What I’m learning these days about forgiveness

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

On Sunday evening, Jason was sharing his heart with me. He was talking about a recent hurt and all the feelings it brought up when he saw this person that had hurt him. Listening to him opened up some wounds that I thought were fairly healed and even while I was on my run this morning, I recognized the bitter weeds taking up space in my heart.

After rolling my eyes and thinking – this is unbelievable that I’m here again – does the pain ever go away?! I said to myself – I have forgiven (this person) and I will forgive again.

Forgiveness is one of the most mysterious, most fascinating, most gut-wrenching and also freeing experiences I’ve ever endured. (Can I get an Amen?!)

I have to confess that I didn’t have much experience in the forgiveness arena until life blew up some 16 years ago. I really thought back then that forgiveness was what we used, as Christians, to circumvent the healing process and to move forward and not look back. In essence, I adhered to the “forgive and forget” mentality.

While I look back and am in some ways horrified by what I once believed, I’m equally as horrified that this notion – of forgiving and moving on – is still what a lot of folks adhere to. For real – it is 2019. Back in the early 2000’s – maybe we didn’t know any better but today?! Come on!

I wrote a post on myths about forgiveness for Focus on the Family last summer that you can look at here. Since then, God has given me more opportunities to work on forgiveness – enter: my convo with Jason on Sunday evening + this morning’s run. I am grateful for the school-of-hard-knocks-forgiveness-training that I went through with J and all that I have learned. And yet, I find that it is still hard work.

If you are reading this and grappling with forgiveness with the one that betrayed you, or maybe with someone else in your life – I first want you to know that I see you. This forgiveness work is tough stuff for most. I’m on the journey with you and I get it. I hope my recent findings are a source of comfort and strength for you as you keep plowing ahead.

#1 – Recognizing that sometimes when I need to forgive (again) for things I have already forgiven – it also means there is more grief work to do

Ladies – I am oftentimes shocked at how much grief is inside of me. I’m a feeler, this is true. And – I am also beginning to truly appreciate that grief might just take a life time.

Before you start to get truly petrified by my last statement – let me just say that I believe grieving evolves overtime. Early on, grief is all-encompassing, right under the surface, and it feels like it just might take us down for good. However, if we do good grief work early on in our processes – it starts to become more manageable, more contained. Not all the time contained, but more often than not. Then the time comes when we feel like – yep, we have grieved all we needed to.

And yet, what I have found is there are still pockets of grief that I haven’t worked through. I don’t realize this until I move through life and encounter new experiences – some of which force me to grieve something in a whole new way. (Case in point, my conversation with Jason on Sunday evening and how what he experienced and the hurt he was feeling caused me to see that yes, I still had some hurt to work through as well.)

So what I am working on in real time, today, is giving myself space and grace to recognize that when I start to feel hurt over something from the past – it means there is a pocket of grief that needs to be tended to. Instead of giving myself a hard time for needing to forgive again, I am working on giving myself space to grieve. In other words, even after all the grief and forgiveness work I’ve done in this particular situation, I am allowing myself to grieve and forgive a little more. And I’m expecting it to be much speedier!

#2 – Jesus commands us to forgive and while I used to think this was really bad news, I now see it as good news.

I read an article a while back that talked about how forgiveness is an imperative. It’s a commandment to forgive others.

I have to admit – I have never liked this. I don’t like being told what to do and especially when it comes to something as downright difficult as forgiveness!

But the article also stated that if Jesus tells us we must forgive others – that means he has given us the ability to do so! In addition, there are no time constraints given to us about forgiveness work.

This is good news – we can do it and we can take our time.

#3 – Forgiveness work cultivates a posture of humility

I have to tell you that almost nothing draws me closer to God than recognizing my need to forgive. I go through life feeling like I’ve got a handle on things and then wham – out of nowhere – I start to sense the bitterness and resentment and it takes me to my knees.

And that’s what humility is all about. Literally it means to bend the knee or to be lowly. When I realize my need to forgive another – I realize that I can’t do it without God’s mighty hand. I can come with a willing heart (and a lot of resistance) but his supernatural power must intercede on my behalf and make the impossible something truly possible.

Ladies, freedom awaits you on your journey toward forgiveness. Take your time, grieve as much as you can, know that you are capable and also remember that it will draw you closer to God.

xo – Shelley

7 thoughts on “What I’m learning these days about forgiveness

  1. L

    July 25, 2019  |  12:31 pm

    Oh, this is so good, Shelley!! The humility part of forgiveness, having to face once more the reality that I am wholly dependent on God for anything good in myself or from life….. and the reassurance that it takes time (maybe that’s why Jesus told Peter seventy times seven? he knew it wouldn’t often be a one-time deal?). So encouraging to be reminded of this. Thank you!!

    • Shelley Martinkus

      July 25, 2019  |  04:58 pm

      You are so welcome L! I have read before that the 70 times 7 points us away from a numerical standard and more toward a heart standard. To continue to forgive, how ever many times it takes (for the same dang thing we are trying to forgive) until our hearts aren’t bitter and resentful. Humbling for sure. Thanks for your comments! xo – Shelley

  2. Georgette Wells

    July 25, 2019  |  12:36 pm

    Shelly, thanks for your words of wisdom/insight. Grief work has absolutely been a major part of me being able to forgive, however, I haven’t always labeled it as such. THANK YOU for helping me to identify(put a name too) that phase of my forgiveness journeys.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      July 25, 2019  |  04:56 pm

      Awe! Thank you Georgette! That is huge when we can identify what we are experiencing and label it as grief. For me, it normalizes it and helps me know that what I am experiencing is moving me towards healing. xo – Shelley

  3. Laurie

    July 26, 2019  |  02:33 pm

    Thank you for this post. Forgiveness is the hardest thing I am struggling with now. You and I have spoken via email about this very subject. I understand that my h has a debt that he can never repay and I need to forgive that debt. BUT…what do I do with all the “junk” that was his and is now mine? There are times when I still lash out…does that mean I am not ready to forgive? I think I can forgive the debt but what on earth do I do with all the crap that still comes flooding in?
    Thanks for all you do!

  4. Sue

    September 18, 2019  |  09:14 am

    I came across your blog today as I lay here in tears, in the guest room, over yet again another hurt exposed I must work through – and forgive. The grief is unbearable, and sometimes I feel I just can’t do it anymore. The refiners fire is consuming me; I just want it done, need it done so the pain will stop.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      September 18, 2019  |  10:07 am

      I’m so sorry for your pain Sue. I hear you. Can you join me at Hope Rising in Austin in October? xo – Shelley

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