Forgiveness is a Choice :: By Candy Austin

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22, KJV).

Forgiveness is a Choice.

It took several years for me to get to that conclusion. Years of struggling, more like anguishing, through the Pain of much ill treatment, betrayal, rejection, and abandonment. It took a long time before I even had the capacity to start Praying for my enemies the way GOD’S WORD details.

Let me begin to unpack this a little. Have you ever been hurt by the betrayal of so many that you knew if you could see the skin of your back through spiritual eyes, the revelation would be of countless ‘demonically inspired hate filled daggers’ stabbed all into it? If you can relate to the kind of pain I am trying to convey here, then it is my Prayer that this article can help you in some way on your Forgiveness journey.

Have you Suffered Abuse?

What about the suffering of Mental Abuse by seeing other family members also being abused, but you were helpless at the time to do anything about it? How about Emotional Abuse by insults, curse words, and words like calling you fat when you were an impressionable child? What about suffering Physical Abuse as a youth with daily hard smacks to the back of the head for no reason and frequent punches to the thigh if you were the last one to get in the back of the car and close the door? How about Spiritual Abuse by the offender’s hypocrisy in ‘holding a Bible in one hand while holding a beer and a joint in the other,’ all the while touting off scripture to you, only to make you feel bad?

Last but definitely not least is Sexual Abuse, an abuse that is largely unspeakable, especially when it is perpetrated by a sexual predator within the family. How about being spied on nearly every time you undressed or bathed as a teenager? Basically living in an unsafe home by being preyed on by a family member who was supposed to love and care for you, but instead had impure motives. Have you ever had your body violated by unsolicited and unwanted sex by a blood relative? How about being drugged up and lovelessly used and taken advantage of?

Sexual Abuse for me was more than a violation of my body; it was a Violation of my Soul. It is an experience that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Even though I was drugged up, it was still a shock to my system. Right after it had happened at the age of 17, the shock to my system came in the fact that I literally woke up the next morning for school and truly did not remember a thing.  Looking back now, I believe that was GOD’S WAY of having my memory suppress that incident to protect me from acknowledging the reality of my soul being violated. To postpone my PTSD until I was in a safer place in my life to handle it.

About 16 years later after marrying my husband, having two kids, and then becoming estranged to the perpetrators, only then did my memory start to allow me to remember what had happened. It started by waking me up in the middle of the night on two separate occasions, years apart, with cold sweats and recurring scenes of that incestuous encounter. The first time it occurred, I could not believe or accept that something like that had really happened to me. But the second time that it broke my sleep with the same cold sweat and recurring images, I came to find this as an authentic reaction (through Therapy) – that my body instinctively knew it was time to allow this memory to resurface. Needless to say, once I put the puzzle pieces together and fully remembered that ungodly night, there were years of on and off therapy and counseling to work through even some of the trauma.

In my mind, therapy and counseling definitely have their place, but it is to my finding that nothing helped quite as much as diving into GOD’S WORD. The HOLY SPIRIT is a comforter like no other. It is my experience that after spending time with the LORD in Prayer, I am able to emerge with a sense of peace and strength every time. My testimony through all of this is that HIS WORD is a Healing Balm to my Soul, and without my KJV Study Bible these past several years, I do not know where I would be right now. Therefore, I am forever grateful for GOD’S Love Letter that gives us everything we need to cope in this life.

Forgiveness is also a Process.

In the beginning stages of my process to Forgive, my Prayers were much like King David’s in the book of Psalms. Lamenting and crying out to GOD to exact revenge on my enemies, to put them to an open shame, to recompense what they did to me back onto themselves, and for GOD to fight for me and to vindicate me. Basically for ‘vengeance’ to be upon them now and not later.

But after a lot of time researching what the Bible has to say on Forgiveness, I came to understand what JESUS commands us to do. HE tells us if our brother repents, to Forgive not 7 times, but 70 x 7 times (an unlimited amount). HE also instructs us to Forgive (even if they are not sorry) as HE has Forgiven us (so much and freely). In JESUS’ own words, HE says we are to Love, Bless, Do Good, and Pray for our enemies and those who persecute us.

