Sunday, August 8, 2010

Letting Go and Moving On


Letting Go, image courtesy of fotosearch.com
I was reading a post on forgiveness (by Peculiar Person called Finding Forgiveness1) and one of the comments raised a point which I believe every one of us faces:

Not sure why it hurts more and so much harder to move on when you have been hurt by someone of the body of Christ. For me it has been so many years and yet I still find that the situation I have encountered continues to hold me back. Not sure if I have fully forgiven but my question is how do you completely let go and move on?

As I looked at the question, How do you completely let go and move on? I realized that many in the body of Christ may be in the same place over and over again in their life because of an inability to let go and move on.

I remember watching a movie called What Dreams May Come2 in which a couple tragically lose their two children and try to move on through the grief and pain. When the husband dies, the wife reaches a point where she can’t go on living without the three most important people in her life and she commits suicide. Although the movie is more about the character of the husband, I learned something of value in the character of the wife; she wasn’t able to let go and move on because she was in a place of sorrow, pain and sadness. And in the end, she felt compelled to end her life but even in death there was no escape, she went to a place of sorrow, pain and sadness.

I believe this is true for those of us who struggle with forgiveness; we are stuck in a place of sorrow, pain and sadness.

I believe that we assign a value to the offense when we experience hurt, we give value to the pain we feel. In doing this, we devalue the life of anyone who offends us. Earlier this week, I read a post that the author asks the question, “How do I forgive when there's no apology?3 From the responses I read, many still carry around the hurts they experienced years ago.

Letting go is difficult but it’s not impossible.

There is a passage in scripture which I believe liberated me. Jesus says:
If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.4

Jesus also said,
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.5

I believe letting go is difficult because I bind the sins committed against me to my life.

Monarch Butterfly Cocoon, image courtesy of ohiohistorycentral.orgWe’ve all seen caterpillars and we’ve seen that they are transformed into a butterfly but before that can happen; the caterpillar wraps itself into a cocoon. The cocoon forms a protective barrier allowing the caterpillar to survive and eventually transform itself into a butterfly.

Although I didn’t physically encase myself in a cocoon, I often created an emotional cocoon-like barrier around myself which I subconsciously believed would serve as a protective barrier from further pain. In doing so, I bound myself to that sin, chaining my life to that hurt and pain and throwing away the key.

Could it be that I’m taking on the nature of the thing which has caused me hurt and pain?

When I am hurt, I experience many emotions in response, but one emotion I experience is anger; I want to retaliate. This is my initial defense against emotional and physical attack. The anger may subside but eventually, as I replay the event over in my mind, those emotions begin to resurface. This is my process of encasing myself in a cocoon; I wrap myself again and again in this protective barrier.

But it isn’t just a protective barrier, it’s an emotional prison.

To become a butterfly, the caterpillar must develop and emerge from the cocoon.

800 lb. Gorrila in the room, image courtesy of Facebook.com
To let go and move on, I must free myself from the sin which I’ve bound myself to because it will terrorize me much like the eight hundred pound gorilla. I must emerge from the room or remain there paralyzed by the recurring memory of my pain.

But how do I let go and move on?

As I’ve said before (in the three-part post called Forgive Them6), we are commanded to forgive which is no different than our command to love. We don’t love others based on their merit; we cannot forgive others based on merit. What I mean by this is that I approached forgiveness in much the same way the judicial process operates:
  1. I charged someone with an offense
  2. I prosecuted the offender
  3. I sentenced the offender
  4. I punished the offender
As each phase played out subconsciously in my mind, I can now see that my objective was to complete the punishment phase; because there was no leniency given for any offense. This took the form of anything from retaliation to disassociation; but no matter what punishment I executed, I was always devaluing the life of that person. In some cases they no longer existed to me, my own form of emotional execution.

So God commands me to forgive. Why?

Believe it or not, we are quite ignorant when it comes to doing what’s right. This is why Jesus said as He hung on the cross:

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.7

People have different motivations for saying and doing things that offend and hurt others, but the truth is they don’t have a clue about what they’re doing. I don’t mean to say that people aren’t aware of the things they do, but they are unaware of how to please God with they’re life. If they truly understood how to please God, they would be saddened by those hurtful words and actions they commit.

When Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who crucified Him, He was including me as well. Although I wasn’t physically there, I was a part of the cabal of sinners. There was a time when I really didn't know what I was doing. I didn't have a clue, although I thought I did because in my mind, I was soooo cool. In reality, I was screwing up my life big time. That lifestyle and belief has changed now. I believe because the Holy Spirit lives within me, to deny knowledge of my sin now would be lying.

In discussing forgiveness, Jesus gave clarity so that we would have no confusion on the question of Why does God commands me to forgive?

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.8

This helped me recognize the need to maintain a spiritual balance in my life. By not forgiving others, I become unbalanced in my life. I find myself increasingly encasing myself in the emotional cocoon of sorrow, pain and sadness.

The Hebrew word for forget is shakach (shaw-kakh’ or shaw-kay’-akh), which means, to mislay. In other words, to forget is to become so mentally oblivious of something due to the absence its memory or attention. Forgetting is putting something down and having a mindset that says, “I no longer assign a value to this memory”, so that I’m not aware of it as I emerge from my emotional cocoon. I do this by recognizing that I’ve been forgiven by God along with all the other folks in the cabal of sinners; including the person who offended me.

God then, doesn’t ask me to forgive them, He commands me to forgive them. I am compelled to obey God if my desire is to please Him in my life because:
"...to obey is better than sacrifice..."9

One of my blogger friends (Sarah) discussed giving herself permission to be free:
"At first my words were just that....words. But then I noticed a change inside....a shift....a different feel that hadn't been there before. I started believing in the power of those words...accepting their truth....and soon coming to realize that just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz - I had always had the power to get what I wanted....a power I had never realized before - the power to give myself what no one else could - the permission....the sanction.....to walk free."10

I believe in order to let go and move on, I must begin to say the words; I forgive you, when someone offends me. I may not believe this at first, I may even want to repeat the judicial process I’ve gone through before and get back into my emotional cocoon but as I continue along this path, I discover that I begin to accept the truth. I eventually realize that I no longer value that offense because I’ve forgiven them and I’ve mislaid the memory of the offense; I can no longer recall it.

Shadow on a tombstone of hands letting go, image courtesy of fotosearch.com
How do I let go and move on?

Speak the words of forgiveness and emerge from your cocoon.

Father God,

I've been hurt by others and I've also injured others. I've sought out those I've injured and when possible, I've acknowledged my sin and asked for forgiveness. I've not been forgiven by everyone I've injured but I am truly sorry for the pain, sadness and hurt I've caused. I ask you to hear my confession of forgiveness. I no longer want to bind the pain in my life, I no longer want to wrap myself in an emotional cocoon, I no longer want to prosecute and punish others, I forgive them. I don't need them to say anything to appease me; they may never feel the need. In my heart, mind and spirit, I acknowledge that they don't know what they did. I'm not just praying for myself Father God, I plead for the release of those who've been hurt by others, hurt in the church, hurt by churchgoers, and hurt by those who do not recognize you. I speak the word of freedom in their life that they may emerge from the emotional cocoon which has held them prisoner. Thank you Father for the power to heal our lives. Amen.


Footnotes:
  1. Finding Forgiveness, by Peculiar Person, August 6, 2010
  2. What Dreams May Come, written by Richard Matheson (novel) and Ronald Bass (screenplay), October 2, 1998, for Polygram Filmed Entertainment
  3. How do I forgive when there's no apology?, by Elizabeth Esther, August 2, 2010
  4. John 20:23, NASB
  5. Matthew 16:19, NASB
  6. Forgive Them, by MTJ, April 12-14, 2010
  7. Luke 23:34, NIV
  8. Matthew 6:14, NIV
  9. 1 Samuel 15:22, NASB
  10. Giving Permission, by Sarah, August 6, 2010
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  3. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  4. Finding Forgiveness, by Peculiar Person, written for the blog, Along A Narrow Way, August 6, 2010
  5. What Dreams May Come, Information source Internet Movie Database (imdb.com)
  6. How do I forgive when there's no apology?, by Elizabeth Esther, written for the blog, Elizabeth Esther, August 2, 2010
  7. Forgive Them, by MTJ, written for the blog, My Thought-filled Journey, April 12-14, 2010
  8. Giving Permission, by Sarah, written for the blog, Writing, August 6, 2010


34 comments:

Lloyd said...

