Do I have to?

What forgiving is like

Are you ready, Peaceful Readers? It’s time for the next adventure—or series—on Choosing Peace. Today I’m going to be filling in this blank. Forgiving is like _____________.

Here’s my first example. Forgiving is like eating a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. How? Well, you’ve got salty and you’ve got sweet going on in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Sometimes you’ve even got some chunks and crunchiness mixed in with the gooey and creamy stuff. Forgiving is like that. There’s a mixture of very different things going on as we make The Heart Change. Even though the peanut butter is sticky—and it may stick to the roof of your mouth or your teeth—there’s no regret once the sandwich is eaten. It is super-duper good every time. It’s the same with forgiving. It can be sticky (difficult) and messy (crying) when you’re doing it, but you feel good about it. Relieved, actually.

Sometimes we think of forgiving as this very basic, easy-peasy thing. A no-brainer. Other times, it’s incredibly complicated and very slow to come about. We’ll be unpacking this challenging issue in the months ahead. If you’re like me, there have been times in your life when you’ve had trouble forgiving. And that unforgiveness created the breeding ground for more problems. And those problems stack up like layers. Bad layers. Sandwich layers? Good. Unforgiveness layers? Bad.

Forgiving 101
Let’s get right to it. Pardon my bluntness.

Forgiving is not a process. There. I said it.

Time
The other day—super-early in the morning—the still, small voice made it clear that it was time for me to begin writing this new series, Forgiving. I thought Seriously? We’re in this Coronavirus (COVID-19) thing. It’s a weird time. Why now? Are you sure? Really? Do I have to?

Don’t get me wrong. I love writing. It’s definitely a passion of mine. I was just way-surprised that it was time for the next series. Writing means late nights and bizarrely-early mornings. (Is bizarrely a word?) Anyway, here I am at 4:15 in the morning and I’m loving it….

First
And one of the first issues that came to my mind was this biggie.

Is forgiving a process or a split-second decision?

Because—truth be told—I described it as a process several times in the last series. Oops.

Let’s unpack it. I should probably say it again. Forgiving is not a process. We like to think of it as a process because of our resistance to doing it—our flat-out refusal to do it. It feels like a process because it takes us so long to get around to actually doing it sometimes. But regardless of our thoughts and feelings on the subject, forgiving is a choice. It’s a decision. It takes a split second to do it. It’s also an example of surrendering to God—living his way, following his example and obeying his commands. Sometimes, my emotional response to that surrendering part is Ugh. Do I have to? Other times, it’s Ahhhh. Total relief.

How?
I’ll be the first to say that forgiving can be extremely difficult. And yet, forgiving contributes greatly to peace.

Forgiving is like taking out the trash in my own heart and mind.

We’ll be digging into that concept throughout this series. How does forgiving make my life better? Make my relationships better? Make me better? That’s what we want and need to know.

Welcome
Peaceful Readers, welcome to this new series, called Forgiving.

I’m Frankie Ann. My husband is Brandon and our son is Logan.

If you’ve read the other two series on Choosing Peace, you know that we’ve walked down some challenging roads. In the first series, Sociopaths, we dug into Brandon’s family story and our escape from The War Zone. His parents are both sociopaths. Violent. Manipulative. Chaotic. Dangerous. As we explored Grieving, the second series, my family story unfolded—a different flavor of brokenness. My dad was a narcissist and my mom was codependent. The Façade, The Things That Were Never Said, The Secret, The Important People and The Invisible People.

The name
In the first post in each series, I write about the power of a name.

There’s power in a name when the name tells you the truth.

I could have called this series Forgiveness or How to Forgive or Forgivers, but the title needed to be a simple verb. It needed to convey this ongoing, repeated, way-of-life kind of thing—like breathing, walking and talking. Why? Because forgiving is something we do—or don’t do—more frequently than we really acknowledge or comprehend.

All or nothing
Let’s get back to that fill-in-the-blank thing. What else is forgiving like? Forgiving is like speaking. You’re either speaking or you aren’t. You can’t be 30% speaking. I’m not talking about volume. Whether you’re whispering or yelling, you are—in fact—speaking. Sometimes we think about what to say for quite some time. We psych ourselves up to say something difficult. We go around and around in circles or tap-dance in our minds before deciding what to say, when to say it and/or who we should say it to. On and on and on. We can think about speaking for months before we actually do it. But the speaking isn’t speaking until we open our mouths and something audible comes out.

Like I said, forgiving is like speaking. I may think and mull it over for months, but in the end, ­I’ve either forgiven someone or I haven’t. I can’t honestly say, “You’re 60% forgiven. I’m working on it.” Granted, I may have forgiven you for Offense A and not for Offense B. But if I’ve truly forgiven you for Offense A, that forgiving is 100% complete. If I haven’t forgiven you for Offense A, I’m at 0%. It’s all or nothing.

Notice that I said I’m at 0%. Forgiving is a gift that I give to myself most of all. That may sound like nonsense, but I think it’ll make sense as we dig into this issue in the months ahead. Remember, forgiving is like taking out the trash in my own heart and mind. And that, Peaceful Readers, is a beautiful thing. From big, ugly, smelly, disgusting, angry mess to clean, peaceful, beautiful clarity. You’ll see….

