The Discipline of Forgiveness

“Tonight, I pray for those who have wronged me, used me, abused me — whether knowingly or unknowingly,” I wrote while a flood of emotions began to rise up within me as I came to a resolution. “I’ve decided that it’s between them and God.”


I had just gotten home from our weekly Saturday night prayer meeting at my church. My heart weighed so heavy, I just had to pour out my every thought into my prayer journal as soon as I got home. You see, that night after prayer, my Bishop had challenged our church to do something I honestly feel we as Christians don’t do enough. He asked us to pray for our enemies. He referenced Job 42:10 where Job prayed for his friends and the Lord gave Job twice of what he had before.

“We all know those ‘friends’ were really Job’s enemies,” Bishop Huntley continued, “The only thing keeping us from our double blessing is not praying for our enemies.” Then, he had us do something that changed the way I will approach forgiveness forever. He had us call out all the names of those who wronged us before the Lord in prayer. It was the most powerful and emotional end to any prayer meeting I’ve been a part of.


Tears welled up in my eyes as I sat on my bed and began to list the names of each person I have been hurt by in my 24 years of living. Staring at a once empty page, I noticed the list had turned out longer than I had expected. As I turned over the page, I began to do something I’ve never done before… I asked God to move on their hearts. I pleaded with Him to turn their hearts back to Christ and to have His way in their lives.

I then began to ask the Lord to work on MY heart. To take me back to those moments of pain and hurt, and to free me from unresolved bitterness and anger in those moments.

The flashbacks began to crowd my mind. Tears came, streaming down my face as I began to remember every detail. Every word cut like knives. Every tease, every painful moment came rushing back.

“They’ll never know the hell they put me and family through some days,” I continued writing as I relived every battle I’ve ever fought in my mind, “…Through it all, God had me.” Tears began to stain the paper as the words kept coming. I couldn’t stop. And then, I wrote down all the things every situation had taught me.

And as my entry came to a close, I looked back at those things and gave thanks. “So I guess if there’s one thing I could say, I would say thank you… Like gold tried in the fire, I know we can withstand the flames.”


There is so much I could say on the topic of forgiveness, but let me just leave you with a few thoughts…

Forgiveness is a daily decision. We always hear the expression, “Forgive and forget.” Well, excuse me for being a bit cliché but that’s easier said than done. A lot of times, there are situations that arise and little things that happen that can trigger a painful memory or hurt. It’s in these moments where we begin to feel the same emotions rise back up to the surface.

When this happens, we have a decision to make. We can allow ourselves to be bitter. Or we can forgive again. Each day, you have a choice to make. I pray you choose to forgive.

Unforgiveness creates resentment. I was talking with Nina a few days ago and she said it like this:

 Unforgiveness creates resentment in our hearts for the things we feel they stole from us. Suddenly, we begin to think of all the things we harbor resentment for and replace them by saying, “They stole _____.” Or, “I’ll never be able to get back the _____ they took from me!”

You may feel like someone stole something in your life. Whether it be the time you had with them, the idea of a perfect relationship, whatever it may be… Though it may be true, unforgiveness will cause you to harbor resentment and bitterness toward that person. Please, choose love.

True forgiveness means to wipe the slate clean. When Jesus died on the cross, the blood He shed was enough to wipe away every sin we ever committed. We should be the ones paying for our sin and shame, and yet, Christ paid a debt He never owed in the first place.

The same happens when we truly forgive others. True forgiveness is saying, “You don’t owe me anything.” Even if the person apologizes or admits that they were wrong, it can’t make up for lost time or change the fact that the damage has already been done. It simply means that you are moving forward. Choose grace, and move on.

So I want you to take a moment and search deep within yourself. Who are your enemies? Who have you been harboring resentment toward? It’s time to be like Job and pray for those who have wronged us. Write their names down and call out their names before the Lord. And then… let go.

When the Past Is Holding Onto You

It’s me Lord. I’ve been hurt.

This sincere, six-worded phrase is one that I find myself speaking in prayer over and over again. I have learned over the course of my life that in order to get through a situation, I must confront it. By confronting my situation, I mean bringing it to the feet of Jesus and letting Him take care of it. It’s not because I am easily offended, but this prayer is an overflow of feelings that emerge due to my past. Growing up, we experience situations and learn many lessons that cultivate us into the adults that we are. However, one very important lesson that we miss is the one about forgiving the past and letting go. We are frail human beings compelled by circumstances we have no control over and cannot change. Sadly, our future actions are governed by the hurts of our past, and we miss out on growing to the potential God has set for us. God never intended for us to be burdened by the things of the past because his blood covered that debt.

