I Won’t Forgive

I don’t think I normally have a lot of trouble forgiving people and moving on with life. I know people make mistakes and I make mistakes and you just have to deal with it and let go. Lately though, something that happened years ago has kept coming to the forefront of my mind. Every time I think about it, I think I will never forgive that person, I will never love them, I will never let go. I know bitterness destroys people. I know refusing to forgive hurts me more than it will ever hurt the other person because it will eat away at me without them ever knowing. Still I felt what this person did was unforgivable and I also felt very strongly that forgiving meant letting what they did be okay. It meant letting them off the hook and acting like nothing ever happened. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t pretend everything was okay and just go on with life like nothing ever happened.

Then earlier this week I read a blog post by Don Miller that got me thinking. Miller talked about playing the victim and using unforgiveness to control and hurt people. Miller’s words made me realize I was telling myself that if I just keep this anger hot and fresh inside of me then that person will never be able to get close enough to hurt me again. If I keep this wound open then I will always remember why this person is unforgivable and so deserving of my anger. Miller’s post bothered me but it didn’t bother me enough to make me change anything; it just got me thinking in the right direction.

Then today I was reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and the chapter I opened up to was called “Forgiveness.” Great. The chapter after that was called “The Great Sin” (referring to pride). Fantastic. And finally the next chapter was called “Charity” (referring to love of course). Super. There I was snuggled up on the couch with a big mug of hot tea ready for an afternoon of encouraging words from one of my favorite authors–that is not what I got. What I got was a heart and soul on fire with conviction. What a got were hard answers to the hard questions I have been asking God (How can I forgive this person? Followed by I will not forgive this person. How can I love this person? Followed by I will not love this person). I have noticed lately when I ask God a question that I think doesn’t have an answer, he answers me anyway whether I like or not.

In the chapter about forgiveness, Lewis says the following: “‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.’ There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven (Mere Christianity, p.116). These words shook me up a little bit. It bothered me to think that if I can’t get past this anger inside of me then God is by no means obligated to forgive my sins either.

Lewis goes on to say: “We might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbour as yourself means. I have to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself? Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. So apparently ‘Love your neighbour’ does not mean ‘feel fond of him’ or ‘find him attractive’. …So loving my enemies does not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief. For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain that they are. Go a step further. In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. … For a long time I used to think this was a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life–namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. … In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said need be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again. …Now a step further. Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment–even to death. If you had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it. In other words, something inside us, the feeling of resentment, the feeling that wants to get one’s own back, must be simply killed. I do not mean that anyone can decide this moment that he will never feel it any more. That is not how things happen. I mean that every time it bobs its head up, day after day, year after year, all our lives long, we must hit it on the head. It is hard work, but the attempt is not impossible. … That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not” (Mere Christianity, pp. 116-118 & 120, italics mine).

As I said before, my big hang-up with forgiving this particular person was the idea of pretending what they did was okay and acting like I’m just going to forget about it. What they did will never be okay, and unfortunately, I’ll never be able to forget about it either. But Lewis made me realize forgetting and pretending everything is perfectly fine is not what God is asking me to do; that is not forgiveness. When I realized forgiveness is wanting good for the other person, well, that is still hard to do, but it doesn’t feel like a lie–it doesn’t feel impossible. When I was telling God I wouldn’t forgive this person, I kept telling him I wanted to but it just wasn’t possible. I told God he would have to forgive this person for me because I couldn’t do it or he would just have to forgive me for my own unforgiveness–I genuinely felt there was no other answer, no other way to solve the problem. I realize now there is a way but it required I first understand what forgiveness really is and what I must do to offer this forgiveness. I am so relieved to know that this anger, even though it will rear its head again, does not have to hang over and control me forever.

I am so thankful God not only forgives me but patiently teaches me how to offer that same forgiveness to others in the darkest hour.

28 thoughts on “I Won’t Forgive

  1. Reblogged this on OnlyArt and commented:
    “…Lewis made me realize forgetting and pretending everything is perfectly fine is not what God is asking me to do; that is not forgiveness. When I realized forgiveness is wanting good for the other person, well, that is still hard to do, but it doesn’t feel like a lie–it doesn’t feel impossible.”

    I really like this blog. I, myself, have struggled with forgiveness in some situations, especially situations that have the potential and are most likey to happen again. Thanks for writing this blog and bringing that C.S. Lewis quote to my attention. I will definitely have to go read Mere Christianity soon!

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  2. Hey….

    Simple Amazing.

    Probably i pickup a message from your post that i should forgive only then god will forgive my sins…

    Some weird incident happened in my life last year and i was simply not letting it go… I have spent so much time pondering over the same thing again and again…

    So thanks for this post…

    Regards
    Sundari

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  3. Pingback: it sure took a long time… | kindraccoon

  4. It’s kind of like God was speaking to through your post. I have been on the fence about forgiveness for a long time. I felt and I guess still feel the same about forgiveness. I have always felt that if I forgave I’d be saying that what the person did was okay and acceptable. I never could come to terms with that. I didnt want to forgive because for me the person should know they did something wrong and should be remorseful. Then I came accross a pinterest posting and it said “Forgive. Not because they deserve it but because you deserve it” and its so true. Holding on to the anger just makes you feel like a prisoner.

    Thanks for the post!!

