The Curse of Unforgiveness

Copy of blog post-19

Forgiveness is a practice. Like exercise or implementing a new habit. Like a muscle the ability to forgive becomes stronger and more reflexive with use, as does the will to ask for forgiveness. It comes with a cost however, grace is a messy act.

Thirty some years it has taken me to learn the difference between saying the words I am sorry and asking for forgiveness. I was not taught forgiveness. Apologies and the extension of grace were not modeled to me as a child, as seems to be familial norm for most families.

This Christ in me life looks a lot like forging through the wilderness on bloodied knees, weary in heartache and desperate for reconciliation, seeking the grace He offers me as I come to terms with my need and it has taken me thirty some years to fully recognize this need. What so many of us know in our deepest hearts is that to ask for this gift of grace is an admittance of wrongdoing and most of us would like to pretend and shift the cards slightly, as to avoid owning we have done wrong. Some of us like to run, hide and just dismantle relationships rather than look into hurt, angry eyes and ask for grace, or extend it.

To offer forgiveness is to acknowledge that doing what is right reaches far beyond the emotions that precede the act. To forgive is to dismiss pain and anger and say I love you.  

Condemnation is human nature. Anger, bitterness and holding on to wrongs brings a false sense of power, elevating self over the wrongdoer and offering justification to throw punches back, to level the playing field.

Forgiveness is born of God. There is no learning of this life saving skill outside the shadow of the cross. We often believe that to cling to unforgiveness is to express strength and power when just the opposite is true.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong. – Gandhi

Asking for forgiveness can be like swallowing stones and glass, the pain of which is nearly unbearable. On the flipside granting forgiveness is trusting in Him, lowering the weapons of war and recalling that His love is the only salvation there is, that love is a violent act that took place on a cross, that shed blood, ached, hurt and broke the body of Christ to end the cycle of death. Forgiveness feels like brutality and bloodshed: the power of God in us insists we surrender, a direct grating against the false sense of justice proclaimed by selfish flesh.

Forgiveness is for the strong. Jesus didn’t fight back. Father forgive them, they know not what they do.

These last few years I have struggled to forgive myself for various choices I made in this life of brokenness. How many times have I crawled to the cross with shackles around my neck in prayerful hope that Jesus might finally convince me of my freedom? Sometimes the Spirit convicts me, showing me just how afraid of joy I am, that if I accept and forgive myself as the Father has me through Christ, I may no longer take the gravity of my sin as seriously. I may be overcome by such lightness and pride that I forget the long crawl in the night that brought me to the dawn.

I place myself above Jesus in doing this. My claim that my unlovable parts are too twisted for the profound mystery of an all knowing, sovereign God are preposterous and wrought with pride disguised as humility.

Therein lies the curse: unforgiveness is a prison cell.

To forgive and live forgiven is to be free.

We cling to our chains, the familiarity of the coldness and impersonal punishment doled out to ourselves and others, act as a blatant reminder of the wretchedness of the unforgiven. We hang on tight to our labels, so tightly the Gospel slips right by. This is where I camp out. The inability to forgive myself for the litany of mistakes I walked into and the thick dark circumstances that those choices afforded me are harrowing and terrifying. Though my ability to forgive others continues to develop against my human nature, there are places inside me that unforgiveness has proved to be a black hole.

But I am practicing.

I show up to the discomfort and sit inside of the hollowness of my sin and brokenness seeking the light of the Son to shine into the shadows and burn away all that is dead and heavy on my heart. When we forgive we bring the Kingdom of God to earth. When we seek forgiveness with a repentant heart, we invite the Gospel to expand in our hearts, homes and relationships. With forgiveness is absolution, the gift of a clean slate, a second chance,  the opportunity to display Jesus in our lives. To step out of the curse of unforgiveness is to live the gospel truth.


Be Free

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One Day Workshop: Saturday, June 24th, 1-5pm

Facilitator: Diana Jackson

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