Have you ever felt broken, guilty or stuck in the past? Do you find yourself feeling angry, bitter or filled with shame? Have you had a dream yet it is difficult pursuing it or making it come true?
While there could be many reasons for your emotions, it is worth reflecting to determine if you might be struggling with forgiveness.
Before he became the lead singer of MercyMe, Bart Millard suffered from a painful and abusive childhood. Life left him broken and unable to let go of his past and his pain. Sadly, Bart built a wall around his heart and the strained relationship with his abusive dad was standing in his way.
In the movie “I Can Only Imagine” Bart shares his story and takes the audience on a journey of forgiveness and redemption. It is an excellent movie and one that stirred my emotions and left me in tears. Most importantly, the movie served as a reminder of how important it is to forgive.
For years I too struggled with forgiveness.
Layers of hurt and anger had become a part of who I was and without realizing it, my inability to forgive my alcoholic father kept me immersed in my pain. My failure to recognize the importance of facing my emotions and to forgive kept me stuck in the past. Sadly, I was caught in a vicious loop of negativity that stood in the way of happiness.
The result? I made bad choices, lived in shame and ultimately forgiving myself proved as difficult as forgiving my dad.
Watching “I Can Only Imagine” touched my heart. Ultimately, it was when Bart was able to forgive his father that the fog cleared and he was able to find the inspiration to write the song that became the best-selling Christian song of all time.
Forgiveness changed his life and in the end, it changed mine. Forgiving my dad and forgiving myself was, in part, the key to letting go of the past, finding clarity and peace. Over time and with forgiveness in my heart, I was able to make the changes I so desperately needed to make to become a better version of me.
Forgiving is critical to our emotional well-being and quite honestly, it is critical to our physical health. To forgive is one of the most important things in life yet it is one of the most difficult things for people to do.
So why is it so hard to forgive? Why do people struggle with letting go and yes, moving on and beyond their pain?
The answers are not easy. Forgiving can be complicated regardless of the reason. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are struggling to forgive others or yourself:
- Forgiving does not mean you have to forget. Sometimes people struggle to forgive because they do not believe they can forget. And, some people don’t want to forget. In truth, many of the things that happen in life and need forgiving are things that you will never forget. Remember, you don’t have to forget but it is still important to forgive.
- To forgive does not mean you are letting another person “off the hook”. Some people have a hard time forgiving because they believe it means they are giving a pass or telling others that what they did is ok. You can forgive but still hold other people accountable. Forgiving does not mean you are condoning another’s actions.
- Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. Some people don’t want to forgive because they no longer want to interact with the person who hurt them. You can forgive without reconciling and whether you choose to forgive or not, you do not necessarily have to interact with that person again. That is a choice.
- An inability to forgive leads to anger, bitterness, resentment and blame. It can fill your head and heart with toxic feelings, negativity, sadness and depression. Karen Swartz, MD, Director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Hospital states, “there is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed.” If you are struggling with forgiving, know that your health can be at risk.
- Forgiving is a gift for you and not necessarily the offender. It is okay to give the gift of forgiveness to others but remember that it is not necessarily for the other person. Forgiving is good for your heart.
- Forgiveness takes back your power and can lead to freedom from all that has held you prisoner for far too long.
- Forgiving is taking responsibility for how you are feeling. It is easy to stuff our feelings and to hide our pain but it is important to face those emotions and forgiveness can help us to do that.
- Anyone can learn to forgive and in the end, forgiving is a choice. It is difficult to change or to forgive if we are unaware of the issue in the first place. Pay attention to how you are feeling or the why behind the problems that you are dealing with. Forgiveness may be at the base of what is going on. Learn to forgive. The end result can be amazing.
Life is filled with loss and grief every single day. Regardless of the reasons behind the loss, forgiveness is often entangled in the middle of it. Sadly, there are so many people who live life settling for far less than they deserve because of an inability to forgive.
Forgiving others or ourselves is very difficult for people and sadly, some people never learn to forgive. In the end, life’s journey without the gift of forgiveness is a dead-end street and leads to nowhere.
Forgiveness can wipe the slate clean and clear a new path for you to walk. It is not easy but it is possible and it will make a difference in your life. “I Can Only Imagine” is a great title for MercyMe’s amazing song but I Can Only Imagine how amazing life would be if we could all learn to forgive.
In Peace and With Love,