How do I forgive the person who hurt me?

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I was working on homework in my dorm room and my phone went off. I picked it up to read the text message. My heart fell. The tears started to well up in my eyes.

You see, I had thought I was being an intentional friend—I made time for us to be together when I was home from college and we would always text, sometimes Skype. I knew the love language of my best friend was quality time and I had honestly tried to be there for her. I may not have done it perfectly, but I had sincerely tried. However, in her mind, I had not been a good friend, but an awful one. I was shocked that my best friend and maid of honor would say something like this a few months before my wedding IN A TEXT.  

Minutes later, my friend from across the hallway walked in as the tears flowed down my cheeks. I cried through reading the message I had just received, and she simply hugged me while I cried.

A few weeks later when I approached her face-to-face about this (because texting was not a healthy way to handle that situation), she chalked it up to having an off day and feeling emotional. “It’s not a big deal, I’m fine now,” was basically what I heard.

Needless to say, the damage was already done. My heart was hurt by someone I trusted. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last time that someone hurt me. How in the world do you trust someone who said something hurtful and felt it wasn’t a big deal?

The Bible is pretty clear on what we are supposed to do when others hurt us. The idea of forgiveness is all over the place in the Bible and hurting others back is not recommended. Christ set an example for us of forgiveness in its truest sense.

Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” 

Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “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.”

Matthew 5:38-40 says, “’You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.’”

And yet, when we are in a situation where we have been hurt and someone’s words or actions have cut us to our core, it isn’t easy to even think about forgiveness. Especially when they don’t ask for it. That’s how I felt. I didn’t want to forgive her. Part of me just wanted to cross her off the list and move on. That’s what a lot of people told me to do. But somewhere deep inside of my heart, I couldn’t do it. Why?

First of all, because Jesus calls me to forgive others. Secondly, because I never wanted to reach a point in my life where years down the road I would look back and wish I would’ve acted differently towards her. And because I didn’t want to treat her poorly as a friend and for those words she said about me to be true.

So, what did I do? I prayed. I prayed A LOT. I prayed for years. I prayed for my heart to be healed. I prayed for God to help me to forgive her. I prayed for reconciliation.

And then I acted—not based on what I was feeling—but on what I thought was what God had called me to do. It was DIFFICULT. When I was scared of being around her for fear of getting hurt again, I did my best to include her. I truly believed that I needed to love her despite the hurt she had caused me. And I knew that someday, I would reach the place where I had actually forgiven her.

Now, I can’t say that everything went back to the way things were before. I’m still cautious even 5 years later. But, I’m thankful for where we are. We are in a place now where we know we are there for each other and where we still have fun when we spend time together. And I have forgiven her.

Truly, by God’s grace and with His strength, we can forgive those who hurt us. That doesn’t mean it will be quick and easy—it may even take years. By keep on keeping on and trust that God will give you what you need to be intentional and to forgive. He did that for us and we are called to follow His example. I hope you can reach that place of forgiveness and that the peace of Christ will accompany you in your journey.