Pop quiz: Think of one or more of your divorced friends. Have they moved on past their divorce or when they talk of ‘the ex,’ are they still bitter, angry and unforgiving? I’m betting you chose B-bitter, angry and unforgiving. If you’re divorced, what about you?
I hear the objections, everything from mental abuse to not adequately doing the dishes. My wife claimed my failure to consistently do the dishes drove her to an affair with the guy who put the tile in our bathroom. I’ve done battle with desire for vengeance and vindication over forgiveness and mercy.
Why choose forgiveness? Primarily we must forgive because Jesus commands us to. As one of my friend’s jokingly states, “It’s in the red letters, so you have to do it.” We have said the prayer many times, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The verse goes on to say “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
What is forgiveness? It’s a complicated answer and I’m a simple man so I think of it in simple terms. Forgiveness is not seeking revenge but actively seeking blessing for the one who wronged us. It’s a helluva lot easier on paper than it is in real life.
I still feel the rolling rage. When I first found out about the affair I would have moments, minutes and hours that I felt intense, marrow-deep, blood-red rage. The rage would come out of nowhere-there was no predicting when I would feel it. I rarely experience it now but it still comes, unbidden and then quietly exits.
In those dark days it was a mental battle to choose forgiveness. A forgiving attitude swam against the current of my emotion and my desire for vindication. Speaking of those mental battles Paul used imagery of warfare, for such it is, “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh—for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” Of which he means mental fortresses, not material ones.
Be patient with yourself in the process. Forgiveness isn’t the initial feeling, the immediate thoughts you have aren’t going to be positive. At that point simply allow yourself to be willing to be willing to forgive. Give God the process. Keep giving God the process. It will be an ongoing battle.
A healthy heart and head are the final reasons to forgive. Failure to forgive will ensure that your thoughts are continuously on your ex. They will continue to enslave you through your failure to forgive them. Cutting them loose with forgiveness frees your head and heart to pursue better things and newer adventures.
Fight to forgive then for we do not want to be those old bitter men we experience in our bible studies and bars and who we overhear grumbling at the supermarket. Life has so much more to offer us as we press forward in forgiveness and mercy.