My big dreams were to get published successfully, be a brilliant painter, find romance, leave that job behind and move on to greatness. Then I ended up retiring on disabilty. I wanted out, but not this way. Still, I had my talents and plenty of time to use them. I jumped in to this new life like a kid on the first day of summer vacation. But as I sat at my sculpture stand, or drawing board, or computer writing my novels, old offenses and injustices of the past came back to me. I was not yet free!
I had a list of grudges going back decades and I felt entitled to them. Still it is like that old saying, holding grudges is like taking poison and waiting for your enemy to die. But I could not feel warm and fuzzy toward them and could not force myself to do so. How could I forgive when I did not feel it? Still, I knew from Scripture that we must forgive others to be forgiven by God. If I were not forgiven by God, I would not be able to have right fellowship with Him. Because of this fact, even if I went to heaven after I died, I would be living in an emotional hell on earth. I raged within at the thought, sometimes even bitter toward God for arranging things in this “unfair” way.
Then I heard a pastor say we must forgive as simple obedience to God, even if we did not have warm fuzzy feelings for that person at the outset. We must simply do it as a conscious choice, asking God’s help to do so. If we did this in our love for God, God would (either immediately or eventually) arrange it so that we would feel no negative emotion attached to them. We were not necessarily obligated to get right back into relationship with them either (but might eventually). Even that much healing was possible in Christ. We did not have to understand how God would work this. We just had to do our part and God would do the rest.
Years before while working on my masters degree, I had read psychologist, Frederick Pearls, theory that clinical depression is “frozen rage”. I was not yet a Christian at that time, but I grasped some truth in that statement. It now seemed to me (as a Christian) that “frozen rage” was another name for “un-forgiveness” and possibly even for my “invisible case”. If I felt that I were (as King Lear said) “more sinned against than sinning”, I must encase myself to prevent further damage to me from them, or to them by myself.
I prayed a general prayer of forgiveness, earnestly saying it was my intent to forgive all. I was not sure if this were enough, so I also prayed that God would bring to mind specific persons I had held grudges against so that I could forgive them individually. This was praying for momentary discomfort in order to have long-term relief. God did just that over a period of time. If someone came to mind with a kind of “sting” attached, I assumed that was one of them. Some of them went back to childhood, even my truly beloved parents.
Attached to this is the fact hat we cannot give others what we do not have ourselves. That sounds like a really retarded statement, but it deserves a second look. Some people we love or admire so much that we get the idea that they are not capable of making mistakes. That’s wrong. Another issue is that hurting people hurt people. Again, sometimes we cannot see their hurt (or we see it as minimal when it is actually profound).
We have sometimes hurt them first (unknowingly) by striking a painful cord in them and they retaliate, assuming that we meant harm. It is a dark perpetual web of offense/defense. Sometimes I think all this is stored (and disguise) in the subconscious, pulling us down into an abyss of floating, unresolved uneasiness. Sometimes it might surface in the form of an emotional lock-down (if we cannot feel something good, best to feel nothing at all).
Once I could forgive, it was as though a bolder were lifted off of me. Now I began to I escaped from the invisible case. In time I would begin to pray for wisdom about people, including those it was hardest to like. It is a worthwhile challenge. My life is good now. I am not all I should be, but I am not who I was. I still take offense at times, but I am now more able to discern the hurt behind a remark. That makes it easier to understand and forgive. It is nolonger about an offensive remark. It is about a valuable human being who needs to be loved.