I had someone whom I refused to forgive for years. The odd thing was that I was sure I had forgiven them. I had prayed about the hurt they caused, told others I had let it go, and even made a point to build a relationship with them.
Even so, although I didn’t realize it, I got a sense of identity from my status as their victim. So I quietly held onto what they did to me. As a result, I felt a low-grade sense of annoyance with the person when we talked. I also found it easy to recall the various ways they had offended me over the years. And I had a knack for bringing up the person’s flaws to other people. But again, if you had asked, I would’ve said Jesus had forgiven me, and I had no right to withhold it from my offender.
In retrospect, it’s clear I wasn’t being real with myself. I had legitimately gotten hurt, and rather than be honest with God about it, I refused to acknowledge it. That is, instead of focusing on what was really going on inside, I focused on what a Christian was supposed to be like.
When well-meaning Christians say the right words and quote the right scriptures without dealing with their slow-boiling bitterness, their real feelings get buried under a facade. And those real feelings don’t go away – they harden into an emotional plaque that suffocates the Holy Spirit’s work inside.
The next thing you know, they have an unpredictable, angry side or a weird insecure side – but they don’t understand it and don’t know how to deal with it, because they’ve spent years denying the source of it. Shoot – while writing this, I realized there are a couple of slights I’ve been nursing for a while, but I didn’t recognize it as unforgiveness.
It’s time to get real with Jesus about the offenses of the past – time to tell Him what happened, how I felt about it then, and how I feel about it now. Most importantly, it’s time to get real with Him about that bitter space I’ve reserved in my heart; to tell Him all about the toxic pleasure that comes with being the eternal victim.
The Word says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). It’s time to let His Spirit loose inside our souls to free us from old burdens of unforgiveness that dishonor His sacrifice and poison our hearts.