Forgiveness is such an easy word, but a difficult task when you have been hurt. I live for a God who forgave me and asks me to forgive others. I write this post as a Christian and as a survivor of abuse. Forgive everyone and everything, because Christ has already paid the ultimate price when he was put up on that cross. Unforgiveness is one of the biggest hindrances of your faith.
First and foremost- it's okay to not be okay.
It's okay to be confused, scared, angry and hurt. It's okay (and normal) to not want to forgive someone after hurting you. When I first came to the cross I was told to forgive, but I didn't understand it and, honestly, I was angered. Why would I forgive years of abuse by the people who were supposed to protect me? How could I forgive all those sleepless nights and horrible memories? How do I forgive someone when, every time I drive past a house the abuse occurred at, I am filled with a whirlwind of anxiety and pain? The answer is simple--you forgive. But why? Because God forgives you. Matthew 6:14-15 says "for if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins"
Forgiveness doesn't have to mean re-entrance into your life! There is nothing that states when you forgive someone everything is peachy keen and things will be okay or go back to "normal". You can forgive someone without allowing them to be part of your story again. You are the gate keeper of your life and you get to decide who is allowed in. On the other hand, it's okay if you want to make amends. You can forgive a person and set healthy boundaries if they are still in your life. The choice is yours, but the answer is always forgiveness. This isn't something we can do with our own strength--this is something you have to surrender to God.
There is no timeline when it comes to forgiveness, and it is not a one-time thing. It's not something you confess with your mouth in a single moment and everything is better. It is a long (and often difficult) process that you will endure with God. "Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!" (Matthew 18:21-22).
Forgiveness is waking up each morning and surrendering everything to The Lord--the pain, hurt, confusion, suffering, anger and any other feelings that come with it. It's a process of laying it down at the cross each morning, each time you think of it, each time you feel that sting again, each time you see the person or place where the hurt occurred. These feelings will continually arise until you reach deep down into your wounds and pull it out. Allow God to work in your life and be in control of your heart and mind, not the one who hurt you.
When you refuse to forgive someone, you give them control of you--your mind, your emotions, your peace, your life. If you hold on to the pain, bitterness and hatred you have, the only person that suffers is you. Forgiveness doesn't make what happened to you "right" or "okay" but it will give you peace. It isn't something you do for someone else; you do it for yourself, to set yourself free, to take back your life and give your soul rest The one that hurt you won't sleep any better or worse whether you forgive them or not. Honestly, the person probably doesn't think about what they did to you, or they have already made justifications for their actions in their head.
Revenge is a lot of people's first response, but it is never the answer. This world is full of retaliation, but it never settles the score. Remember that whatever you put out into this universe, you will receive back. Whether it's good or bad, it will always come back to you. When someone hurts you, surrender it to God and allow Him to deal with the person. "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "vengeance is Mine, I will repay", says The Lord" (Romans 12:19).
When you decide to forgive someone for hurting you, you don't have to return to who you were. In fact--it's impossible to return to who you were, because you have been changed. What happened to you is not your fault. Hurt people will hurt people; healed people can heal people. What happened is not because of you or something you did, and doesn't have to be what defines your future. You are not defined by what has happened to you. You are not defined by who hurt you.
The only thing that defines you is your identity through Christ. You are a survivor. A warrior. You are an overcomer and a victor. "Look at all that you have done to survive, look at the beauty you have created in spite of so much pain--be proud". You are God's masterpiece, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are chosen, forgiven and redeemed. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace" (Ephesians 1:7).
Forgive those that have hurt you; be better than the worst thing that has happened to you.