All of us have had something happen to us that makes us mad, harbor anger, bitterness and resentment. Events have occurred in our lives that have been turning points. People are human and born out of sin and because of this; we collide with others and often react or do something that hurts another person, intentionally or unintentionally. The fact of the matter is, the choices we make will affect others, seen or unseen, knowingly or unknowingly. It is part of living here on earth.
As I reflect back on my life, many things have been said and done causing deep wounds, emotional hurts and some have paralyzed me to my core. I feel like I walked around with a huge target on me. I often felt like I was the poster child for how to screw up a boy. In looking back at my life, it has not been a pleasant one on many levels. My good memories pale in comparison to the bad ones. So what did I do with all of this?
Most of my young and adult life was about taking whatever happened to me and just stuffing it. I was resilient in my ability to just take and take. My self-esteem was zero and even though I hated all that had been done to me, I just accepted this was my life, I was getting what I deserved and no one really cared so just suck it up and take it. Because of this, I became a very angry and bitter young man who hated everything and everyone. I would find something about you I did not like and that was it, you were dirt to me. I did not want you around me, nor did I ever want to see or speak to you again. I pretty much alienated everyone around me. Bitterness and anger shaped me into something I never imagined.
I attended different churches since the 5th grade. I heard to be forgiven you had to forgive. That was the basic message and I never thought much about it. After I got married, started having a family a friend of mine took me aside and said, “I think you have some serious issues you need to deal with.” Of course, I got mad and dismissed what he said and being the person I was, I became angry with him and did not talk to him for quite sometime. Looking back, I know God was trying to show me just how damaged I was.
Finally, I came around and went to talk with him. We sat down and I went through a very exhaustive inventory of my life. This included writing down hurts and pains I experienced, people who hurt me in various forms and my responses to all of it. In the course of that day, I began seeing myself for who I really was and it was not a pretty picture. My list included incest and physical abuse by older male cousins, rejection from other men in my life. Names and curses flung at my by most folks from where I grew up. I had a father who was sometimes present but absent. There were pages of items listed out. To see all of it written out the picture was clear for me. It had all taken its toll on me and I had allowed it to shape the person I was. I had allowed all this horrible stuff to gain control of my life and it was what fueled me to get through my days.
As we went through the list, I do not think he really had a clue about the extent of what I dealt with. He talked to me about forgiveness and holding onto all that pain, hurt and anger and the power it held over my life. We talked about how forgiving people did not mean I would forget it, only God was capable of that. Forgiving other is agreeing to live with the consequences of their sins. We discussed how I could live such a different life, a life of freedom if I was willing to let go of all of this stuff. After talking for hours, it finally made sense for the first time in my life. The true meaning of forgiveness.
We spent the rest of that day going over page after page, naming each hurt and pain and the persons involved. I made the choice to sincerely forgive every person and event that occurred. At the end of that day, I was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. I felt as though I had spent years and years of my life weighed down by a boulder. Now I felt like the boulder was taken away. This had been a tough day, one that should have occurred years ago. That night for the first night in a very long time, I slept peacefully and soundly. .
As someone whose goal is to be a real authentic man, I want to extend forgiveness to those who have hurt me as well as ask forgiveness of those I have hurt. As a real authentic man, you own up to your mistakes and fix what needs fixing. If you have wronged someone, make it right as best you can.
As a husband and father, I want my wife and kids to know that I make mistakes all the time. I own up to them and ask for forgiveness. If I hurt them with something I say or do, then my response is to go and make it right with them. It is hard to admit offenses and we were wrong, but I believe more honesty and sincerity comes from admitting you made a mistake and asking for forgiveness. When we are forces to admit we did something that hurt another person and that it was truly wrong, I think that gets you to stop and think about it a bit more than you usually would.
Forgiveness is not easy by any means. I still deal with the hurts and pains of what has been done to me. The anger, resentment, and bitterness I once held onto are gone. There are days I have ill thoughts or feelings towards those who have hurt me in the past, I remind myself I have already chosen to forgive them, and I left it with God. I do not want anger and bitterness controlling my life. I want to be free from that. People hurt us and it leaves scars of all types. Release people to God and allowing him to deal with the things they have done. It is not my responsibility to get back at them, I rest in knowing that someday they will stand before God and be held accountable for their words and actions. I am ok with that and I rest in the fact that they no longer hold power over my life.