Thank you so much for the message on forgiveness. God demands us to "forgive" others. Forgiveness is probably one of the hardest things for a Christian too do, but if we want to stay in fellowship with the Lord we must forgive those who do us wrong. God bless, Lloyd

sarah said...

Hi MTJ, this is an amazing post...I needed to read it and pray that prayer. Thank you....Sarah

Merana Leigh said...

Oh boy, hope I don't ramble too much here, but I feel there are several things on which I must comment (I actually made quick notes while reading your post of what I wanted to comment - ;o} )

1 - I LOVED that movie "What Dreams May Come". The thing I found MOST interesting is that "hell" for her was relegating her to live out eternity in the one place that drove her to commit suicide in the first place. So that "place" she lived WITHIN her that drove her to kill herself was where she would spend eternity. That made me sadder than the fact that she couldn't get past it to begin with.

2 - Your analogy of the butterfly is right on! We do cocoon ourself from the world when we've been wronged/hurt. I think that's a natural, protective instinct - self-preservation. But what most people don't realize is that it's the STRUGGLE of the butterfly trying to break free of that cocoon that gives it the strength to fly. Kinda like muscles will atrophe & not work unless they are used. We MUST endure the struggles of this life, including forgiving those who've wronged us & seeking forgiveness (or at least genuinely apologizing) from those we've wronged, in order to gain the strength to soar.

3 - We must always be careful in what we say. James has such a powerful teaching on the power of the tongue. Coming from a very verbally & emotionally abusive marriage, and taking at least 1-1/2 years to begin to discover who I even was anymore helped me learn that significantly. The childhood saying "sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is a lie! Words DO hurt...terribly...and THAT is what sticks in your psyche for a LONG LONG time. And it is hard to let that go to heal!

4 - for me, I've found the hardest person to ever forgive is myself when I make stupid mistakes or say things that hurt others that I don't really mean to do. Still haven't quite mastered the letting go part of that one yet.

5 - As for trying to let go after you've said you forgive someone, is to seek Him. I've had situations in my life that cut deeply. I feel like there's this black hole within me that is sucking in everything else in my life (I carry my hurt internally & then it somehow eminates outwardly to where I don't live out the love of Christ to others, but am either withdrawn or aggravated with everyone & everything.) The only advice I can offer is to pray that God will come and fill that dark, black hole that is sucking everything in, so that the light HE eminates with shine OUT of that blackness. I truly pray Jeremiah 6:16 over & over by saying, "Ok God, here I am at the crossroads. Light my path that YOU would have me take." There is a peace that flows then.

GREAT post, my friend! Sorry for the rambling...

Blessings ~ Merana

THE OLD GEEZER said...

Sometimes we do forgive and want to let go and move on but the past trail of harsh words and destructive deeds that we leave behind will not let us.

Even though God forgives us and cast our sins as far as the East is from the West, people we hurt do not and they are always quick to remind us of our past sins.

~Ron

MTJ said...

Lloyd: You identify a critical aspect of my relationship with God; fellowship. It's important that I have my priorities correct. Forgiveness and fellowship are interconnected so I must remain conscious of the reality that fellowship with God must precede spiritual imbalance due to unforgiveness. As always, I appreciate your words my brother.

Sarah: So often I will find something you've said that illuminates and resonates in my spirit. I've said this before but I do appreciate the encouragement you convey in your writing.

Merana: Do you have any idea what would happen if you and I were in the same room? I have this sense that we'd talk and talk and then talk some more. I'm glad that we've met in this community and we can share and exchange our thoughts and ideas. I refuse to say anything on your five points except I get the part about the struggle to emerge from the cocoon; that is key and integral to becoming a butterfly.

