“I forgive you now what? It did no good, I don’t feel better, and I still get angry – now what?”
Even if anger rears its ugly head again, don’t think that forgiving doesn’t work. If you have forgiven someone, then you have done a great thing.
Forgiving accomplishes much:
- it changes the atmosphere,
- it clears the air,
- it opens doors to positive change,
- it establishes hope.
So here’s where we get confused.
When we don’t see immediate change in the person we’ve forgiven and therefore don’t feel instant relief from our own negative emotions, we ASSUME that forgiving didn’t work.
But change doesn’t happen quickly for any of us. It won’t come quickly for the one you’ve forgiven and it won’t come quickly for you. Maybe this word picture will help explain:
Picture a hanging planter that has been outside all winter–the plant shriveled up and the soil froze. At last, spring arrives and you think: time to get some flowers growing. So you douse the dry soil in the hanging planter with ample amounts of water to prepare it for the flowers. What happens to the water as it hits the soil? Yes, of course, the water rolls right off. It cannot soak in because the soil is so hard and dry. So you break up the old dry soil, add in some fertilizer and pour on the water a little at a time. Eventually the soil can hold the water and it becomes saturated and able to nourish the flower.
Change will come over time
The first time you forgive, it may roll right off because the heart of the person you are forgiving is probably dry and hard from days, months and possibly years of an inability to feel empathy or compassion for you. Your heart is probably hard and dry as well from days, months and possibly years of being hurt. Perhaps you froze your heart to protect yourself.
As with the hanging plant, you must work the soil of your heart—apply and reapply forgiveness until you become saturated and able to hold it. Something beautiful will grow from this. It may be that a relationship heals and begins to thrive, or it may be that you are free from anger and able to move on. You can’t lose when you forgive those who hurt you.
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