Often, consuming feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, disappointment, and hurt overcome me. At times, I must seek out the promise of a quiet room to let God help me through those emotions. These feelings have not arrayed from my own doings necessarily, but they are components of my past. More importantly, these feelings are chains that keep me bound to the past. Whether in church, or simply convincing yourselves, I am sure you have heard the phrase to, “let go and let God have control.” This is obviously the right concept, and one that is most effective in dealing with situations because we know that God will take care of everything. However, my imperfections wonder, “How can I let go of something that is holding on to me?” I do not ask for those feelings of hurt to arise, but they do. The feelings are as if I have been hit to unconsciousness and I am no longer in control. So, how do we let go?

Before moving on to the “letting go” phase, we must understand some truths that God fulfilled in our lives when He gave himself on the cross.

You Are Not a Victim

I know this sounds a little harsh. I am not in any way disguising or relegating your pain when I say that you are not a victim. However, we must stop victimizing ourselves. When we play the role that we cannot have a normal life because of what we’ve been through, we are putting the chains back on ourselves when God has freed us. It’s like picking an old wound that has healed. When we continue with the mindset that we are victims to hurt and pain, we are letting things that are not of God control us. We may have been victims to life at one point and time, but God has paid a price so that we don’t have to live in fear. A war is already waged. You are victorious in Jesus because he already fought your battle and won. You are not a victim anymore.

(Deuteronomy 20:4) For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.

Your Thoughts Are Not Your Own

We must take every thought captive. Many times, my mind unremittingly reminds me of where I use to be. Your mind will remind you of who you use to be and where you have come from, but that is when we take those thoughts and give them over to God right then. We must control our thoughts and fill our minds with the things of God. Reforming our mindsets when we have already been molded by life is a process that only God can completely alter, and that is why we must trust him with our past. We cannot change our past, but we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It is perfectly okay to give God the same hurts over and over. He knows that we are weak at times; and the more we give our hurts to him, the faster we can relinquish our pain. You don’t have to live in subjection to shame and hurt.

2 Corinthians 10:5 — Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

(Philippians 2:5) Let this mind be in you, which is also in Christ.

(Isaiah 55:8–9) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

(Romans 12:2) And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Forgiving means forgiving yourself, too!

I am changed. As circumstances happened in my life, I felt my heart harden and form like concrete. I felt myself building walls to protect my vulnerability. Emotions were passive, and life was only black and white for me. I went from compassionate to cold and was led by my brokenness. The most destructive mindset I took on was blaming myself and others. Then, I isolated myself from those who truly cared for me. Forgiveness is an enormous process in letting go. In fact, forgiveness is letting go. Remember that you are a child of the king, and anything is possible with God. Pray every day for God to give you the strength to forgive and let go, and trust him to take care of it. If you are led by God, you will be a new creature and everything in the past will no longer matter; all things will become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 — Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Paul says it perfectly in Philippians 3:12–16

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, a let us be of the same mind.

Forgiving Yourself for the Silence

TRIGGER WARNING: This piece deals with non-explicit themes of domestic violence and assault. 

“You know how we each have something that keeps us up at night?” The hum of the voices in the coffee shop whirled around me as I typed out the words to my friend from undergrad, Rachel. I paused and looked out the window into the depths of a late-February nighttime. The dark road of my city shimmered under the lamplights, moist from the afternoon’s rain shower. After the pause that all confessions require, I told her what kept my eyes open at 2 am, what tossed me around in my bed when I fell asleep, what moved through my dream state and lived as a permanent squatter in my subconscious. “For me, it’s the fact that I stayed silent.”

As I hit “send,” I was transported away from the small table with my headphones and half-finished packet of organic fruit snacks and back into 2011. “I regret that I never reported it. That I just let him graduate magna cum laude and go off to Europe on his fancy Rhoad’s Scholarship and continue presenting his pristine Golden Boy facade,” words tumbled out of my fingers while Kristine DiMarco’s “It Is Well” played through my earbuds. And then, I revealed the truth:

“What if he does the same thing to another woman? Would I blame myself a little bit? I don’t know. I probably would, at least a little.” Of all the regrets in my past that I relive over and over at night, I once wrote in my mint green journal, the silence is my Big Regret. The unspoken truth that lurked underneath the surface, the true cause of my restless insomnia, whispered just loud enough for both pairs of ears to hear its voice. If it’s your Big Regret now, it sneered, imagine how you’ll feel when he does it to another woman and then to another. It’ll be your fault because you were a coward. How WEAK you were. How SELFISH.

