Forgiveness will not be hazardous to your health. However . . . maybe the label on the bottle of “Forgiveness pills” should read something like this: “Warning! This product may sting a bit. You may not be ready to try it today, but keep it handy on the shelf. There will come a day when you will be willing to try it.”
I apologize if this feels like a “hands off” or even more bluntly, a “none of your business” topic. Please allow me to gently suggest that forgiveness frees the forgiver. It may take years before one is ready to try the first time, but it gets easier with practice. I have found it to be a personal, one-on-one experience between me and God without a third party even present. If I am willing, God does the rest. It unhooks the chains that bind us to someone else; someone who has hurt us deeply.
Don’t take my word for it. Maybe I’ll pretend that John Eldredge brought the topic up all on his own and allow him to take the heat for it. But seriously, note his approach to forgiveness in his book, Wild at Heart where he specifically speaks about a child extending forgiveness to his father. Whether it be a father or mother or friend or other, I have felt the freedom that forgiveness brings. Perhaps something said here will resonate in your heart too.
“Time has come for us to forgive our fathers. Paul warns us that unforgiveness and bitterness can wreck our lives and the lives of others (Eph. 4:31; Heb. 12:15). I am sorry to think of all the years my wife endured the anger and bitterness that I redirected at her from my father. As someone has said, forgiveness is setting a prisoner free and then discovering the prisoner was you. I found some help in Bly’s experience of forgiving his own father, when he said, “I began to think of him not as someone who had deprived me of love or attention or companionship, but as someone who himself had been deprived, by his father and his mother and by the culture.” My father had his own wound that no one ever offered to heal. His father was an alcoholic, too, for a time, and there were some hard years for my dad as a young man just as there were for me.
Now you must understand: Forgiveness is a choice. It is not a feeling, but an act of the will. As Neil Anderson has written, “Don’t wait to forgive until you feel like forgiving; you will never get there. Feelings take time to heal after the choice to forgive is made.” We allow God to bring the hurt up from our past, for “if your forgiveness doesn’t visit the emotional core of your life, it will be incomplete.” We acknowledge that it hurt, that it mattered, and we choose to extend forgiveness to our father. This is not saying, ‘It didn’t really matter’; it is not saying, ‘I probably deserved part of it anyway.’ Forgiveness says, ‘It was wrong, it mattered, and I release you.’ And then we ask God to father us, and to tell us our true name.”
Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31