1: to grant pardon for or remission
2: to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
3: to cease to feel resentment against: to forgive one’s enemies.
I recently read a book by Dr Joseph Nipah called The Hidden Power of Forgiveness, here he details what the Bible says about forgiveness and I highly recommend it for any believer that is struggling with this. After reading this book I realised that no matter how hard I tried to change my character and no matter how much work I put into my self-improvement if I was full of bitterness and an unforgiving spirit, I would never become the person I wanted to be. I looked at these traits as a poison that would spread in my body, infecting all aspects of my life unless something was done… fast.
Being bitter is more than just holding a grudge or disliking someone. For me, bitterness meant that being around certain people or in certain situations made me physically sick. Consumed with anger and pain I would sometimes experience sleepless nights, stress, anxiety and even mild depression- all which have adverse effects on the physical body. Such feelings of bitterness can be made even worse when you aren’t in a position where you can simply remove yourself, but this to me is a true test of your love for God and dedication to your spiritual walk (Colossians 3:12-14).
Having the power to overcome such hate with love is an utmost display of love and the Bible teaches us to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew 12:31). After meditating on this for a while it dawned on me that failing to love those that had hurt me meant that I was holding back on truly loving myself. If I was the true Christian that I thought, that meant that the love I was showing to those around me was a reflection of how much I loved myself; ultimately if I was allowing myself to grow strong in anger and damage my own mental health I didn’t have much love for myself.
Recognising this was the first step. The next step was humbling myself enough to ask for help, and who better to ask than the author of love (1 John 4:16). Overcoming hate that may have had years to brew up in you won’t be easy but to be successful you have to have faith that it is possible to love (Galatians 5:6). Wait and listen for guidance, I truly believe that if you come to God with a willing heart He will lead you in the right direction (Jeremiah 33:3). The situation you are in will affect how you deal with your feelings; for me, one of the first things I had to learn to do was avoid finding faults, instead, I would make a list of all the positive things about my relationship with this person every time we came in contact. It may sound excessive, but for me to let go of the bitterness I had to replace it with love: the antidote.
Praying about your situation is key, but don’t think that this means you won’t have to make some practical steps (1 John 3:18). Your aim is to literally purge yourself of certain feelings towards something/someone- I wish I could provide a list with ten easy steps to follow but I can’t tell you how to do this because I don’t know what you’re dealing with. Don’t be surprised if you start to face more temptation after making this conscious decision, be prepared to fight it.
I know that not everyone reading this is a Christian, but everyone deals with hurt and will need to forgive at some point in their lives. Remind yourself that this is a decision that you will be making to benefit you and no one else. You should have enough self-love to not want to inflict any more pain on yourself. Find your release. If you need to sit down and have a talk with someone that has hurt you, do so. But you need to keep in mind that this is a decision that you are making for yourself and you are responsible for accomplishing it- you cannot give up after five months because so and so didn’t show remorse. Sometimes we are forced to forgive people without apology and this will be difficult, but it isn’t impossible.
I spoke to a lot of friends recently, both Christian and non-Christian and something that I heard quite often was “I’m fine with the way things are”, I have even said this myself a few times. But is this true? As a Christian, it is important to remember that God forgives us according to how we forgive others, be sure not to block your own blessings because you are unable to let go of the hurt. Do not be fooled into thinking you can continue to live a fruitful Christian life if you aren’t allowing God to dwell in you fully (Luke 6:37, Matthew 6:12, Matthew 11:25).
I hope this has caused you to think more deeply about your character. I know there are plenty of Christian blogs, websites, videos and books that will discuss this in much greater detail, as always this is just me sharing some of my experiences 🙂
I came across this video by Heather Lindsey that you may also find helpful: