How To Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Emotionally
Have you ever been emotionally hurt by someone and struggled to forgive them as you strive to honor God? You’re not alone, and the key to forgiveness may be far easier than you think, that is, if you understand how to go about it and what forgiveness really is. So how do you forgive someone who hurt you emotionally?
As a father of two and a friend of many, I have had a lot of opportunities to talk with people that have been deeply hurt emotionally by someone. Of course, I too have been hurt by many people and as such I understand their pain and the difficulties of how to forgive someone for what they have done to me. I can honestly say that there are those that I love, and who love me, that hurt me on an ongoing basis. Like many of you that reading this, forgiveness, if not viewed correctly, can be difficult, if not impossible. After all, if someone purposefully hurts us why do they deserve our forgiveness?
As Christians, we want to do the right thing and let go of past hurts, but we often find ourselves too angry or in too much pain to even consider forgiveness for the one that has wronged us. We tell ourselves ‘I am just not ready to forgive him/her for what they did” which stems from the fact that we’re still ‘feeling’ the pain and so we assume that we cannot forgive someone while we have these feelings. We think, ‘if I still feel the pain then I am not really forgiving them” and so we think we are incapable of forgiveness at the moment.
Today I want to present to you the idea that forgiveness is not about abandoning our feelings. You may hold those feeling for many years, or possibly even the rest of your life. What we need to do it to discover that forgiveness is not about releasing a feeling or forgetting about what someone did to us. You can go the rest of your life feeling hurt and not forgetting about what a person did to you, and yet still have totally forgiven them. But you have to know that, contrary to the way religion teaches forgiveness, God’s method is actually very different and much easier.
Apart from feelings and apart from remembering, forgiveness is a choice that we make to release someone from owing us or making things right. Christians need a more accurate picture of what forgiveness really is. God showed us the clearest and truest picture of what forgiveness should look like as He chooses (by way of the cross), on His own free will, to forgive us. To remove our indebtedness to Him. To essentially let us off the hook. In the same way, Christians who have been hurt should be fully aware of the damage caused by someone who hurt us, but that does not mean we have to empty out our feelings, and it does not mean we have to forget. Feelings and Memories are natural human attributes given to us by God. God is not calling us to somehow magically flip a switch and turn them off. Though religion oftentimes does.
Biblical forgiveness is about identifying how you have been offended, fully understanding how it has hurt you emotionally, and then, on our own free will ‘choosing’ to release the offender from anything that they owe us. Yes, we may wake up day after day still ‘remembering’ how we were wounded and ‘feeling’ hurt, and that’s a normal human response, and it’s okay because we also get to choose another source for our joy and peace. There will be many offenders in our lifetime and if we are waiting for each and every one of them to make things right before our joy is restored, well, then we will live a life of absent of being content.
Understand that when we ‘choose’ to forgive someone it’s really for our benefit, and not necessarily the offenders. Forgiveness is not approving of what they did. Forgiveness is not pretending like it never happened. Forgiveness is about recognizing that the source of our joy comes from Christ. If the world is our source of joy then we will fail to find that joy.
In Philippians 4:13 Paul wrote “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, and though this verse has been sold to mean you can accomplish anything you want to, it’s really about Paul realizing that God is with him through all circumstances and, as an act of his own will, Paul chooses to lean on Jesus instead of worldly circumstances for his peace. Remember, Paul wrote this letter while being wrongfully placed in jail! Yet still, look at what Paul said in Philippians 4:12 (just before saying he can do all things). He said, “I know how to get along with humble means”, “I have learned the secret of being hungry”, and “suffering need” (vs 12). These are bad things. Paul was in jail and yet he still is able to be content in ALL circumstances (good or bad) because he chooses to make Jesus his source – thereby saying “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Paul trusts God to never leave Him during tough circumstances. In other words, he chooses to release the offender’s obligation to make things right in order for him to be joyful. That is not to say that Paul would not like the offender to do what is right, but rather it simply means their choice to do what is right will not be Paul’s source of happiness. Christ alone is.
Sickness. Death. Murder. Rape. Thieves. Adulterers. Liars. Life is hard. Life can be cruel. Every human has free will to do good or bad. We are not called to pretend like it doesn’t happen. We are not called to hide our emotions. We are not called to forget.
We are called to lean on Jesus, who swears He will never leave us or forsake us. We trust Him alone to see us through this web of life’s difficulties.
Lastly, religion is quick to quote pre-cross verses that go against post-cross verses. One such verse is found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:15 where Jesus Himself says “if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins”. I know goes against popular religious teaching, but in context, Jesus is talking to Jewish people that think the law is their source of righteousness. Jesus is completely burying them under the law and showing them their need for a new covenant by raising the bar on what it looks like to be saved through the true standard of the law. He says things like ‘if you look with lust it’s the same as adultery” (Matthew 5:28), and ‘if you’ve been angry with a brother it’s the same as murder’ (Matthew 5:22). Well friend, if you’re honest, that’s all of us. Guilty. And by the standard of the law, we all get a free ticket to hell. However, the bible says that the believer’s sins HAVE BEEN forgiven, never to be remembered again, removed from the record books, and washed away as far as the east is from the west. If Matthew 6:15 applies to believers then that would mean God will revoke His forgiveness and thereby our salvation. But if we look at post-cross verses we see a very different message. We see a message of we are already forgiven, so forgive others in the same way. Freely. By choice.
[Ephesians 4:32] Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, JUST AS God in Christ also has forgiven you.
[Colossians 3:13] bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; JUST AS the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
You won’t find a single post cross verse directed towards Christians that is threatening hell or losing forgiveness if we fail to forgive others. That’s because the sins of those in Christ are fully paid for and God is not holding anything against us.
God promises that when we are faithless He will remain faithful. He promises that through the blood of His son we have redemption and have been made right with Him, forever. Even though we have all sinned against Him many times, and we still continue to do it, this is a free gift for all that believe and choose to receive it. Now there’s a reason to choose to release (forgive) others from what they owe us as we are trusting in our creator, our father, and our savior for happiness.
Put simply…..God freely forgave us. Pass it on.
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar grew up in church and observed that countless people would go to church and then just stop. The church always referred to them as ‘fake Christians’ or ‘backsliders’ but Mike discovered the problem was deeper. The problem was the church message. The message was 90% behavior improvement and how bad you are, with a pinch of who you are in Christ, It was like every sermon was being preached to the church of Corinth. It’s in the Baptist church, Catholic, Pentecost, and most every other church. After discovering the true gospel message and how we are made right with God because of what ‘Jesus did’ (not what ‘we do’) Mike set out to free believers from behavior improvement programs and bring them back to Jesus. The Result – Jesus Without Religion was launched.