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“Miss Kim, I’m bleeding!”

One of the little girls in my daycare ran across the yard toward me, holding her arm aloft. Bright red blood streaked down her arm.

Again.

It was the same scab she had picked off the previous day. And the day before that. It was only a mosquito bite in the beginning, but her constant picking threatened to turn the small wound into a lasting scar.

“Listen, Sweetie. You’ve got to stop pulling the scab off. It’s never going to get better if you don’t leave it alone.” I dutifully applied yet another bandaid and sent her off to play.

We might shake our heads in bewilderment at a child who repeatedly wounds herself, but we mirror her actions when we fail to forgive a person who has hurt us. God desires that we forgive–for the other person, yes–but also so that we may heal. Harboring bitterness in our hearts can damage us more than the original wound that was inflicted upon us.

The circumstances which propelled me into the life of single motherhood were shattering. My life was filled with pain–pain caused by the sins of others. Pain so deep I wasn’t sure I could offer the forgiveness God expected of me.

I was faced with a choice:

Forgive and move on.

Or live in bitterness.

I chose the path of forgiveness. Though it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, God gave me the strength I needed. He still does. In my journey of forgiveness (and it is a journey, not just a single act), God taught me some things that I’d like to share with you.

I discovered there are three myths surrounding forgiveness that can hold us back from obeying God’s command to forgive.

Myth One: If I forgive, it means the hurt doesn’t matter.

Sometimes we feel if we extend forgiveness to the person who hurt us, it will excuse their actions. It will condone what they did and send the message, “What you did to me doesn’t matter.”

But we have only to look to the cross of Christ to dispel this myth. Does God offer forgiveness of sins to every person freely? Yes, of course He does. Does that mean those sins don’t matter?

No, they mattered so much Jesus had to die for them. God extended forgiveness to mankind, but it certainly did not negate that sin. It still had to be paid for by Jesus’ death on the cross.

Myth Two: If I forgive, everything should go back to the way it was before. There should be no consequences.

I believe this is a very misunderstood area of forgiveness in many churches today. Yes, there are sins that should be forgiven and life continues on as it was before.

But there are also sins which change earthly relationships and circumstances, and rightly so.

Think about it this way: Let’s say you ask a trusted friend to look after your children while you go out for the evening. You return home to find that your friend drank herself into a stupor, loaded your kids in her car, and crashed it into a tree. Thankfully, your children are safe, though the car is totaled.

Should you forgive her? Of course.

Should you ever ask her to watch your children again?

The answer is obvious. While it is necessary to forgive, it would be unwise for you trust her again.

God freely forgave the sin of David when he came to Him in repentance. But God did not remove the consequences of that sin. David and Bathsheba lost their child, and David’s kingdom suffered much turmoil as a result of their sin. Just because someone is sorry, doesn’t mean life goes back to normal with no consequences.

Myth Three: If I forgive someone today, it’s over. I’ll never have to worry about it again.

Forgiveness is a journey. Sometimes that journey lasts a little while, but sometimes it lasts for years. Be prepared to engage in a conscious effort to forgive.

In my experience, forgiveness was a moment-by-moment choice for a long time. Whenever the hurt pressed in upon me, I had to consciously remind myself that I had forgiven the people involved and released the whole situation into God’s hands. Every time I thought of it, I had to forgive again.

But as time passed, forgiveness came easier. First minutes, then hours, and eventually days would pass without me thinking about the situation. Then came the day I realized the pain no longer tore at my heart like it once had.

Freedom had come from forgiveness.

And forgiveness had come through a series of conscious choices, moment by moment, day after day.

Forgiveness is absolutely necessary if you are to heal from the hurt that was inflicted upon you. Please don’t allow these three misunderstandings about forgiveness to stop you from releasing your hurt to God.

Remember that having a spirit of forgiveness doesn’t negate the hurt; it merely releases you to heal.

Understand that God requires consequences, and leave that in His hands.

Remember that forgiveness is a journey, not a one-time decision.

Next week I’ll be writing about practical steps you can take if you are struggling to forgive. I pray that if you are burdened in this area, you will join me again as I share what God has taught me.

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)