I am no stranger to forgiveness. Not only have I screwed up many times and had to ask for forgiveness from others, but I have been screwed over many times and had many people ask me for my forgiveness. The crazy thing is, although we often ask for forgiveness and offer forgiveness to others, many times we don’t permit ourselves to actually receive the forgiveness being offered to us.
If I hurt someone, apologize, and receive forgiveness for my actions – this does not automatically mean that I have received their forgiveness. Just because they say “I forgive you”, does not guarantee that my heart has had a turning point to where I actually receive their forgiveness – and in return, forgive myself. The responsibility of being forgiven is equally shared between two parties: the person extending it, and the person receiving it. Often, when forgiveness is offered, our hearts are too hardened by our own shame and disappointment in ourselves to actually receive it. But that, my friends, is another topic for another day. For today, I’d like to take you back to Sunday service at Shoreline City: September 1st, 2019.
Pastor Ben was speaking, I was taking notes. I had invited some friends, and they sat next to me. I was feeling pretty snazzy and had taken my time on my makeup that morning (lol come on Anna, you know better than that…). I don’t usually cry at church – or in public, for that matter. But when Pastor Ben said that he had a turning point when he went to his dad and asked his dad to forgive him for all of the time Ben had spent harboring unforgiveness, my heart stopped. Tears pooled in my eyes and then spilled down my cheeks. I usually sit as close to the front row as I can… but that day I was SO grateful for being late – and for finding myself tucked up high in the dimly lit balcony.
I went home, my heart feeling heavy and burdened. Did my hurts still feel fresh because I too had been hurt – and had I let that hurt turn to unforgiveness? I recalled something that had happened weeks before when my dad had pulled me aside and told me that he was proud of me. This was a moment that should’ve caused me to beam with joy in celebration – but instead, had caused me to ugly cry in my car for half an hour. This was not the response of a healed heart – and yet, since I had already both forgiven my parents and asked for forgiveness for my digressions, I thought I had done my part. Wrong.
Skip a few days down the week to Thursday. I had my first video call with Nisan – also known as “The Fitness Preacher”. Nisan is the author of a book called “Born Gifted” – and he has a coaching program where he teaches people to identify, develop, and walk in their spiritual gifts! During our call, Nisan (quite randomly, if you ask me) mentions that sometimes to fully heal from things, it takes going to the people you had unforgiveness towards; and asking them to forgive you for your unforgiveness.
I hoped he didn’t see the tears pooling in my eyes, but his words hit hard. They were confirmation. I couldn’t ignore my reaction to what Pastor Ben said anymore, and I definitely couldn’t ignore what Nisan was telling me. I had no harsh feelings towards anyone, and no unforgiveness currently residing in my heart. But yet, I knew that I needed to have that conversation with my dad.
Today is Saturday. 4 hours ago, my family met up for dinner. We went to a coffee shop after, and at the end of our night I pulled my dad aside. I told him that I had held onto unforgiveness towards him, and that I was sorry. I told him that I am now aware that parents, just like us, are also someones . children. The way their parents raised them directly influences the way that they raise their children. My dad was military, and has always had a no-nonsense policy. For so long, I penalized him for it and mistakingly interpreted it as lack of warmth – instead of understanding that this is what worked on him. Structure and firm discipline were the very essence of what formed my dad into the dedicated, creative, innovative, and hard-working man that he is today. My dad is not just a hard worker, he’s relentless in taking care of his family and the people around him. He’s gutsy and brave; he takes (calculated) risks – and they generally pay off. I’m so grateful that I picked up that trait from him. My mom is an incredibly hard worker as well. She loves to serve people, and has a knack for making anyone, anywhere – feel welcome. She loves people deeply, she is smart and hospitable and warm; and although she has a really soft heart, she’s also a super feisty, sassy, Irish New Yorker that you do NOT want to mess with. I’m glad I got that trait from her. I’m so proud of my parents. Together they own / are a part of multiple companies and business ventures – and where my dad might be the “brains” behind the operations, my mom is definitely the heart of them.
All of this to say: sometimes, it’s not as simple as just forgiving someone. Sometimes, there are other steps that need to be taken. Whether it’s holding on to unforgiveness towards others, or even towards yourself – it is crucial to recognize the damage that unforgiveness can do to your heart. Make sure that not only do you forgive those you’ve held onto unforgiveness towards – but consider that maybe, if you still haven’t fully healed – you are being called to a deeper level of forgiveness. Maybe now, it’s time to humble yourself to receive forgiveness… for your unforgiveness.