Lately, I’ve been made aware that I cannot grow in love until I address the roots of bitterness and unforgiveness in my heart. I was surprised by this revelation. I did not think I was harboring a grudge or hanging on to past hurts and injustices. I had already forgiven those who had wronged me.
Or had I?
I made myself write down all the things that were long-standing wounds and scars from my past. I went through the obvious: rejection of my creative work, the demise of important relationships, mistreatment at work, the injustice of unethical people succeeding, and betrayal by friends. I’m a sensitive person and I felt these wounds intensely.
Why was I even bringing up all these old wounds? What purpose would it serve to pick at a scab or dwell on a scar made long ago? Because I wanted to grow. I was determined to face this task and see it through.
As I reviewed my list, my eyes finally opened. Most of my heart-wounds were healed. The pain was gone and they held no sway in my life. But, a few—yes, a few—were red, angry blotches, festering for years by denying the depth of the wound or the inadequate cure: “God, forgive ____ for hurting me” or “God, I forgive ____ even though he doesn’t deserve it.”
There was no truth to these acts of forgiveness; there was no love. The mantra meant nothing because I held a little back due to resentment. I was not free; I was still infected. I pondered this revelation. Those who had wounded me were not affected by what they had done. I was the only one suffering. For the first time with love in my heart, I saw them in my mind’s eye, confronted the truth, and forgave them completely. I was free.
Or was I?
Unfortunately, I discovered a huge, convoluted, tenacious infection of unforgiveness raging in my heart. Who was I blaming so intently that I had allowed this disease to spread and infect my every thought?
I had never forgiven myself for the things I had done. My sweet, little, innocent spirit was locked in a torture room where I pummeled and whipped it day and night. The revelation was stunning.
I forgave myself! I let go of the wounds, the pain and the hurt that I inflicted on myself.
As Jesus said in Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Now, I am free. I am free to grow in love.