You won't believe the thoughts I had pondering the concept of a guy becoming a butterfly.

Ron: I totally get what you're saying and it was to these people I hope that this post resonates with honesty and sincerity. We cannot deny that in the aftermath of our destructive actions, we leave behind a trail of broken lives, I do not make excuses that ignore that truth. But to the one who's been abused, there is a need for healing and recovery. People are hurting in our world but Christ came for just that reason; to heal and mend broken hearts and lives. He can do what none of us can.

Merana Leigh said...

I, too, am glad we've "met" here & yes, we could indeed sit a good long spell & talk til probably the wee hours - and perhaps laugh & shed tears in the process...long as it was all interspersed with prayer! ;o} ~ Merana

Dean Spencer said...

MTJ -

I saw your comments after I read "Peculiar Person's." I think this is a very difficult subject and I thank you for taking it on.

I believe God takes this part seriously. He does command us to forgive because IT IS for our benefit.

I'm reminded of the parable Jesus gave of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. How can we NOT forgive knowing God has forgiven us so much?

That doesn't negate the pain. That doesn't nullify the actions of the offender.

I've experienced first hand and second hand in this process. It's not easy. It's VERY difficult. But just like when God disciplines His children, I believe when we go through this process, we are sanctified by His Spirit and find ourselves growing in our love and appreciation for our Savior more and more.

Thank you again! God bless!

Family, Money and Stuff said...

Interesting ... the message this morning in church was about forgiveness, and how forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling.

Seems to be the motto for me lately - many things are a 'decision' not a feeling. Ah yes ... living beyond emotion.. :)

You put a lot of research into this piece!

-Kim

MTJ said...

Merana: I say Amen to prayer.

Dean: That's what alarmed me as I studied this topic; just how forgiving God has been towards me. As you say, "How can we NOT forgive knowing God has forgiven us so much?" And no it doesn't negate the pain or nullify the actions, I must acknowledge the pain but I relinquish the authority of judging; leaving God to judge the offender is my best choice.

Kim: God obviously gave us emotions for a reason but they were not designed to rule our thoughts and behavior. We have great emotional experiences (birth of a child, marriage, ect.) and we experience other emotions which are uncomfortable (death of a loved one, marital failure, abuse, ect.). Understanding my emotions and the role they have in my spiritual walk with Christ is critical to my maturity as a Christian.

DC said...

Thank you Daddy for this post and message on forgiveness. I'm listen and learning a lot.

Love you!
DC

MTJ said...

DC: I love you too! Thanks for giving me a woman's perspective on faith; I enjoyed last night's discussion. You got me kinda hyped.

Charlotte said...

Welcome back to Spiritual Sundays. The subject of this post is something I believe everybody struggles with at some time. You're right. It is even more hurtful when the person who has hurt you is another Christian. The first time I ever experienced hurt so deep that I couldn't keep from actually hating the people involved was over 20 years ago. It was a terrible feeling for me because I had never hated anyone before in my life to that point, but I truly hated the people involved in the incident. I prayed and prayed about it and told God that I couldn't help hating them. I asked him to help me to get over it and "move on". It was after I was reminded of the story of Joseph in the Bible in a book Max Lucado had written that I was able to forgive. When I compared my situation to that of Joseph and how much he forgave, I was able to really forgive. And, like Joseph, eventually I could see that what had happened eventually worked out for my good.
Thank you for sharing again.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Charlotte/For Such A Time As This said...

This is the first time I've been to your blog and I'm glad I stopped by. This subject is hard because it's overshaddowed with so much emotion, yet it's vital for our growth as Christians to get past it and forgive. Thank you for your explanation of how to forgive and move on...I'm sure it will touch many and help set them free.

Renee said...

Goodness, what an indepth and insightful post on a subject that is so important...forgiveness. We really need God's own love to work through us to forgive those who hurt us deeply and yet forgiveness is so healing. Thank you for sharing.

Ginger~~Enchanting Cottage said...

