“I don’t think you deserve my time,” my friend texted. “I don’t think any explanation from you will do any good.”
My heart sank. I had just vulnerably shared that a few weekends ago at a women’s retreat I found healing from a lot of built-up resentment I had been feeling towards my dear friend. I shared that I was freed from the bitterness I felt and apologized for the hurt and pain I had caused to her.
I forgave her but she didn’t forgive me back.
In fact, she fired back with a few rounds of hurtful comments claiming that my forgiveness was a manipulation at best and a cop-out for my actions. My faith and my character were called into question and it stung.
While the entire situation made me feel uneasy I knew in my heart that I had completely forgiven her because of three things: grace, peace, and choice.
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1. I felt a willingness to extend grace.
My friend was obviously still upset (and rightfully so). We both said and did some things that hurt one another. Plus, it had been a while since we talked. As the days went by without any communication, the situation worsened and our relationship continued to deteriorate.
As I read her hurtful words, I could have clapped back with a comment in-kind, but I chose not to. When you experience forgiveness, bitterness and resentment fall to the ground and it becomes possible to try on someone else’s perspective. Instead of feeling defensive and angry, I felt love and empathy for my friend and, as a result, could extend grace.
2. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace.
At the women’s retreat, we wrote down a word, phrase, or scripture from God on a sticky note after a beautiful self-reflection exercise. Mine read, “fully known and loved by God”. One-by-one, we all went to the front of the room and stuck our bright pink notes on a life-size silhouette hanging on the wall.
It was a beautiful reminder to take off the labels we (and the world) put on ourselves and lean into God’s truth about who He says we are.
When we sat back down, the leader handed us a blank piece of paper. On it, we were to write down the initials of three people we had a difficult relationship with.
My dear friend’s name popped into my head.
As we worked through the exercise, we became very aware of how we treat that person, the labels we give to them and how they act towards us. We recalled the events that lead to our discontentment towards each other.
Then the leader asked one last question. It was the question that would open my eyes to a new perspective and ultimately lead to forgiveness.
She asked us to look at the silhouette hanging on the wall. If any of the people on our “difficult list” didn’t deserve what was written on those bright pink sticky notes to come up and take them down.
No one moved.
At that moment, I saw my friend from a new point of view. She, too, is fully known and loved by God even though my bitterness and resentment wanted to paint her as something else.
I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. Even though our relationship was littered with bruises, I felt complete.
3. I choose forgiveness.
A lot of people think forgiveness is a feeling, so they wait until one day they wake up and feel better about the situation. Forgiveness isn’t a feeling, forgiveness is a choice. When your forgiveness isn’t met with warm feelings of hope and healing, remember that forgiveness can coexist without reconciliation.
You can choose forgiveness when the other person won’t because “choice” is a declared acceptance for the way it is and the way that it isn’t. It has no loss of joy, freedom or peace in your life.
Of course, I long for the day when my friend chooses to forgive me back, but it’s ultimately my friend’s responsibility to choose forgiveness, not mine. While I wait for that day, I accept our relationship the way that it is and the way that it isn’t because I choose it. And that, my friend, has a lot of power!
Choosing forgiveness frees you from negative feelings that weigh you down like bitterness, resentment, playing the victim, and anxiety. You’re no longer on the hook for any games the other person may attempt to play to try and make you earn their forgiveness.
Double check and make sure you’ve forgiven someone completely by asking yourself…
- Do I feel a willingness to stand in love and extend grace even without my friend’s forgiveness?
- Do I feel at peace or complete with this person even with a bruised past?
- Do I authentically choose to forgive my friend?
Remember that forgiveness ultimately is for you. Without it, unforgiveness will block you from your life.
If you’re concerned for your friend because they haven’t forgiven you, pray that the Lord would transform their heart. Pray that God would overwhelm her with peace and empathy and grace the same way he did yours.
And if you don’t have grace, peace, and choice for yourself yet, pray that God would do a mighty work on your own heart.
We serve a mighty God who can do impossible things. Keep your heart open and keep praying.