Barriers and boundaries
Forgiving is like reaching the summit on a mountain climb. This arduous, sometimes-painful journey leads to a victorious, euphoric accomplishment. We feel it deep inside. Wow.

In this series, we’ll dig into the barriers or roadblocks to forgiving: Pride, Fear, Anger and Denial. Do some of those concepts feel painfully familiar? Yes, indeed.

We’ll also dig into The Four Flavors of Denial. When I think of flavors, I like to think about Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Vanilla, Pistachio Almond and an old-time favorite, Butter Pecan. Oh. Wait a minute. Those are ice cream flavors. Did you know that there are flavors of denial? There sure are. And I think you’ve probably tasted them all. I sure have. As we grapple with The Four Flavors of Denial, I believe their grip on us will be released. We’ll recognize and understand them for The Destroyers that they are and we’ll kick them to the curb, along with our other trash.

We’ll also unpack this surprising truth: Unforgiveness is a boundary issue. Say what? Cloud and Townsend said it in their masterpiece book, Boundaries, and they were not kidding. I had to think about that for a while…. The Lord was faithful to reveal the truth, piece by piece.

Questions, steps and the door
There are more questions we need to answer in this series. What’s the relationship between forgiving and The Fruit of The Spirit? What’s the relationship between forgiving and The Five Love Languages? What’s the relationship between shame and unforgiveness? What’s going on with this “I can’t forgive myself” thing? I know a lot about that. You may have read a little about that in The Trauma of Abortion in the last series. We’ll dig into shame and unforgiveness in this series.

You may be thinking, If forgiving is a split-second decision and I’ve been unable to do it, how are you going to help me? Hello! Fear not. As we move ahead, we’ll walk through the steps to forgiving—not the steps of forgiving, because forgiving is not a process. Right? Anyway, the steps to forgiving can help us tear down the barriers, one at a time. Then we can fling The Door to Freedom wide open and walk on through. Like I said in this post, “Forgiveness brings freedom.”

Related or not
Speaking of freedom, you may remember my first husband from the Grieving Divorce posts. I affectionately call our marriage The Nine Years of Misery. Let’s just say that he was a poster child for this movie title: “Sex, Lies and Videotape.”

How was I able to forgive my ex-husband, quickly and easily, for his heinous conduct—infidelity, alcoholism, emotional abuse, pornography addiction, and more? That word freedom has everything to do with it. We’ll unpack that too, because the ease of forgiving isn’t necessarily related to the severity of the trauma. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn’t. In other words, sometimes The Little Things—the seemingly-minor offenses, the rude remarks or expressions—haunt us. Why is that? Hmmm.

Sitting and spinning
Sitting and spinning is the coolest of the cool when you’re two years old and you’re showing off your skills on your Sit ‘N Spin. It’s not so cool—sitting and spinning, that is—when we’re grown-ups.

When we’re sitting in A Season of Unforgiveness, our minds are spinning with all the reasons why we won’t forgive—the excuses. “I don’t want to.” “She doesn’t deserve it.” “I don’t feel like it.” “They never apologized.” “I’m not ready yet.” “He’s dead, so what’s the point.” “I don’t really need to. It’s not a big deal. I got over that a long time ago….”

We avoid asking God, “Do I have to forgive—him/her/them?” We don’t want to even consider starting the conversation. We don’t want to go there. We sit and we spin. And we get nowhere.

Why are we so afraid of forgiving sometimes?
What are we really afraid of?

Hidden
What about the hidden traumas. Things we don’t see or understand at all. Is it possible that we need to forgive people and yet we’re totally unaware of it? Absolutely. We’ll dig into that too. Sometimes we remember a certain incident or event and yet we never called it what it actually was. We just stuffed it back in our minds, knowing we weren’t happy about it, but we never gave it the proper name. We never truly acknowledged the impact.

When we see and name our losses and traumas rightly—and do the work of grieving that we need to do—we can tie up the loose ends by forgiving. But first, the name must be truthful. It has to be clear. There’s power in a name. Power to heal. Power to forgive.

Where does this power come from? It comes from the one who made us.

The final step
Forgiving is like finishing a project. That final brush stroke. That final sewing stitch. That final step. Typing or penning that last word—and knowing, “It is finished.” It feels so good. It’s a sweet ending to the creative process. Forgiving is like that. It’s the final step. “It. Is. Finished.”

Forgiving helps us take care of unfinished mental, emotional and spiritual business.

And we can all use more of that. Clarity. Healing. Transformation.

Coming next: This series began very unexpectedly, during a strange time in our lives and in our world. But when I really think about it, maybe it’s the perfect time after all. What’s coming next? I don’t have the foggiest idea. We’ll both be surprised. Pop back by in a week or two and hopefully there’ll be something new. Thank you for reading and for Choosing Peace.  

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Here’s a verse for this season and for always: Psalm 79:9.

Song for Healing: This instrumental piece—“At the Cross” by Thad Fiscella—makes me think about forgiving. It’s beautiful, gentle and peaceful. I hope it blesses you today and in the days to come.

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