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  5. This post was a great reminder to me. I am a Christian as well trying to surrendur to God all of the situations I am faced with and praying that He helps me to forgive those who have done wrong to me. I am currently going through a situation where my dad has broken promises he made to me again and has wrongfully hurt me. This post was a great reminder to me in this struggle that I need to forgive my dad for doing wrong against me and start praying that through this situation he gets the help he needs and finds his own personal relationship with Christ. I have also learned that forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to let that person who did you wrong have an active role in your life. I believe you should let the person know you have forgiven them and let them know you are praying for them. Then it is super important to let them know your boundaries. Some boundaries I have set with my dad when he wronged me in the past are: I would call him when I was ready to talk and he had to respect that and wait, I wanted to see him on my terms and not his, and I need to see a change in his life before I can begin trusting him again. These are just a few examples of setting boundaries and of course they aren’t going to be the same in other situations. Forgiveness is a hard thing to master and we will probably never get it right. Forgiveness is constantly a process and looks different for everyone. Thank you for this great reminder of what forgiveness is supposed to look like in the life of a Christian.

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  6. For a long time, I thought forgiveness meant that I had to continue the relationship with the person who hurt me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have been blessed with a wonderful mentor for the last year and she has taught me that forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person at all. It is about you and your relationship with God. It also does not mean that you “forget” how that person wronged you. It just doesn’t keep you in bondage.

    Unforgiveness is like you have a chain around your wrist and they have one around their necks and you are dragging them everywhere with you. When you forgive someone, you release the chains and that is when you can experience true freedom.

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  7. I needed this. I am generally quite a forgiving person. I like to move on and love life to its fullest. For about two years I have been unable to forgive someone. This helps immensely. Your honesty speaks to the hearts of many, thank you for posting.

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  8. My biggest struggle when it comes to forgiving someone is the thought that even if I forgive the person, the offense is still bound to happen again. I know Jesus taught us to forgive 70 times 7. But I refuse to restore the rapport with the person not necessarily to hurt the person but for my own “protection”. I don’t want to go through the same disappointment and pain of betrayal again. I’m still learning…and struggling…to forgive and let go.

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  9. We share similar theologies and some of my posts touch on the same issues. I also wrote essentially that unforgiveness is essentially creating our own prison, not to mention hindering our own forgiveness from God. C.S. Lewis is one of the Authors I love to read when I want someone to make me think 🙂

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  10. This is lovely. Forgiveness is such a big issue. Sometimes people suggest that we have to forgive without realizing how big a process it is. We often forget that forgiving does not mean saying what was done to us was okay. I just wrote a post about a man who was given two years for sexually abusing young hockey players in Toronto. There is much outrage about this. The comments I got were interesting…..and I think some of your thoughts about forgiveness are appropriate even for such a horrific crime and individual. You’ve given me food for thought. Thanks.

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  11. I think I’ve struggled through similar feelings as you in regards to anger and forgiveness. Should I forgive someone who I believe in my heart of hearts does not deserve it just to make myself feel better? Should I forgive someone an “unforgivable” sin because it’s “the right thing to do”? Will I stop being angry by forgiving them? There was a person in my life who hurt me in such a way that I can honestly say I hate them. My definition of hate does not mean that I wish evil upon them or want to inflict harm on them, but rather I would simply not feel sad if they ceased to exist. Despite all those quotes that say it is better to forgive and so on, I don’t see the point. They are unrepentant– they don’t even want my forgiveness. I would not feel better or less angry by forgiving them. Instead I have learned to channel my angry into productive outlets. I have learned multitudes from doing this– about myself, about that person, and about the world. Nowadays I hardly think about that person and what they did, or if it surfaces in my mind it is always within a larger context. And the strange thing is that I feel so much less angry, too! So, I guess since all those famous people quoted above are all about forgiveness, I want to validate your right to not forgive. Whenever and however you choose to forgive (which may or may not be never), I hope you do it because you feel like you should and need to, not because C.S. Lewis or Buddha suggested you do. Thank you for this very insightful and thought-provoking post!

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    • Thank you for a different perspective on what’s been said. I do think if you are going to forgive, that forgiveness needs to come from a genuine place inside yourself where you are ready to let go and move forward and not just because someone else told you this is what you need to do.

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  12. oh, did i resonate with this! i remember about six years ago listening to Joyce Meyer on CD, and she talked about forgiving her father after 15 years of molestation. i immediately became angry, and thought, impossible! i would never forgive something that horrible! then she shared a quote that has stuck with me since: “unforgiveness is like taking poison and hoping your enemy will die.” that was true of me then, and in time, God has changed my heart (ezekiel 36:26).

    i also find wisdom in the words of CS Lewis. i just want to encourage you to be kind with yourself on this journey. God is big enough to change your heart, but it may take time.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  13. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.~Paul Boese

    To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you. ~Lewis B. Smedes

    Remembering a wrong is like carrying a burden on the mind.~Buddha

    The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.~Mahatma Gandhi

    Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others. ~Lama Yeshe

    The greatest obstacle to connecting with our joy is resentment. ~Pema Chodron

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      • Dear Kari,

        I clearly understand how forgiveness does pays a million ways of giving us a better future and blessings from God.Currently i’m moving on after enduring a period of dark hours due to my fails relationship.Yet,last time i texted my ex,i shower him with so much hatred which it was both our fault but i made it his fault entirely for some certain reason.And one of the reason i was furious,he was getting married to his ex before me,when we only broke it off a couple of month back.Now i feel so much better,relaxed while moving on,moving to a new place,work and making new friends.And a little space in the bottom of my heart i feel that its ok for me letting my ex married and be happy.I don’t want him to feel pressured that we weren’t in good terms after the break up.I wish him the best.So im just curious that should i text him telling him that i forgive him and wishes him the best future endure or do i just keep silent?After reading your post,i feel that i need to let go all of my hatred and regain self-forgiveness to myself and others that i have loved.

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        • Hi, thanks for sharing your story and being so open. I think it’s fine to text him and let him know you’re moving on and not holding anything against him and are happy for him moving forward (if that’s how you really feel). After that, it’s probably best to leave communication with him behind—let him go on with his life and you continue moving forward with yours. God bless as you move forward!

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