How do you forgive what seems unforgivable? Stacy Mehaffey walks us through her thinking.
By Stacy Mehaffey
Growing up, my brother and I played hard and fought harder. Although he was my best buddy, at times he could make me mad as a hornet. Our play often ended in full on knock-down-drag-out-rolling-around-on-the-ground-fisticuffs, requiring my mom to intervene. As a result of her insistence, we would begrudgingly hug it out and make up and in no time would be right back to loving each other and playing as though nothing had happened. More often than not, we were not even able to remember what had started the fight in the first place.
As I grew older, the conflicts I found myself in seemed much harder to work out but time after time I apologized when wrong and forgave when wronged. This forgiveness thing didn’t seem all that difficult.
Until it was.
When the man who had sworn to love, honor and cherish me did not keep his promise, I had to re-examine this concept we call forgiveness. There would be no hugging it out. There would be no forgetting what had been done. Making forgiveness even more unattainable, he had abused our children, leaving me with the guilt of having allowed it to happen. I eventually found the courage to leave and rebuild our lives, but it took me thirteen years and I was filled with shame and regret for having stayed so long. I was so angry at that man, not only for hurting us but for making me feel like a failure as a mother.
How do you forgive what seems unforgivable?
Eventually I came to believe that forgiveness was either something that I was unable to do or something I didn’t even know the meaning of. No matter how many times I tried, the wrong that was done to me and my children just kept coming back. I worried that if I was unable to forgive, then God would not forgive me. In desperation, I spoke to my pastor about it and he explained it like this. “Forgiveness is not about saying ‘What you did is OK. I love you and everything is just peachy.’ Forgiveness is more about choosing to send away the bad thing that keeps entering into your mind.”
Just send it away? Now that is something I can do. In fact, I had already been doing it. I mistakenly thought that because it kept coming back, I was failing, but I was wrong. The evil one will undoubtedly keep bringing up the thing with which we struggle most, in an attempt to keep us in it. If we choose to dwell there and continually think on it, that is where we fail. The fact that it comes back is not where the failure lies. The Bible says we must forgive 70 x 7 times, not because that person is going to keep wronging us that many times but because that is the number of times we must consciously choose to send it away.
There are some wrongs that may never be made right. There are some that cut so deep you will forever carry the scar. The good news is forgiveness does not require you to hug it out and go back living as things were before. If you have struggled, as I did, with forgiving what seems unforgivable, what God requires of us is not as hard as we sometimes make it.
The next time you remember an unspeakable wrong that was done to you, focus instead on making the choice to send that thought away and fill your heart and mind with the love of God and gratitude for your many blessings in life. Remember that, in order to forgive, you need only to be sure the wrong done to you doesn’t take up residence in your heart and mind. Determine to send it away. You’ve got this.
Stacy Mehaffey is an author and Occupational Therapist who lives in Southern Indiana. She recently released her new book, Even If, a true story lived and written to give hope and healing to those who find themselves in the midst of situations they would have never selected. After escaping an abusive marriage, she is now sharing her story with the hope that by being real, she will connect with the real people in this world fighting very real battles helping them to regain control of their lives and become who they were meant to be. She loves playing with her puppies, creating artistic masterpieces and exploring the world with her husband of thirteen years. Connect with Stacy at http://stacymehaffey.com/ and on Facebook.