I'm so sorry that you your hurt so bad that it's hard for you to forgive. I think that once you truly forgive the Lord will bless you with a freedom that is not even imaginable. Thank-you for sharing your heart.
God Bless,
Ginger

Kaye Swain - SandwichINK said...

What an excellent and thought-provoking post on the topic of forgiveness. I lean often on the Lord's Prayer - "forgive us our sins and we forgive others." What they choose to do - whether ask forgiveness, accept it, etc. is for them and God to deal with. I just have to make the choice for my own self. And as you rightly point out, God definitely calls us to choose to forgive - even if we don't feel like it. Like Sarah said, when we make that choice - over and over - God will take care of the feelings. Thank you for some excellent thoughts to ponder. :)

Whidbey Woman said...

What an awesome post. God bless you!

Dayle said...

Powerful post.

MTJ said...

Charlotte: Looking back in retrospect, I see that things happen that are unexplainable. Each of us experiences hurt in some degree; some moreso than others. I don't consider it denial to say that, "I've been spared genuine hurt". When I read about the willful murder of so many lives, I'm thankful that God's grace carried me through the murder of my younger brother.

I admire Max Lucado as a writer and Christian. I'm glad to hear that you too have been able to forgive.

Charlotte/For Such a Time As This: Thank you for the visit and for sharing your thoughts on forgiveness. I believe that it's imperative, particularly in this time in our society, that we Christians show the world the depth of forgiveness. I realize that on this day in particular, many Americans continue to carry the pain from the violent terrorist attack nine years ago, still, we Christians have an opportunity to demonstrate the value of being forgiving. I pray what I've written helps and encourages.

Renee: You're so right! Allowing ourselves to experience God's love operate in our life teaches that we have a greater capacity to forgive than we could imagine.

Ginger: I may be mistaken but I think what you're referring to is a quote from an anonymus comment on another blog I referenced. That comment became the catylst for this post. It was my desire to speak to those who still carry the burden of their hurts. I do agree with you, God truly blesses us to experience the freedom resident within our capacity to forgive.

Kaye Swain: I cannot believe that it's in my best interests to carry the burden of hurts and painful emotional scars. Realizing that I must choose to forgive empowered me to experience liberation which I believe God desires for all of us; to be free in every area of my life.

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

Whidbey Woman: Thank you for visiting...I pray that you experience an even deeper level of God's blessings in your life and that through you others may experience the quality of God's love. I just felt the need to say this to you.

Dayle: Thank you for visiting. I see you are a writer and that you offer help to those who aspire to write. Writing is a unexpected new beginning in my life; I look forward to reading the insights you share.

sarah said...

HI MTJ, I remember reading this in August...and it's appropriate for me to read even now again. Everything you say here is so right...and true. Thanks MTJ for posting this...for the reminder...Have a great weekend. Sarah

Joan said...

Hi MJT:

This is my first visit to your blog (and it won't be my last). This is a powerful post with a lot of things to digest. I like the analogy you used with the butterfly wrapping itself in a cocoon.

Often forgiveness is difficult - I think sometimes we want to hold on to those feelings because we are comfortable in our unforgiveness. However, it does affect our relationship with God when we don't forgive. Truly we are not hurting the person, but ourselves.

Thanks for this powerful post. I'm planning to read it again and ponder some more.

Blessings,
Joan

INSIDE THE SHRINK said...

Hello MTJ, my first visit and wow what a powerful one. Forgiveness or the lack thereof is one of the largest contributors to my patient load as a psychologist. Personally, I have come to understand that forgiveness is not letting someone off the hook, making it ok whatever it was they did to hurt me. Forgiveness is saying I will no longer let this action have any control over my life and I will pray for this person, group, etc. that the Lord reveals Himself to them.

I have an adage I use in my therapy to address unforgiveness and it goes like this: "If I am harboring unforgiveness in my heart it is like I am drinking a cup of poison, putting down the cup, and saying to my offender,"There, I hope that hurts you."

Thank you and God bless you for a great post. -Bobbi

MTJ said...

