LEARNING TO FORGIVE: Forgiving the Monster in Your Life
A little girl hides, shaking with fear and trembling crying as she listens to her brother’s sharp howls of pain and pleas to stop as their mother beats him, again. Fear grips her seven year old body and she starts trembling uncontrollably. There is no way to escape, no one to help her and no witnesses. This child was physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually abused from the time she was seven until she was fourteen years-of-age by her biological mother.
That little girl was me. I was abused and traumatized by my biological mother behind closed doors as was my brother. The monster who abused my younger brother and I literally enjoyed hurting us and, in some sick way, it made her feel mighty and strong. The sad truth is she was abused by her father as a youngster and abusing us gave her the control she didn’t have when she was being abused. Her father beat her, her brother and their mother. It eventually stopped but by the time it did, the damage had already been done.
How do you forgive someone like that? How do begin to hand that person over to God and surrender all of your strong feelings of anger, hate, pain, vengeance and revenge? How do you get rid of the shame, rage, and open wounds that abuse leaves behind? It is not easy but it can be done. In fact, I can sum up the secret to living free from the baggage abuse leaves behind in one word or should I say name. That word and name is Jesus. Let me explain.
You see, I didn’t want to give up the hate, rage and anger I felt toward my abuser. I enjoyed hating her. I wanted her to suffer as much as she made me suffer but that was not what Jesus wanted me to do. I wrestled with God for months. I was very stubborn and I did not want to forgive my abuser but it was for my good that I did forgive her. God started speaking to my heart and He communicated to my spirit that He could not start to heal the wounds the abuse left behind if I did not forgive my abuser. That got my attention.
It was one cool day in November that I was working at my day job. It seems that all of the sermons and programming I was listening to that day on my radio were talking about forgiveness. I was in counseling at the time and attending two Bible Studies on forgiveness. Quite frankly, I was tired of hearing about it and I had made up my mind I was not and could not forgive my abuser. I wanted the healing it offered but I didn’t want to forgive. After all, my abuser had absolutely no remorse for what she had done to my brother and I. She covered up what she had done with lies and everyone believed her!
After hearing a couple sermons on forgiveness and a program on forgiveness I switched my radio to the AM station so I could listen to one of my favorite lunch time stories on Unshackled. They always had good stories of people coming to faith in Jesus and I enjoyed listening to them share the before and after of their lives. I love stories and I love hearing these stories on Unshackled. The story that day was from a lady by the name of Sharon. I don’t remember her last name or even if the story gave her last name. Sharon was abused by her mother and she ended up forgiving her mother. I remember getting up and quietly closing my office door and listening intently to Sharon’s testimony. After listening to this story I literally gave up. I knew God was not going to leave me alone until I truly forgave my mother. He had been peppering me with sermons on why I needed to forgive; He had sent programs my way where the host talked about forgiveness; and then He had this story on Unshackled all ready to go just for me to hear about a woman who was abused by her mother and how she came to forgive her.
After I listened to Sharon’s story, I quietly bowed my head and with angry hot tears streaming down my face, I forgave my mother and asked Jesus to come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior. I asked Him to take complete control of my life at that moment. I have no words to describe what happened next. It was truly a miracle. I felt this huge boulder lift from my shoulders and I felt free. My tears of anger turned to tears of joy. I felt light as a feather and totally free from all the baggage of hate, anger, vengeance, revenge, shame and hurt. Jesus had taken it all and it was gone. I jokingly asked God why He hadn’t let me surrender and forgive earlier and I felt Him speak to my spirit and say, “Child, I have been after you to forgive your mother for many months now. Why didn’t you forgive earlier?” He had me there!
After Jesus got a hold of me and I totally surrendered my heart to Him, He went right to work with His Holy Spirit and started cleaning house; on the inside. I could almost feel the broom sweeping up the mess of cobwebs inside my dusty, dirty soul. At one point I thought I heard Him sneeze! It is safe to say that I was truly a mess and was in need of some serious cleaning and healing.
So now it is your turn. I want you to think of someone right now who has hurt you. In fact, I will ask you the question: “Who has hurt you?” Name that person and what they did to you. Can you forgive that person right now? If not what is preventing you from releasing them to God? Let me see if I can list some of the reasons that might be holding you back. Maybe you want that person to suffer as much as they hurt you. Maybe you don’t think God would do a good job of thoroughly punishing that person and you want instant gratification. Maybe you enjoy blaming that person for every wrong thing in your life. Am I close? Have I hit on at least one reason?
I want you to remember there is no plan in this world you can come up with to get back at the person who hurt you. God has a better plan and it will bring you justice and Him glory and it will be His good and perfect Will and not your vengeance or revenge. Vengeance is the Lord’s and His alone. Do you know what else the Lord says? In Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus said: “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.” That is very powerful and I believe that is what the Lord meant when He told me He could not heal me until I forgave the person who abused me.
I wonder what this world would be like if we started forgiving each other. I know there is so much pain and suffering on this old earth of ours. I know full well that when we are hurting we want to hurt in return but does that ever make us feel better or justified? Maybe for a few minutes and then the guilt attaches itself to our heart and we feel worse than we did before. Forgiving one another for the hurts we cause is sometimes very difficult but very necessary if we want Jesus to forgive us and if we want to be healed from the wounds abuse leave behind.
To wrap up this article on forgiveness, I want to summarize how forgiveness works. Someone hurt you deeply and the wounds are fresh. You want to strike back and inflict a wound equally as painful but that is retaliation. In an effort to heal the wounds yourself you start coming up with all these ideas you can carry out to get even with the person who hurt you but that is not justice; that is revenge. You are stuck in the pain and mire of the abuse and wounds it left behind. There is only one way to live free from the roving thoughts of vengeance and revenge and from reliving that pain and incident over and over again. There is only one way to quell your anxious heart; only one way to stop the bleeding of your spirit. The answer is Jesus. I want to let you know that not forgiving someone who hurt you is like drinking rat poison and expecting the person who abused you to die. Who do you think will die? Think about that for just a minute. The person who drinks the poison is the one who dies. The one who harbors ill feelings toward another person – justly or unjustly – is drinking the poison that will kill them. When you release the person who abused or hurt you then you are allowing Jesus to wrap your wounds in soothing ointment and the healing can begin.
My friend, I hope you truly are able to forgive the person who hurt you. I know it isn’t easy but you can do it and you can live free but only with the help of Jesus.
For more information on this topic I would encourage you to get a copy of my book, “Surviving Abuse: A Journey to Forgiveness and Freedom.” In the book, I share my true story of abuse and how I was going down the wrong road. It is a book of hope and encouragement. Thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you were able to laugh a little along the way but more importantly, I hope seeds of healing have taken root and you will soon be living free. God bless you.