always hate them because of him? Do I want to give him that much power over my life?

Thinking through these things made me realize- this is the point of forgiveness. When people say that you need to forgive people for you, not them, this is why. To let go of the anger and pain, to be able to look back at the last five years of my life with joy instead of regret, I need to forgive him.

Obviously, there are other reasons to forgive. I need to forgive for him, even if he never knows it. I need to forgive because Jesus forgave me, and I strive to be like Jesus in every way I can. But for now, if my reasons for forgiveness start selfish, I think that’s okay. Forgiveness is forgiveness, no matter how it comes about.

Knowing why I need to forgive is half the battle. I want to forgive so that I can look at my past and smile rather than shake my fists, and so that maybe one day if I meet a man that I really like, I’ll feel ready to pursue a relationship rather than scorning love forever.

Now that I finally have a reason to forgive my ex, I need to work on forgiving. This part seems hard, but I’m further than I was before. A month ago, forgiveness seemed impossible. Now, it seems not only possible, but likely.

I think it’s important to realize that forgiveness doesn’t excuse someone’s behavior. It also doesn’t mean I have to reconcile our relationship. Forgiveness is simply allowing myself to heal from the damage that was done and move on without giving the past control over my future.

I am not an expert on forgiveness, but I know someone who is. Jesus is the ultimate model of forgiveness. Something He did stands out to me especially: He washed Judas’s feet. He knew Judas was just hours from betraying Him, that He would die because of this person that was supposed to be one of His closest friends, yet Jesus still washed Judas’s feet. I’m not sure if I could wash my ex’s feet after what he did. But Jesus did it, and I know He would do it again.

Human emotions are ever-changing. I know that even after I forgive, I’ll still have days where I feel anger and regret. It will come and go, just like every other emotion I experience. That’s why it’s important not to depend on myself to keep this up. I need to depend on the One who never changes: Jesus.

Laying something this heavy at Jesus’s feet is the only solution. I cannot forgive my ex on my own. Honestly, I’m sure most people would be completely understanding if I never forgave him. But Jesus says I should forgive seventy times seven times. Not literally 490 times, but as many times as I need to until it stops being a conscious, active decision.

God can forgive, and He already has. He can help me forgive, and He will help me forgive over and over. I just have to lay it at His feet and surrender my “right” to feel angry and hurt. I have to surrender my frustrations and regret and accept the fact that my ex was a huge part of my life, and now he isn’t. That kind of stuff happens. It hurts, but it isn’t the end of the world. Forgiveness is giving up control so that I can take back control in other areas.

This is still something I’m working on. I’m not sure when I’ll get there, but I know through prayer, I will get there. Forgiveness is hard, but boy is it necessary. I can only hope that it will be worth it. Only by God’s grace.

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