Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Confessions of a Conditional Forgiver

I am a confronter.

I am not one to let problems sit and simmer until I feel ready to blow. I am not one to push issues aside and pretend they don't exist. I prefer to deal with stuff head-on.

On the other hand, I am also very quick to forgive. Once something is out on the table and has been discussed, I'm ready to let go and move forward.

Recently, I've been feeling like God keeps telling me to skip step one and move right to step two. Forgive, let go, and move forward - no confrontation. But my human nature fights against that, telling me that in doing so, I'm avoiding the issue and letting those who hurt me off the hook.

It's not like I think they need to be punished, but that if someone causes a hurt they need to be made aware. After all, if they don't know they've hurt me, what's to stop them from doing it again?

The family member whose neglect of both me and my kids ought to know that we feel ignored, right?

The family member who has nothing to say to me on Facebook when I share my life, but insists on commenting when I post anything that is not agreeable - that person should at least know that all negative and no positive hurts, right?

The friend(s) who don't seem to be as interested as putting in the effort as I am to maintain our friendship need to be told that my feelings are hurt, right?

The friend who inadvertently betrayed my confidence and shared a private hurt publicly - that friend doesn't deserve to be shamed or anything, but really should know that I feel betrayed, right?

I mean, if people never even know that they've hurt someone, how can they prevent it from happening again? Right? Am I right, here?

Some folks won't forgive until they believe a person has truly changed. Some people won't forgive unless there's restitution. Some won't forgive until they get an apology.

I've always prided myself on my forgiving nature. I don't require changed people, restitution, or even an apology. I just want the person to know how I feel. Then I can forgive, no problem!

I've always been told that being willing to confront, in a loving way, is a good thing...Especially as compared to being non-confrontational or an avoider. In fact, learning to confront others in a way that does not leave them feeling hurt or attacked but provides them with new awareness and insight is a skill! At least, that's what I've been told. And that's what I've believed.

But in God's eyes, unforgiveness is unforgiveness. In His Kingdom, forgiveness is not supposed to be conditional.

I realize that I've been using my skills in confrontation as a means of putting conditions on my forgiveness.

So how do I move into free forgiveness? The kind of forgiveness that is offered without any conditions? Without any confrontation? Without any "letting people know" anything?

Here are three truths I'm trying to remind myself of, as I bite my tongue (and hold my fingers) and learn to unconditionally forgive:

1. Offering forgiveness does not let someone off the hook. My job is not justice or even creating awareness. Those are God's jobs. He will convict when someone does wrong. He will ensure that justice - His way - is served. Whether I forgive or not, He will deal with each person how He sees fit.

2. Offering forgiveness does set me free. The only person held captive by my unforgiveness is me. My emotions are tangled up. My tension level is high. My stomach is in knots. The unaware offender is, well, blissfully unaware. And those who offend knowingly are fooled into believing that they feel better for it. I'm the only one here who is stuck, hurting.

3. I have been commanded to forgive. Not everyone knows and loves God, which - in some ways - makes their hurtfulness less wrong. But I do know and love God. And if I choose to wallow in unforgiveness, I am wrong. Wrong with people and wrong with Him. If I want to be right with my God, I must forgive without conditions.

Forgiveness is not like writing a blank cheque, allowing someone the opportunity to take whatever they want. Forgiveness is more like taking someone's IOU and stamping it "paid in full," releasing them of the debt they owe. And if we refuse to forgive the debts owed to us by others, how can we expect our debt to be forgiven by the One who paid for us?

So for today, as I wrestle with my desire to confront, I will take my confrontations to God. I will remind Him of His job - to convict, to serve justice. I will pour out my hurt feelings and frustrations to Him and allow His awareness of my feelings to be my comfort. And I will try to let go - not to forget or avoid or pretend, but to just forgive.

Is there a hurt that you're struggling to forgive today? I would love to pray for you.

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