Darkness, the scavenger that takes no prisoners and feeds off the decayed, licked its lips in greedy anticipation. How weak. Anytime I read a story of a woman fighting to bring her abuser to justice, my eyes move through the words, anxiety flailing beneath the surface, holding its breath. I fear hearing her say the words I wish I would have, “I’m doing this so that he never does to another woman what he did to me.” I’ve become braver. I’ve become bolder. I’ve started to own the spilled ink in my story and I’ve become a fighter, but I can’t help but wish I would have become all these things a few years earlier. The changes I’ve made sometimes reek of Too-Little-Too-Late.

I’ve been almost five years since October of 2011. For almost five years, I’ve been ashamed of my silence.


“There’s no point in regretting it now,” truth and grace show up in the small chat box of Facebook messenger. Rachel is my accountability partner and I tell her everything; I regularly push my mess towards her with both hands and she removes it from the table to put down grace in its place. The cycle then repeats with our roles reversed. In Ephesians 4:32, the Word tells us to forgive others, “as God in Christ forgave [us].” A pastor’s wife once told me that God often shows His love for us through other people; I think that’s part of why we give grace away and love others and try to forgive those who hurt us. The Christian corners of the Internet are filled with articles and blog posts about how challenging it can be to forgive someone, especially when they truly break you, but what they don’t always mention is how much harder it can be to forgive yourself. I have forgiven that man for the ways he demolished me. I forgive him for how he drew blood and took what he believed was his to take. I forgive him for making me a statistic. I pray about him and even tell God that I worry I won’t see him in heaven. But even with all of this, I still have yet to forgive myself.

“I need to finally give grace,” I write. It’s something I should have given myself almost five years ago, but certain things in life are better late than never.

Grace. Grace for the things I wish I’d done. Grace to no longer go back and tell myself I should have done this differently. The grace to have been scared. The grace to have survived in the only way I knew how.

Will I ever manage to wash down the taste of regret? I’m not sure. A part of me thinks that it’ll always be there, sometimes a subtle aftertaste and sometimes the only thing I notice. But I can’t continue to look back. Instead, I’m choosing to face the future, to ask myself what I can do differently to atone for my silence tomorrow. I can’t change the past, but I can be a defender who walks alongside the hurting of the present and of the future. No matter what, the sun will rise tomorrow. Light will hit the earth and chase away the Darkness of regret and fear and that same grace will come about the next day and the next.

Forgiveness Leads to Love

Think back to a time when someone hurt you. Remember how that person’s words or actions made you feel? Remember that feeling in your stomach? Remember the anger? Maybe you are still affected by it today.

The Bible says that we are to forgive, no matter how hard it may be.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

God is saying that it is in our own best interest to forgive, and He has given us the perfect example of forgiveness. He knew that we needed to be forgiven for our sins so He sent Jesus to save us from the consequences of our sin. If God was strong enough to allow his son to die on a cross to prove to us how much He loves us, shouldn’t we trust Him when He says, “forgive?”

Colossians 3:13 says: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

For me, forgiveness took a long time. I survived a childhood of physical and emotional abuse from the two people who were supposed to love me the most. My coping mechanism was to avoid (the memories) and deny (that anything was wrong). I didn’t tell anyone for many years because I didn’t want anyone to judge me. I had feelings of anger, shame, and guilt from my past. I struggled with the idea of forgiveness for a long time. I didn’t want to forgive my parents because I believed that they didn’t deserve it.

What I learned was that forgiving others spares us from the consequences of living out of an unforgiving heart. It’s important to keep in mind that forgiving someone doesn’t mean that everything is hunky-dory. Unfortunately, the old phrase of “forgive and forget” isn’t really beneficial in real life. You should remember what someone has done to you, even if it means you can no longer be a part of their life.

Remember, forgiveness does not justify or pardon the deed or the person. Likewise, it does not provide God’s forgiveness for their actions, because only God can do that. And while nothing can undo the past, we can do something about the condition of our own present and future. Forgiving others makes a way for our own healing to begin. That healing process will lead you to be able to love.

Listen to your heart. Is there someone who you need to forgive in order to move forward and truly love as God has commanded us? If so, I would encourage you to do the following:

  1. Pray about it and how the act of forgiveness can help you grow spiritually.
  2. Understand that negative feelings will occur when we are hurt and that’s normal.
  3. Talk to someone about what you are experiencing.
  4. Don’t rush. Forgiveness is a process.
  5. Honor the fact that you are becoming a different person by forgiving.