Sarah: Though we've never met, I consider you as my friend, not because of anything you say to me; because of the woman you are. I find encouragement and inspiration from those who've faced adversity, those who gone through the fiery trials of life. The things I've faced as a Black man now seem miniscule when I learn what so many others have gone through.

Joan: Thank you so much for visiting. You are so right! There is a comfortable (-ness) in retaining an unforgivable offense. It becomes a familiar kind of companion who constantly reminds us of our pain. And yes, the pain we feel is now self-inflicted.

Bobbi: Thanks so much for visiting. Your adage made me laugh because it reminded me of a scripture I read this morning, Romans 12:20 says, "But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head."

I agree with you, forgiveness is not giving someone the license to do evil; it does not approve words or behavior that hurt. It's my acknowledgement to God that, "I will not be held captive by the thoughts, words, and behavior of others, and that I forgive them." As Jesus said, "...they do not know what they are doing." That along with my own need to be forgiven is my motivation.

This is something which I now practice in my life; I see the benefit of following the example of Jesus.

sewingseeds4U said...

I thing what binds us to unforgiveness is your quote, "We do not forgive based on merit". I believe we are afraid that if we forgive it somehow condones what the offender has done...it minimizes our hurt and pain which are very real. Great post. Very thought provoking. Patty

MTJ said...

Patty: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You're so right! Our hurt and pain is, "very real" but forgiveness isn't condoning the actions of others that cause hurt and pain.

I believe in order to get beyond the hurt and pain, I must escape the prison that holds me in that place. For me this is not conditional upon someone else acknowledging a wrongful act committed. This has become my own personal struggle now and for me, I will not be held hostage; I no longer view forgiveness as optional.

Clif said...

Excellent post in every way. You got my attention from the beginning and I had to keep reading. Most of the time I will not even begin to read a post this long. Thank you for posting these important words in such a clear and easy to understand way.

MTJ said...

Cliff: Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts; they are appreciated. I knew this post strained the word count threshold, I considered splitting it up, but felt doing so would dilute the impact. I'm thankful it didn't deter you.

I challenge myself to write creative, effective, concise and interesting subjects. Reading books on writing and authors who serve as virtual mentors help to give me a framework to articulate my thoughts.

Writing is a new venture for me. I don't say that as an excuse, simply to acknowledge that much like my Christian journey, I am a work in progress.

Marydon said...

This couldn't have com eat a more appropriate time ... my first day to come participate ... & in Mass today the words reached out on this same topic ... TYSM for this write.

Have a beautiful week ~
TTFN ~Hugs, Marydon

Beautiful pear tree lane said...

Thank you for sharing this post on forgiveness, I too have experienced this type of pain by a fellow believer. And it took me a long time to ever forgive, I knew that I had forgiven them, when I could say that I was praying for them, and really meant it.
I am so thankful for God's patience with me
Blessings,
Sue

MTJ said...

Marydon: Thank you for visiting. May God be praised that something in this post spoke to your heart.

Sue: Like you, I am appreciative of the grace and patience God extends to me. To say, "I am praying for you" and actually pray for someone, speaks to me of one's desire to uphold their word; this is what integrity means to me.

It causes me to reflect on how often I've said something and not meant it. How patient God has been with me, teaching me the value of honoring my words. God is faithful, I too, want to be faithful.

Lands Family Led by the Lord said...

Thank you for your amazing post and honesty on being hurt.. IT IS NOT EASY TO FORGIVE WHEN WE HAVE BEEN HURT.. It takes prayer and lots of it to move to forgiveness..
In Jesus we do have the Victory of walking in forgiveness.

Blessings,
Virginia

MTJ said...

Virginia: Thank you for your kindness. It's true, "In Jesus, we do have the Victory of walking in forgiveness."

Tiffany said...

God's timing is amazing...LOVED this post...spoke straight to my heart. You can never truly move forward until you have TRULY MOVED FORWARD. And that movie...it still stays with me...thank you for the post, and for the awesome references. God bless!

MTJ said...

Tiffany: You continue to be an inspiration and source of encouragement. Your love for Christ, believers and the unsaved is effectively communicated.