How Forgiveness Heals Your Wounds

(Author’s Note:  It occurred to me that this could be turned into a Wellness Wordworks blog. I have written it for a couple of friends — including the one talked about in the story — and my therapist. But this could be inspiring for WW readers.)

Liza still wasn’t sure exactly how her young friend Mike had inspired her to forego her 11-year grudge against her dead mother. To her therapist, she could only keep saying, “I don’t know.”

Charles Johnson, The Homeless Poet, holds up some of art about how forgiveness heals

Charles Johnson, The Homeless Poet, holds up some of art about how forgiveness heals

Mike’s gracious forgiveness of  Liza’s sins– gossip and a series of past misdemeanors — showed her that forgiveness heals.  Mike had pleaded with her to continue a  friendship” with a mutual friend named Kyle, even after she’d told Mike more than necessary about Kyle’s faults. God had forgiven Mike for “many grievous sins against Him” so it “wasn’t that much to consider forgiving [her] for one thing.”

Recently, Mike had shown understanding of Liza’s distant past breakdown, including four arrests for driving under suspension. After detailing again those incidents on the visitors’ application — and securing approval from the facility — Mike laughed at her “debacles,” in a personal letter.

“I don’t care!  That’s no more serious than a parking ticket!” he wrote.

He may have seen absurd humor in Liza’s painful experience being written up in the basement police station, standing before the cops, hands cuffed, head hung, nose buried in the musty drywall beside the ominous black metal holding door. Liza had felt young, foolish and ashamed.   Her heart sunk into her toes even as she watched the cops’ sympathetic reactions.

One of them had stood her there, leading her to the wall and motioning for her to plant her toes against its baseboard; then, turn her face to the wall. Liza had been a bit stunned that this was their reaction to a clean single woman’s frustrated attempt to reclaim the life psych meds had screwed up. Yet, maybe a former school teacher, recently turned  Christian, should not have challenged the system.  It was inspiring to see Mike’s humility — at his age. But there was more to it.

Forgiveness Heals Even When It’s Nobody’s Fault

Rabbi Harold Kushner, in a series of best-selling books, explores the spiritual issues raised by life’s unfairness.  Bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it, and nobody is to blame:  natural disasters, the death of a child, etc.  Events like these can create spiritual crises and lasting, unfocused rage.  Even here, forgiveness heals when there is nobody to forgive but God.  Few people have the faith to comfort themselves just by saying it’s “God’s will.”  Forgiving God can help someone get past it and move on.

Kermit Cole, the videographer at Alternatives, had to learn about how forgiveness heals for his former shy personality.

Kermit Cole, the videographer at Alternatives, had to learn about how forgiveness heals for his former shy personality.

Liza kept watching Mike’s life and her own. Mike was a man whose hand God had held for a long time. At age 12, he’d severely burned his hand in a cooking accident.  His hand’s outer skin layer had burned off; doctors thought this might be irreparable.  His wrist lost most of its skin.  What remained was severely scarred. Mike and his parents had prepared for lifelong devastation shortly before seeing a slow, yet miraculous healing. Today, Mike’s taut peaches and cream complexion show no signs of affliction.

That wasn’t the first time it seemed God had brought Mike through the fire, to protect and kept him until  Mike — once a hardened atheist — became capable of “choosing” Him.” The story, especially in light of Mike’s recent baptism, could have softened the most embittered heart.

Supportive Friends Showed Liza Forgiveness Heals

It helped too that Liza was being inspired by healthy relationships with Christian friends, including Mike. They liked her as she was, yet also urged her toward her unfulfilled potential, which at times meant Liza had to forgive, and not look back at the past. She also saw the fruits of the Spirit in their lives, and realized this was refreshing and that she needed to remain a positive friend for them. It was time to take to heart a caring yet blunt support group friend’s advice regarding recent relationship hurts: “Oh, who cares?! Just let it go”. That, of course, could apply to deeper, lingering wounds, too, like that with her mother.

Liza had known that for quite some time,, especially after having become a Christian in 2002.  She had* wanted to forgive, read the books, and worked through the emotional self-help tapes. She’d consulted counselors. For a season or two, including recently, she’d allowed herself to be sucked into swallowing”feel better” pills. She’d come a long way, others said.  Yet a certain low level of grief and loss — intertwined with anger and bitterness — remained.  It had flared in recent relationship squabbles, before bedtime at night, and during certain holidays.

Forgiveness Heals Bitterness

Cut Our Budget - We'll tell you how. Forgiveness heals even when sharing messages like this that scare mental health providers.

Cut Our Budget – We’ll tell you how. Forgiveness heals even when sharing messages like this that scare mental health providers.

Liza even became bitter at the unwanted memories and tear,s and over her chronic sleeping difficulties. That occasionally led her to hopeless — even suicidal — feelings, which compounded the issue. Liza would, at times, try harder to let go. Sometimes she moved forward; more often, her experience was “one step forward, two steps back”. An irritated friend told her what she already knew about letting go. It didn’t make any difference.

Nothing completely changed until God stepped in. Just as He had done with Liza’s salvation — and seemingly with Mike’s — He took over the decision. Two weeks after Mike forgave Liza for gossiping, Liza was throwing away her antidepressants and tranquilizers, and felt peace. She realized the past held no power over her and that she no longer felt angry at the thought of her unapologetic mother. Nothing “special” or different had happened in those routine weeks, except that maybe circumstances had been set for God to move. Yet Liza didn’t remember praying, or her desire increasing. Sure, she could be grateful to have her nose removed from her hard wall of past failure; then, know she could extend the same grace to others, even if unrepentant. Forgiveness did not equal trust, respect or reconciliation!

Additionally, she’d suffered bitterness’, psychosomatic. and emotional problems. But she still hadn’t been able to let go, nor had consciously made the decision. She hadn’t heard God speak from a burning bush, although He might as well have.

Her spirit was finally at peace and remained that way. Others noticed.

Part of this was undoubtedly about being free from the “depressed, suicidal and agitated” thoughts her anti-depressant could cause. Still, Liza had clearly experienced a lasting spiritual freedom, as she remained at peace while being medication free. God had used a freed prisoner to set *her* free…

Forgiveness heals many old wounds.  Could it relieve your pain?

 

Wordworks Blog Author: Liza Faith Casey

Liza is creating a volunteer replication of The Chocolate Fairy project in North Dakota. She is working to bring honest mental health information to indigenous people in her community. She volunteers with a Mental Health America affiliate and helps spread social messaging for Wellness Wordworks.

1 comment to How Forgiveness Heals Your Wounds

  • Delightful post. Down to Earth message. Practical application for using forgiveness as a form of metaphorical medicine. I’m so very proud and grateful to be in such wonderful company of peers!