“I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear.” – MLK
A few weeks ago, I began to think…. Unforgiveness is a sin. Of course, that’s not a groundbreaking revelation in the least, but even in my understanding, I realized that I was missing something huge. Up until that moment, I had always been thinking about unforgiveness in the sense of the need to forgive a friend who didn’t give me any gas money, or a family member’s constant snide comments or the texting and driving teenager who cut me off in traffic….or the guy who shattered my window last week and stole my GPS, spare cell phones and car chargers. Those, I thought, are the people I need to forgive.
I knew that, big or small, forgiveness is essential to avoid bitterness from forming.
The Bible likens bitterness to a tree root and warns not to let roots of bitterness “spring up” (Heb 12:15). Just as a tree’s roots keep that tree in place no matter what, bitterness keeps a person in place no matter what and halts progress. The Bible also says in Eph 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
I’ve never been a fan of bitterness and I didn’t think I had any in my life….until I started to think about relationships. Could it be that I still harbored unforgiveness and maybe even bitterness in my heart for those men who may have hurt me in the past? Even the few that have sincerely apologized? I had to ask myself: I let him go but did I let it go? The hurt feelings? The ill-will? The seeds of anger? Was I bitter? I wondered: If the opportunity for revenge presented itself, would I take it? Would I even consider it?
If the answer was yes, then I still harbor unforgiveness.
Revenge after failed relationships is commonplace in our society. We dream of revenge in what ever form it may come. Movies are made about it, songs about it jump to the top of the charts and magazine covers promise to tell you exactly how to get it. Heck, Taylor Swift admitted to penning an entire album about her exes (I’m curious what her current boyfriend has to say about that, if anything). Tabloids have even come up with a name for how great a person may look after a breakup: “Revenge Bodies”.
[Let me parenthetically insert here: Even though I’ve fallen privy to the whole exercise-and-diet-frenzy-after-a-breakup-so-when-he-sees-me-he’ll-be-sorry, I can also admit how ridiculous it is. For one, even in the unlikely event that he did see me and in the even unlikelier event that he’d be so taken by my new appearance that he’d beg to be back together with me, I would think him to be impossibly shallow and not even consider reconciliation. So what was the point?]
Let’s face it. We love revenge and we only dream of revenge against a person we have yet to forgive. And what has unforgiveness ever produced?
So, instead of dwelling on the wrongdoings of my past, trading war stories with my female friends, and generally just holding exes hostage…what if I told every guy I’ve ever liked and lost: “You don’t owe me anything.”
What if I were able to learn the lesson and forget the anger? What if I were able to determine that maybe he learned something too? That maybe he doesn’t just hate me. Maybe he made the best decision about our relationship (or lack thereof) with the information that he had at the time. Maybe he regrets it. Maybe he doesn’t. Either way, it doesn’t matter because it’s over and I’ve made the conscious decision to truly forgive him. Doesn’t mean what he did was right, but it means I no longer allow that situation to have any power over me.
Of course, I’m of the school of “We’d be better off having never met”. And sometimes, that’s true. But then I think about the relationship I have now and how much I appreciate him. Like seriously appreciate. The way a Hurricane Katrina victim rescued off the roof of her flooded house appreciates shelter. The way a trapped miner appreciates sunlight. The way a cancer survivor appreciates her children. I appreciate him. And in a twisted way, I appreciate the experiences of my past that allow me to appreciate Genuine now.
So, though I’d gotten used to holding onto the pain sort of like a badge of honor and reminder to everyone else and myself that I deserve to be loved, I decided to let that go. To unceremoniously let them off the hook. All of them. Even him. No one owes me anything. Things happened. In some cases, simply awful things have happened. I can do nothing about them now except let the situations go. I let the relationships go long ago, I have completely moved on. I don’t care what they’re doing or who they’re with, so there is no reason why I shouldn’t let it go.
I admit I was still holding onto hope that one day I’d get my sweet revenge. That if I couldn’t do it myself, I’d at least get the satisfaction of hearing about how hard Karma kicked them in the crotch. That’s not forgiveness though. That’s unresolved bitterness. And though it’s accepted among friends on girls’ night and glorified in Hollywood, it’s not right. It’s not productive, it’s not necessary and it has no place in my life. I’m completely uninterested in harboring any sort of bitterness against anyone for anything.
Besides, sometimes not getting what you want is a blessing in itself. And when I think about the mess I missed (and the man I’m with now who is ten times better than any guy I ever looked twice at), I’m not bitter at all. Instead, I am incredibly thankful.