Forgive and forget. We’ve heard it a thousand times.
As a teen and young adult, I’d hear these words and felt so guilty because I could never seem to forget the truly awful things I witnessed in my broken, abusive home.
Forgive and forget. It sounded so nice, like a clean slate just laid out in front of me.
Forgiveness is confusing. Our culture has imposed flowery ideas of what forgiveness means on us. So have our abusers. Our spiritual leaders. Our families. The media.
We hear a heartfelt story of forgiveness against impossible odds and we impose that story onto our own stories without knowing the details.
Here’s the thing: Forgiving someone doesn’t change them in any way. Forgiving someone doesn’t make an abuser safe. It doesn’t mean your relationship will ever go back to the way it was. Forgiveness is NOT the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is really hard!
A clean slate sounds so freeing, but to an abusive person, a clean slate is an opportunity for more heartache and damage. They see a clean slate as an open opportunity to continue treating you poorly. Hear this: You can forgive someone and set up boundaries to protect yourself. It doesn’t have to be either or.
Forgiving someone means to consciously release feelings of vengeance or hate. In some cases, it might mean releasing justice into the hands of authorities. If reconciliation is even wise or possible, it takes two equally willing participants. Both must fully own their own stories, their own actions.
Forgiveness does not mean you stop telling the truth. It doesn’t mean you pretend something never happened. Your story is yours to tell. You are the only person who owns it.
Forgiveness is for you. Your heart. Your soul. Your future. And hear me when I say that it’s okay if it feels like this is a place you’ll never get to. Give yourself some grace. You likely have deep wounds, and those take time to process. I would encourage you to revisit forgiveness after you’ve had the opportunity to heal and grieve for a season.
It’s okay if you find forgiveness hard or the process takes longer than you expected. Remember, grace. There is no magic formula to this. Pain is anything but formulated. It is erratic and costly, and trudging through grief takes lots and lots of time and energy. But healing and forgiveness is possible! Don’t give up. Because every time you dare to believe there is more freedom ahead for you, you aren’t just changing your life, you are changing those around you, and all future generations born from you and affected by you.
If forgiveness means releasing vengeance and hate, your heart and your soul will be better for it. And who knows what a journey such as this might birth inside you.