Also, we are to leave the rest of the unresolved issues and outcomes up to HIM. HE is the only Righteous Judge who can fully ascertain their hearts, intentions, and motives. JESUS is the only One who has the Authority to delineate their punishment, outcome, and fate. GOD’S WORD also clearly says to leave room for HIS Wrath.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Forgiveness does not always mean Reconciliation.

Especially when the perpetrator is unrepentant and unremorseful. If you have let that person know how much they have hurt you, and the offender still shows no care, concern, or willingness to change, then you are not obligated to continue participating in what is a toxic relationship.

Here are some examples of what Forgiveness is and what it is not:

Excerpts from Focus on the Family: Marriage, Forgiveness, and Restoration: (as of this writing, the website is down)

*Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. (We can and should still hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions.)

*Forgiveness is returning to God the right to take care of justice. (By refusing to transfer the right to exact punishment or revenge, we are telling God we don’t trust him to take care of matters.)

*Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again. (We don’t have to tolerate, nor should we keep ourselves open to, lack of respect or any form of abuse.)

*Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. (Forgiving is not saying, “What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me.” Nor is it playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.)

*Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. (We can forgive someone even if we never can get along with him again.)

*Forgiveness is a process, not an event. (It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. As soon as we can, we should decide to forgive, but it probably is not going to happen right after a tragic divorce. That’s okay.)

*We have to forgive every time. (If we find ourselves constantly forgiving, though, we might need to take a look at the dance we are doing with the other person that sets us up to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused.)

*Forgetting does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses. (Some people are obnoxious, mean-spirited, apathetic, or unreliable. They never will change. We need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.)

*Forgiveness is not based on others’ actions but on our attitude. (People will continue to hurt us through life. We either can look outward at them or stay stuck and angry, or we can begin to keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is good.)

*If they don’t repent, we still have to forgive. (Even if they never ask, we need to forgive. We should memorize and repeat over and over: Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.)

*We don’t always have to tell them we have forgiven them. (Self-righteously announcing our gracious forgiveness to someone who has not asked to be forgiven may be a manipulation to make them feel guilty. It also is a form of pride.)

*Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. (We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive.)

*We might have to forgive more than the divorce. (Post-divorce problems related to money, the kids, and schedules might result in the need to forgive again and to seek forgiveness ourselves.)

*We might forgive too quickly to avoid pain or to manipulate the situation. (Forgiveness releases pain and frees us from focusing on the other person. Too often when we’re in the midst of the turmoil after a divorce, we desperately look for a quick fix to make it all go away. Some women want to “hurry up” and forgive so the pain will end, or so they can get along with the other person. We have to be careful not to simply cover our wounds and retard the healing process.)

*We might be pressured into false forgiveness before we are ready. (When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it’s not true forgiveness — it’s a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, “I want to forgive you, but right now I’m struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it.”)

*Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. (It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurts occur, it’s what we do with them that counts. When we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we can learn to say, “Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is.”)

*Forgiveness starts with a mental decision. (The emotional part of forgiveness is finally being able to let go of the resentment. Emotional healing may or may not follow quickly after we forgive.)  – end source

In my process of Forgiveness, I chose to Forgive my offenders, persecutors, and enemies once I came to understand how much GOD had Forgiven me. Since I have been Forgiven of much time and time again, who am I not to Forgive others when such Grace has been extended to me? Even if I need to make that choice daily, it is something I am willing to do; because if I do not Forgive, then the Bible says that GOD will not forgive me.

“But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26).

The possibility of any hint of separation from my ABBA FATHER is not something I am willing to risk at my expense by choosing not to Forgive my offenders. To be honest, no one is worth losing my relationship or breaking my fellowship with my LORD JESUS CHRIST. Therefore, I willingly choose to obey GOD’S WORD by Forgiving as much as my capacity allows, no matter what, because I know that Obedience and Faith pleases the LORD.

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).

As a Born-Again Christian, that is all I want to do, to be pleasing to HIM because of all HE has done for me to save me from my Sin, Death, and Hell. Not that I could ever repay HIM, but I have come to realize that the least I could do in expressing my Gratitude is to Obey HIM by Forgiving others, just as HE commands.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

Until next time… Maranatha!


*Ambassador For Christ in All I Do

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*Occupation: Former Sign Language Interpreter//Highest Calling of Wife, Mother, & Keeper of the Home