I was reminded this weekend that I have a blog — and it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything. Then, this note popped up on my Facebook review from several years ago …. so, here it is. It’s good stuff. Read it, OK? Everyone struggles with this — even when we don’t realize we’re struggling with it. It can be subtle or it can be in your face. It can also be hidden from you but obvious to everyone else! It will give you something to ponder — everyone needs something to ponder, right?
Here goes — and, I welcome your feedback. We’ve all got something to learn and we’ve all got something to share!
(Originally Published on August 7, 2011)
I was listening to an audio of someone teaching about the human brain a couple of weeks ago and the spiritual and emotional truth of what he was saying about the physical just really stuck with me. I’m not even going to try to quote scientific stuff – you can probably research the hypo-thalamus and limbic system if you want to search it further. I wouldn’t get the details right. I’m not a scientist, a doctor, or a psychologist – just a woman who has lived some of this stuff and can attest to the truth of how it works – whether or not I fully understand all the details!
Everything we experience in life has an effect – and it makes a mark. Life experiences, emotional responses, sometimes even patterns of thinking – all get “burned” into our brains. They create grooves and patterns – and ruts. These things accumulate as we go through life; everything we experience takes a journey through the roller coaster of tracks that have been ingrained. Sometimes that is good – but sometimes it is not. Traumatic life experiences make the deepest marks. The good news is that we really can re-train how we respond to these things and those marks can heal.
I was trying to explain this to a teenager last week as we were talking about some things. I started to use the example of how a CD is burned, but that just didn’t quite fit. She understood the “burning” part – but I couldn’t take the example any further. Then, I just happened to look down and notice a big gouge in the wooden table we were sitting at. The finish was smooth and polished, but every time you would run your finger across it, you would feel every contour of the damage. If we would have poured water on the table, it would have followed a specific pathway created by the gouge. We could polish it up and keep it smooth, we could put something over the top of it so we didn’t see it, but it would take some effort and we would need to invest some time if we wanted to repair it so that pathway was no longer there. I’m not a woodworker, so I don’t know what would be involved, but I suspect it would take some sanding, some filling to rebuild, and some refinishing. The beauty and usability could be restored, but the fact would remain that the original piece of wood would never be the same – its physical structure had been affected by the gouge.
We are able to “repair” those marks left on our brains. Some are like light scratches and it doesn’t take too long for them to heal. But, some are like deep gouges or even splintered wood. They take longer. The “how to” isn’t the purpose of this note – I know in my life it takes a lot of honesty with myself, an application of physical, emotional, and spiritual truth, prayer, and submission. Submission to the process and the pain it can bring during the healing process – and submission to the Sovereignty of God. I don’t always understand, but I choose to believe that He is constantly working things out on my behalf.
So, having said all that – here is the “light bulb” of truth I want to share. I want to share it because it is HUGE. Do you care to take a guess at what the most difficult thing to heal is? I would assume that you may be thinking of specific traumatic events or abuses – that is where my thoughts went first. Well, it is unforgiveness. It is not the event; it is how we choose to hold onto it that is so hard to heal. I will not argue that there are some horrible things people experience – I am not minimizing that at all. I don’t know how people even survive some things that happen to them – let alone recover and heal. My understanding just can’t wrap around that. It amazes me every time I see the restorative grace of God alive and active in a person’s life – and I am thankful that is available to me too!
Unforgiveness can take three years to heal. Three years. I get so frustrated when I feel like I have chosen to forgive someone, I have prayed about it, I have released it – and then I see that person somewhere – and all that old stuff rises up in me again. What the heck?! God, I forgave that person – what is going on? It is not that I haven’t chosen to forgive – it is that the healing of unforgiveness is a process. (And, the process of extending forgiveness and walking through that healing usually involves working on an area of my life that needs some smoothing out too!) Every time that rises up again, I have to choose to continue through the process and experience whatever pain is still lingering, lay it down, and keep moving on. The beauty of the process is that one day I will encounter that person, or think about the situation, and the pain or anger of unforgiveness I feel will be much less – then one day it will be gone. And, it truly is a miracle when that happens.
So, perhaps you are thinking that you have unforgiveness that has lasted more than three years – so how can three years apply? I don’t have any trouble believing that. I carried around some buried unforgiveness for a lot of years. It still affected every area of my life even though I chose not to acknowledge it. It did a lot of damage. It won’t go away by itself – and I don’t think we can make a choice to forgive and then check back in three years and expect it to be gone. It’s not a magic formula. It’s a hard process. It is an active process.
I also carried around what I’ll call “active unforgiveness.” You know – a grudge. Justified or not, it is deadly. It poisons every area of our life – and the lives of those we love. The damage has been done – we can’t change what happened. But, we can choose how we are going to let it affect us. It’s not easy.
Here is a little 3-step process a pastor shared about 15 years ago. I have applied this consistently to some old wounds – and they have healed.
- Forgive the person – just choose to do it whether you feel like it or not. Be prepared, you probably won’t feel like it.
- Release the person – God can’t work in the situation if we are hanging on and staying in the way. If we have truly been harmed, God will handle the justice – we don’t have to try to do it. He is more than able, and he knows what needs to be refined in that person’s life. Forgiveness is about you.
- Bless the person – pray for God’s blessing on every area of the person’s life. Again – whether you feel like it or not. And you probably won’t feel like it the first 100 times or so!
This isn’t a one-time formula. It is a process. It is a prescription for healing that must be applied EVERY single time the unforgiveness rises up.
Important note: You do NOT need to maintain an active relationship with an abusive person to forgive them. Sometimes you need to stay away for your safety.
Forgiveness is hard – but it is possible. And, while you’re at it – don’t forget to apply forgiveness to yourself. Forgiveness doesn’t mean something was not wrong – it means we have the opportunity to reconcile, change, and move forward in our lives.
Be blessed today!