How Can I Forgive Others Who Have Hurt Me So Much?
Don’t Tread on Me!
In the early days of United States history, many official flags carried the symbol of a rattlesnake, with the warning, “Don’t tread on me”. The early Marine Corps battle drums flag, as well as the U.S. Navy Jack are classic examples.
This warning was based on the assumption that rattlesnakes strike back if attacked. In those days however, though rattlesnakes may have been put on flags, the attitude that the only good snake was a dead snake prevailed, and the famous reptile received absolutely no respect whatsoever.
This kind of attitude has always existed. In fact, more often than not, we face it on a daily basis! Don’t know what I mean? Think about what happens the moment someone gets on our nerves! Our invisible rattles began to shake. Fumes begin rising from our nostrils, and our faces turn a dark shade of red. And then once back in the safe confines of our own home, the “heinous crime” committed by that “hideous” person dominates our thoughts and our conversations. “Oh, if only I could zap that person out of existence!”
Deep in the heart, however, our consciences may be trying to speak to us, warning us that we are straying onto dangerous ground. It’s true that we most often tend to ignore this warning, preferring instead to tread on the ground of unforgiveness. After all, why should we have to forgive such repulsive individuals?
It’s on such occasions that opening the Word of God is vital to our mental wellbeing. Take for example: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt 6:14-15 NIV)
But wait a minute! That revolting individual is diametrically opposed to my own personality. You see, unlike that vulture, I actually care about people!
But is this really true? If we truly care, we will forgive. Caring includes forgiveness. After all, we’ve all, at one time or another, managed to hurt someone!
God’s Word is firm about this subject: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25 NIV)
What does this mean?
Just this: There is no forgiveness to those who cannot forgive!
It’s quite simple, really. It all has to do with love: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
If we harbor unforgiveness, we do not love one another as we should. Instead hatred is being harboured in our hearts and this hatred, either directly or indirectly, poisons those around us.
How much did Jesus love? So much that while he was hanging on a cross, he looked straight into the eyes of his persecutors and uttered: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NIV)
Furthermore Jesus encourages us to do likewise. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” (Col 3:13-15 NIV)
Love and forgiveness and intertwined. We cannot separate the one from the other. Forgiveness is based on love, utter love. Notice the consequence of living in Christ-like love: We experience inner peace! Clearly all of this is based on the decision of whether or not to forgive, whether or not to love completely. If there is no love, there is no inner peace. Love, inner peace.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:9 NIV)
Forgiveness is truly an issue of love. We either love ourselves so much more than others that we cannot let go of the hurt they have caused us, or we love them more than ourselves, and we forgive. The ones who don’t forgive, however, are the ones in greater turmoil, for they put themselves in a vicious prison of self-pity and rancor, where torture of the soul is the greatest.
“This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” (1 John 3:10-11 NIV)
We cannot love and hate at the same time. One will dominate the other.
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” (1 John 3:14-15 NIV)
Deciding not to forgive will keep us in the shadows of death. Our little light will not be able to shine. Hatred will be too strong. It will invade our very existence. How miserable is the life of those who refuse to love!
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16-17 NIV)
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)
Jesus laid down His life, so that we could truly live. Maybe it’s time we lay down our petty grudges and experience the promised real living that Jesus is offering us. I am truly amazed at how much God loves each one of us, even though we hurt Him deeply with our actions. He forgives, and He will help us be victorious over our unforgiveness. How could it be otherwise? Love conquers everything!
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12 NIV)
Don’t tread on me! If you do, you will be loved!
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:13-14 NIV)