A book on forgiveness inspired me and opened my eyes to the benefits of having compassion for our enemies despite what they’ve done to us. I bought the book to help me navigate some painful memories from the past. What I didn’t expect was how helpful it would be for present trials.
I’ve known for ages that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Unforgiveness imprisons us. Forgiveness frees us. What I didn’t know was how to handle the inner outrage that flared up each time I was reminded of the horrible behavior of others.
It’s easier to say to myself I forgive someone than it is to forget what they did. It’s easier to obey God and forgive them when I remind myself, that the Lord knows all the details. He won’t forget a person’s wrongs unless they’ve repented. But it wasn’t easy to extinguish the flames of indignation that caused me to feel the original pain all over again each time a trigger took me back in time.
How does one heal from the hurt when it still burns?
One way is to remember that hurting people hurt others. Damaged people cause damage. It’s not an excuse to let them get away with it. It’s a reason why we don’t need to feel shame for someone else’s shameful behavior. We can show compassion to ourselves by acknowledging we didn’t sign up for their abuse. We can show compassion for our enemies by considering they may have unresolved trauma that’s motivating their abusive behavior. They’re not enjoying themselves either. We can let go of any thought or desire to get even. God is perfect. He will judge perfectly when Judgement Day arrives. We’re not called to judge others.
What are we called to do?
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven… Luke 6:37 ESV
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 ESV
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15 ESV
Even if the police become involved and we need to testify about a perpetrator who has harmed us or others, we’re still called to leave the vengeance part in God’s hands. Yes, we must report criminal behavior. But we must not stoop to ungodly behavior while doing so.
People who are in emotional pain sometimes inflict pain on others without consciously intending to. Some people can’t love. It’s not that they choose not to, they just don’t know how to. We, on the other hand, are to love the hand that hits us. (From a safe distance—of course.)
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you… Luke 6:27 ESV
I can testify that the more I do good to my haters, the easier it is for me to forgive them. It also lessens the pain from the past. Compassion is a cool compress that soothes pain in both the perpetrator and the victim. Just as forgiveness blesses the one who forgives others, compassion blesses the one who shares it with others too.
By the way, Keith and Kristyn Getty’s song “Compassion Hymn” is a lovely reminder of the abundance of compassion God has showered over us. You may want to check it out if you have a chance.
The book I was referring to is: Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa Terkeurst.
And now I’d like to close with a poem:
Compassion is our ally
when we’re dealing with pain
And it’s a vaccine
against wallowing in shame
Compassion is our calling
in this life
For we have been saved
through the compassion of Christ.
Blessings of Christ’s Compassion ~ Wendy MacCompassion is our calling in this life for we have been saved through the compassion of Christ. #Faith #poetry Click To Tweet