And hatred is a sharp knife held by the blade / It’s cutting in your palm ‘til you feel no pain / And burning in your eyes with a righteous rage / ‘Til the ashes blow away ("Middle of June" by David Mancao)
The only way to emotional health is to be liberal with forgiveness. Whether intentionally or incidentally, we humans are very good at hurting one another and creating the need for forgiveness and reconciliation. After going through certain heartbreaks the last few years because of bitterness, hatred, and an unwillingness to reconcile relationships, it has become my motto to forgive and to reconcile as much as my God thinks I can. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Forgiveness can only happen specifically. It is impossible to forgive nebulous or unclear actions; a lack of clarity encourages bitterness because forgiveness requires identifying ways in which someone hurt you & saying, I won't punish you. I'll embrace the pain and won't take vengeance.
Thus, if the details aren't clear—there can't be forgiveness because the specific hurts can't be identified. Both parties have to piece the story together so that the hurts can be discovered. This is not easy. If I hurt you, I have to have the courage to express in so many words how I hurt you and why I am sorry. If I do not, then the other person will probably swing between feeling neglected and dismissed or self-loathing for not “getting over it already.”
Confession is unnatural. Confession will probably be uncomfortable because it requires one to be vulnerable. Few of us like to admit we have done something wrong or made a mistake. No one likes to feel like the bad guy—and having to witness the damages our mistakes cause on people we care about sucks. It makes you feel small and unlovable. But if you love and care for the human relationship at stake, then the humiliation will be worth it.
If you were the person hurt, it will require largeness of heart to actually forgive. That begins with actually saying "I forgive you." And as nice as it would be for that difficult conversation to be the end of it—it's actually only the beginning of forgiveness. The largeness of your heart will be tested for some time after. How long? Well, the deeper the hurt—the longer the process of forgiveness will be.
Oftentimes, our Christian idealism makes us equate forgiveness and reconciliation with the restoration of relationships and although that is the ideal, we can't assume that forgiveness will necessarily result in the restoration of the relationship. Some relationships can't come back (healthfully) from certain hurts. Some situations would be unjust if that was attempted. (I would never ask a victim of abuse to restore their relationship with their abuser).
But that's ok. It's ok to say, I forgive you but our relationship will need to be fundamentally different from here on out. Your heart matters. If the other person is exhibiting chronic abusive characteristics—get out of there! Enabling is not loving; let the person taste the consequences of their behaviors.
However, if the relationship is going to be restored—I think both parties will have to give lots of grace to one another and be patient with the process.
Some days the pain and anger will return to the hurt. Some days, certain faces, words, or places will trigger relapses. This is part of the process. Keep forgiving. Keep trusting. Keep expecting and assuming the best. Keep faith.
Forgiveness requires letting go of the past; forgiveness should say I will not let you be defined by your mistakes. Forcing someone to live under the shadows of their mistakes is cruel. If someone won’t let you escape the burdens of the past and continually raises hell—throwing all your mistakes and flaws in your face—then it might be time to reconsider the worthwhileness of that human’s presence in your life. Especially if the other person does so whenever you have a legitimate hurt to bring up.
So to the person who will forgive—believe that the other party can change.
And if you are the person being forgiven, believe that the other person has and is forgiving you and that relapses are part of the process.
Ultimately, the gospel of reconciliation will triumph and time will have its healing effect.
And love is a thing that you can't defineThough you try with all your might through the riddles and rhymesBut it'll fly you like a kite; it'll throw you to the groundBut that's the best thing I have found.
-"Middle of June," Noah Gundersen