How many times, as a child, did you fall down, scrape your knee, and run into your house screaming with pain for Mommy to make it all better? Mommy would scoop you up in her arms, take a look at the wound, wash it off, give it a kiss, put you down and watch you get your composure, as much composure as a three-year old could have, then run out the door to get on with life.
What was it about the kiss and Mommy’s tenderness that made it all better? How did you instinctively know that, with Mommy’s touch, the scrape would no longer matter? You know, by experience, the scrape was still burning even as you ran back outside to play with your friends and yet, you just kept moving. Later, Mommy would ask how the knee was doing or would take a look when giving you a bath. It may be red and even getting infected, but you had enjoyed the entire afternoon outside with friends.
Isn’t it amazing how, as a child, it seems easier to pick oneself back up, feel the pain but do it anyway? As an adult, I think our mind gets in the way. We continually process each hurt, each wound, until it turns into unforgiveness and then even bitterness. We allow those in our life that have the greatest influence to become our pacesetters. We compare each life decision with the one whom we admire the most. Even when that one may not have their lives together; it seems natural to still live in the comparison game.
You see, as adults, chances are we’ve all been hurt. But it’s not okay to stay hurt. As that little child, you knew you were hurt but you did not want to miss out on the game with the guys. So, you played wounded. You still had the boo-boo on the knee, it was still screaming that you had scraped it, and yet, you did not allow it to determine your afternoon of life.
So, as adults, you cannot stay hurt or it turns into unforgiveness, and unforgiveness is like drinking strychnine and waiting for the other fellow to die. Through experience, I can tell you that forgiveness is the only way to break out of the unforgiveness strangulation and live life fully. I remember a night, 3 am to be exact, in my life when I could not carry unforgiveness another moment. It was robbing me of my sleep and I could no longer function as the woman God had created me to be by carrying so much daily baggage.
Yes, I had a right to be upset. I had been deeply wounded by the one person whom I trusted to cover me in spite of my behaviors. Yet, this one person let me down. In fact, I had no idea how in the world to go on after the fall. Here I was, alone, 3 am, and trying to figure how I would live in my upside world where I felt like the world was on top of me. I determined during that time that I would write a book and name it, “One Day I’m On Top of the World and the Next Day, the World is on Top of Me.” I was even wearing rose-colored glasses so I could see a prettier world than I was experiencing. Isn’t that nonsense? Of course, eventually I was able to take a step forward and begin a forgiving process that took quite a while.
To even begin the process, I needed to know more about me and why I was allowing someone else to control my attitude about life. I had not failed that person. That person had failed me. Yet, it was devastating me to even begin the process of figuring out my tomorrow. I knew, I have been counseling and working with people my entire life, that forgiveness was the only way to remove the chain of hurt followed by bitterness so I could be free. In this life, we all know you just have to forgive again and again.
Even as that toddler who had fallen one day and had sustained a boo-boo on the knee, there was no guarantee that he would not repeat the process the next day. He could easily have fallen again and Mommy could have heard that same pitiable wail as he ran through the door one more time for that love and care.
There was a story in the Bible in the book of Matthew chapter eighteen where the man, Peter, asks Jesus how many times should he forgive his brother who had sinned against him. Peter then asked was it seven times. Jesus responded that he should forgive seventy times seven. That would be 490 times in a day! Wow! Here I was trying to figure how I could forgive this one occurrence that had zapped my peace and stolen my sleep while Jesus was saying I should be forgiving 490 times in a day.
You know, I realize that this scripture was totally what I needed to hear because it wasn’t about me trying to get even for that person who had wounded me. It was about me trying to get free so I could get my peace back, my sleep back. So, years later, I can tell you that we might just have to forgive someone multiple times, even in the same day. We might live with this person or work with him or have her as a permanent fixture in our lives.
One more lesson I learned during this season was that you don’t have to continually put yourself in a position to be wronged or harmed by that irregular person in your life. Sometimes nothing changes in the natural, but you can change by letting go of those hurtful instances. Just because you forgive does not mean you must keep experiencing the same hurt again and again. Even the toddler learned what caused his wounds and he avoided the swing or merry-go-round until he was mature enough to handle it. For you, the adult, it’s not just about maturity but it’s about living in peace and freedom. It’s a decision that only you can make!