Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Power of Radical Obedience (Part 3) - Forgiveness

I'm still working on the afghan for the man who raped me. Without a doubt, this is the most difficult thing I've ever been asked to do. Many thoughts are racing through my head... I've been thinking about that awful night. I've been thinking about what KT's life has been like for the past 10,000 days. I've been thinking about how he'll feel when he receives the afghan and my letter. I wonder if he's already accepted Christ in his life or if he'll even consider it. I wonder if he'll feel remorse or anger to hear from me after all these years. I wonder if he's accepted responsibility for what he did to my life or whether he still blames me for what I did to his.

But there's one theme that keeps running through my mind in connection with this situation as well as some other issues I've been dealing with, and that's the concept of forgiveness. I'm continually praying that God will give me a heart of sincere forgiveness for this man, and for others who have hurt me. I've really had to pray about this and I've come to realize that it wasn't that I didn't want to forgive, it's that I really wasn't sure what true forgiveness would need to look like. defines the verb forgive as "to renounce anger or resentment against." During my research, I found an article on the top 10 steps to forgiveness. While the article expressly states that some of the steps may not be relevant or appropriate in certain situations (such as random acts of violence or child molestation), I still found the article very helpful. The author, Diana Robinson, PhD, writes that

"For many people forgiveness is one of the hardest steps of all in our progress toward freedom of spirit. Yet it is essential. For as long as we are unable to forgive, we keep ourselves chained to the unforgiven. We give them rent-free space in our minds, emotional shackles on our hearts, and the right to torment us in the small hours of the night."

Well, she's right. I've been emotionally shackled for my entire adult life, in ways that I'm only now beginning to see clearly, and I'm so ready to move on. I believe that God has wonderful things in store for my life, but in order to move on, it's important to take this final step in putting my past behind me. As part of that process, God has revealed some things to me about the nature of forgiveness that finally make it possible for me to forgive those who have hurt me so deeply.

Before I could begin to forgive, I had to understand what forgiveness was NOT. In a great article entitled How to Forgive: 10 Guidlines, Minister Victor Parachin references work by Robert Enright, a PhD and education psychologist who describes 4 things that true forgiveness is NOT:
  • Forgetting. Particularly in the case of random or extreme violence, this may simply not be possible.
  • Excusing or condoning. Wrong is wrong. Period. It should not be accepted, denied, minimalized or justified.
  • Reconciling (this one was HUGE for me). It's possible to forgive someone who has hurt you without rekindling a relationship with them. Sometimes reconciliation is not possible or advisable.
  • Weakness. Forgiveness does not make you weak or powerless. In fact, the opposite is true. It gives you strength. As Minister Parachin notes, "Ultimately, forgiveness is a gift you give you yourself. Bitterness and anger imprison you emotionally. Forgiveness sets you free."
There are a few other things I've realized about forgiveness:
  • It doesn't matter whether or not the person you're forgiving has asked for forgiveness, or even thinks that he/she needs forgiving. The act of forgiving if more about you than about them anyway. It's about making the life-altering shift from "victim" to "survivor".
  • Understanding "why" is not essential to forgiveness. I know that I will never understand how human beings can hurt each other as much as we do, and I'm not even sure that KT knows why he did what he did to me. At this point, "why" is a useless question that will tie me up in knots for the rest of my life if I let it.
  • Forgiveness doesn't necessarily involved publically acknowledging your forgiveness to the person you are forgiving. If you were hurt by a stranger, you may not even know who they are or how to contact them. They may not know that you have forgiven them, but God knows. And that's the most important thing. By all means, if it's possible and appropriate, let the person know you have forgiven them, but don't use the inability to tell them you have forgiven them as an excuse for not doing so.
So why forgive? As I've briefly mentioned, there are a lot of psychological (and related physical) reasons for forgiveness. I can search for and find answers to that question that are lengthy and complex. Or I can choose to forgive for one very simple reason, because God requires it of me.
  • If I forgive people their trespasses, my heavenly Father will also forgive me. (Matthew 6:14)
  • And whenever I stand praying, if I have anything against anyone, I forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go) in order that my Father Who is in heaven may also forgive my my failings and shortcomings and let them drop. But if I do not forgive, neither will my Father in heaven forgive my failings and shortcomings. (Mark 11:25-26)
  • Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him. (2 Corinthians 2:7-8)
So, in God's name, I chose to forgive K.T. for what he did to me. He has not asked me for my forgiveness, and I have no idea whether he will even acknowledge the afghan and my letter when he receives them. It doesn't matter. Forgiving him has set me free from years of emotional bondage. I only hope it will do the same for him. I'll post a picture of the afghan along with my final thoughts on this process in a few days when I'm done.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Love your blog! Wow, that must be hard, knitting an afghan for the man that attacked you. I'll be praying for you and him. You are truly an inspiration to me.

I love the Think Pink Challenge. I don't knit, but I will be praying for you and I'll pass the word around.