Sometimes when people talk about this—okay, often—I let it go. It flies through my head and right back out. I forgive people! I don’t hold grudges! But on closer inspection, that’s just not true. Just because I have the ability to be reasonably kind to someone who has “wronged” me, doesn’t mean that I’ve really let it go, that I’ve truly forgiven.
Recent unexplained health issues have caused me to take a second look at my unforgiveness. Does this word apply to me? Do I not let things go like I think I do? Have I not forgiven those who have hurt me in the past? I firmly believe that unforgiveness can take its toll on the body, just like anxiety (another control issue) can.
I remember my junior high and high school years were one opportunity after another to exercise forgiveness. I wasn’t the strongest in my faith back then, so I probably didn’t handle the daily dramas with much grace. For example, there was this girl who was a total Barbie doll. She was beautiful, blond, skinny, and a total boy magnet (we’ll call her Kimmie). I couldn’t stand her. We were not friends and we were not kind to one another. This was a LONG time ago, people. Recently a friend of mine, with no knowledge of Kimmie, said, “Hey, I was at the dentist’s last week, and my hygienist asked if I knew you.” When I discovered she had met Kimmie, I said, “Next time you go in, repeat these words to her: ‘Jennifer says sorry for high school.’” Seriously. How sad that I had let all that time go by and had never told this girl how sorry I was for the total heifer I had been to her in high school.
And then I think about the daily things that get under my skin. Maybe a friend is always late. Maybe a person at church snubbed me. Maybe someone said something embarrassing or unkind. I could go on and on.
In Matthew 18: 22-35, Jesus tells Peter that he has to forgive to infinity and beyond. “No, dude, you can’t just forgive once, twice, three times. You must always forgive.” (My translation.) In fact, Jesus lays it on the line and reminds us all how serious it is. He tells the story of a servant who begged his king to forgive him and let his debt go. The king took pity on him. But THEN the king found out that the servant turned around and refused to show someone else mercy. So the King THOROUGHLY punished the servant. Jesus says, “This is how God will treat you if you don’t totally forgive from your heart.”
What things are you holding onto? Don’t let them eat at you. I used to have a boss that would say, “Don’t let those people live rent-free in your head.” Don’t give those people permission to remain in your head and poison your mind, your thoughts, your health, and your walk with God.
Is it something giant you haven’t forgiven? Maybe a parent who abandoned you? An adult who left scars too deep for words? A friend who altered your friendship in an unspeakable way? Pray for God to begin the healing process. He commands us to forgive. But he also understands the cost and the pain that goes with it. But with forgiveness, comes the healing that you need to be whole.
Maybe it’s small things. A friend who said something about your clothes. Your mom hurting your feelings. Nobody noticing that new hair do. You gotta let it go. As Beth Moore says, “Stick up that hand and say, ‘I refuse to let that stick on.’”
This week, I am personally gonna try that. In fact, let’s all try that now.
Raise your right hand and stick it out like you’re gonna high five someone.
Now put on your best “I got attitude” face.
Now repeat after me: "I refuse to let that stick on."
I feel better already.