I’ve always thought of myself as someone who doesn’t have issues withholding forgiveness from others. My love affair with grace and its transforming essence marked the better part of the last decade of my life. That is until, I was faced with a difficult and unkind personality. This person’s mere presence unnerved me. There were years of small and big transgressions that led to a stone block of bitterness lodged in my heart. Whenever the thought of forgiveness came to mind, I would have a negative physical response! The thought of forgiving this person left me feeling unsafe and in need of protection.
I had an inaccurate view of forgiveness. In my mind forgiveness meant maintaining a close bond with the person. Here is what the Bible says about forgiveness: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32
Here, forgiveness means to let go of the negative feelings you have towards the person and to pursue peace through kindness. It means to remind yourself of all you have been forgiven of in Christ. For myself, this can mean that I need to erect a boundary between myself and the person in order to love them freely. Some people fail to erect boundaries and thus foster bitterness in their heart towards the offending person because they feel powerless to change the trajectory of the relationship. Think about what boundaries you need in order to feel safe enough to love this person. It can mean never going to their home, and always agreeing to meet in a public place. Or it can mean never meeting with this person alone and always bringing a friend along. Another boundary may mean that you do not speak to this person over the phone, but instead text in order to avoid misunderstandings or he said/she said drama.
In some instances when someone has deeply hurt you, God is able to restore the relationship. In others, wisdom tells you that this person is not meant to be in your inner circle. Jesus had an inner circle of individuals He walked closely with. He loved others passionately, but He did not bring them into His inner fold. The Bible warns that we should watch the company that we keep. We are to be gatekeepers of who we allow to influence us. If the person you are forgiving tempts you to sin or brings an air of toxicity wherever they go, I believe it is ok to keep them at arm’s length in order to avoid further conflict and confusion in your life. The Bible says that we should not be misled, for bad company corrupts good character -1 Corinthians 15:33. Scripture also states that we should cut ourselves off from anything that causes us to sin -Matthew 5:30.
My dear sister, do not confuse forgiveness with powerlessness or loss of freedom. We are commanded to love one another as Christ has loved us. This does not mean we are to suspend all wisdom and allow any and everyone into our lives to plunder it. Protect the gift of love that God has given you by using wisdom in interacting with people. Also, think about the ways you have plundered the lives of others. How can you use grace and wisdom to build more healthy relationships around you? The aim should always be love. How can erecting boundaries around your life free you to love others more genuinely?
With love and reflection,
- Ogo Nwaneri