Recently I spoke to a friend who has come from a very troubled upbringing. She was born into a large family with nine children, with parents who clearly had their personal issues. My friend often struggled for basic human needs such as a sense of safety and love. As a consequence of this and many other issues, my friend grew up with the belief that her parents didn’t love her.
One day, at the age of eight, she got it in her head that she needed to test her theory and ran away from home. Before leaving the house, she bellowed out to her mother that she was leaving, shouting that “it wasn’t at all nice at home”. With a tiny suitcase filled with some clothes from her bedroom, she exited the house. When arriving at the end of the street, she suddenly realised, she had no place to go. Outside of her family, she didn’t know a single person whom she could escape to. The only way was back home. As she turned around, she could clearly remember the awful feeling of shame and embarrassment. At that moment, the little girl agreed to the lies; “nobody loves me” and “I am stupid”.
When I asked her if she had ever thought in the category of forgiveness, she looked at me in surprise and said that the thought had never occurred to her. Knowing her story, I can hardly blame her, but I went on to explain the effects unforgiveness can have on a person’s emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing.
unforgiveness can have a nasty impact on a person’s emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing.
One of the first steps in forgiveness is realising that forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. If for some reason we do not or cannot forgive, then this allows space for resentment, anger, fear, remuneration, and much more. We allow room for this unspoken relationship between us and the unforgiven person. Silently, mostly unspoken, but always there- in the back of our minds, waiting to jump out when we feel hurt, sad, or worse. Forgiveness can be a powerful weapon against this. Forgiveness is key.
Remember the text from Matthew 18 about how many times we need to forgive. When Peter asks Jesus this question he thinks he knows the answer by saying: “Up to seven times?” But Jesus multiplies it by seventy. What, 490 times? Can you imagine that you have to forgive someone, so many times? I think many of us would rather forget about the situation than do that, right? But what if it is related to your mother, father, sister, husband, or someone close to you, would you be able to forgive them 490 times?
Forgiveness is not saying: what they did or said did not matter. Forgiveness is giving it to Jesus and releasing the person from that hidden relationship you have with them. Releasing them is ultimately forgiving them. We need to forgive; Jesus expects this from us. Because if we do not forgive others, neither will God forgive us. And that is a scary thing, I would say. I think we owe Jesus a lot more.
Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling.
We have to tear up the I-owe-you. Some of us do not know how to forgive, it could be that we haven’t been taught. And some people do not want to forgive. They want to hold on because that creates the illusion of control. Generally speaking: “forgiveness is the release of resentment or anger, it involves a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. Forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help free you from the control of the person who harmed you”.
In the last two verses of Matthew 18, Jesus is warning us: “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you? In anger, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Wow, that is a scary and sobering thought, to be handed over to Satan and his emissaries. I am quite sure that nobody wants this for their lives. The consequences of not forgiving can have serious impacts on our life. Some people struggle with frustrations, anger, fear and anxiety or get sick. My mother was one of them.
A few years ago, my mother became very ill. She had a lot of pain in her abdomen and lost more than 10-kilo body weight, she went from 62 kilos to 51 kilos. She had to vomit a lot and could not hold down most of her food. After extensive research, she was diagnosed, as one of the few in the country, with a rare disease of her pancreas. When things got worse and worse, I one day cried out to God and begged Him to heal my mum. I also asked Him if there was anything spiritual that made her sick. And there was. God said she was suffering from a spirit of torment. When I read up on this in the bible I came across the passage from Matthew 18 and I instantly knew what the issue was, my mum struggled with unforgiveness.
My mother was brought up in a Christian home with 13 children. According to my mother, her mother terrorised the entire household. As a consequence, my mum suffered not only from physical but also emotional abuse. Even though her mother had passed away a long time ago, forgiveness was terribly hard. In her eyes, my grandmother did not deserve her forgiveness.
When I told my mum about the things God had revealed to me, she had a change of heart and together, through prayer, she decided to forgive her mother for all the wrongdoing she had done to her. She named everything. The results were amazing. From that moment on my mum was healed from her ailment. The so-called rare pancreas disease completely vanished.
My friend who recently struggled with her traumatic childhood forgave her parents and she has never felt “so light”. These are just two short examples of what unforgiveness can look like and I am aware that every story is unique. But, God is just and God is good. If you need to forgive someone, just like my mother or my friend, bring them to Jesus. Don’t wait any longer. You can do it today. It is a choice.