“You are such a jerk! How could you treat me this way? What did I ever do to you to deserve this?” I can remember shouting something like this to a boyfriend when I was in the depths of my teenage despair. Such drama. It may have seemed ridiculous to onlookers (i.e., my parents), but the pain was real. Real enough that I still remember the situation clearly into my 30s.
“Just let it go!” Have you ever heard this statement after confessing your ongoing struggle to forgive an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend? Have you said this in response to someone else’s struggle? Relationships, especially young ones, can seem unimportant and just growing experiences to some, but the residual effects of these connections can last for decades.
I Want to Forgive, but I Feel Powerless
Many times I have reached a point where I think, “I feel nothing but well wishes for <insert person here>. Yes, I am finally past the anger.” Then, something random will pop up in my mind and remind me of how I was mistreated. Before I know it, I am throwing mental darts at that person once again.
Sometimes it is easier to remember the people who have hurt me and harder to remember the people I have hurt. Coming into contact with our own weaknesses is a step towards forgiving others for their failures. I have needed to forgive and I have needed forgiveness. Specifically regarding relationships, I have been hurt and I have caused hurt.
I shudder when I consider all the time I have spent blaming the people who hurt me – focusing on their flaws – all the while not stopping to see the blood on my own hands. It was a humbling experience indeed to come face-to-face with the fact that I am no better than the person who has hurt me the most.
The Most Humbling Handshake Ever
Nothing put me more in touch with this humility then receiving a warm handshake from someone I knew years ago – someone I know I hurt. To the degree I hurt him, I will never know; but, I am certain I treated his heart inconsiderately, to say the least.
As circumstances placed us face-to-face more than a decade later, he extended his hand to me. It was a relief l cannot fully explain. He did not say these words, but it was as if I heard, “You are forgiven.” After fourteen years, I was so ready for that assurance.
I believe God came to me in that moment. As if He said, “You can forgive because I can give you the grace. This is what happens to a heart surrendered to me. I give my children the grace to forgive.” Even God can restore relationships – not only romantic relationships, but even distant acquaintances. Even if I never see this person again, I find sweet rest in knowing we are at peace. Not because I did something to earn his forgiveness, but because he chose to surrender His heart and will to God and forgive when there was nothing I could do to earn it.
What a picture of God’s grace. That simple handshake made God’s Word come to life for me. That person you think you can never forgive, you can – only by God’s grace, but you can.
How Should Receiving Forgiveness Change Us?
Receiving forgiveness in human form reminds me of how God extends His hand when we have done nothing but sin. Receiving that handshake made me want to reevaluate my own heart. To let go of lingering hurts from those who have hurt me. To realize the joy that comes in letting it go. And, to rejoice in what God can do through our hearts when we surrender our anger and pain.
I do not want to hold on anymore. Next time, I want to be the one to extend my hand and show God’s grace to someone who does not deserve it any more than I did – than I do.
If you are still holding on to the pain your former boyfriend or girlfriend caused you, is now the time to turn your heart over to the Lord for healing? Are you ready to extend your hand in forgiveness? “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV)
Next time you feel powerless to forgive, consider all the times you have failed miserably against God. All the times you disobeyed, spit in His face, and charted your own course. How can we receive such forgiveness from God and not extend our hand to someone who hurt us? It is as if we received a full and complete pardon for murder only to turn around and demand a lifetime sentence for someone who threw dirt on us.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15, ESV)
I have no idea if he will ever read this post, but I thank him anyway. Your grace towards me painted such a realistic picture of God’s grace towards us – and it made me want to extend grace to others. May God richly bless you and your family.
Is it time to forgive your ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend?