How to Forgive

I’ve been pondering a lot lately about the principles of forgiveness and unconditional love. How does one unconditionally love someone you cannot trust? How does one forgive someone who very well may betray, deceive or hurt you again?

I had the privilege of previewing an excellent book before it went to print. Victoria Fielding’s “A Piece of Time” gave me a critical puzzle piece along my path to more fully understanding the principles of forgiveness and unconditional love.

At one point in the story, the main character summarizes,

“There were many dancers, many styles of dances, with innumerable dances being performed simultaneously on the stage of life. And who was to say that one dancer was any better than another? No longer did I think it was just my stage. It was everyone’s stage, and we were all just inexperienced dancers bumping up against each other, and—for the most part—trying to get our steps down, and trying to do our best. That was all. And that was enough.”

This morning as I was pondering on the subject further, it occurred to me that I’ve been taking things very personally. When someone makes a mistake, blows a fuse, or does something that makes my life difficult, I’ve been taking it personally. I’ve been acting as if I’m the main character on the stage, and it’s all about me and how other people treat me. I’ve been betrayed. I’ve been deceived. I’ve been used or treated like dirt.

How am I supposed to keep loving someone who may betray me again, may deceive me again, or may use me again? How am I supposed to unconditionally love those people?

But what if Victoria Fielding is right? What if we’re all dancers, performing simultaneously on the stage of life and all those things I perceive as “about me” aren’t personal at all! What if it’s other people bumping up against me as they try to play their roles in life? We’re all imperfect and human. Rarely is someone else’s mistake all about us.

I call a child for dinner and he yells at me rudely. I can take that personally. I could think, “How disrespectful! How rude! He doesn’t love me at all. How ungrateful!” Or I could realize this child was acting out of character and there must be more to the story. Sure enough, I later learn that he was mad about something else and my calling him three times for dinner was the last straw. It had nothing to do with me.

Someone once said, “No man knows my history.” We don’t know each other’s histories. We don’t know the string of incidents, choices, and beliefs that led someone to a particular act. Perhaps he was flailing his arms dancing on the stage of life and smacked you upside the head because you were the closest person around.

Have you ever noticed on crime dramas like “Criminal Minds” it’s rarely that the murderer simply despised the victim? There’s always this string of events, circumstances, choices and the perpetrator’s view of life that led to the crime. By the time the FBI team gets to the bottom of it, we see the perpetrator’s twisted view of reality caused by a myriad of factors that made the person snap.

Of all people who could take betrayal, deceit, and even murder personally, it would be Jesus Christ. But there’s one thing about Jesus — which I believe enables Him to love each of us unconditionally no matter what we do — and that is He doesn’t take our actions personally. Even though our actions caused Him pain, He still prayed on the cross, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” What if he wasn’t only talking about the soldiers driving the nails?

Jesus knew it wasn’t personal. And even if it felt very personal, He never took it personally. He knew that we all have a history, and we’re all imperfect dancers on a stage “for the most part—trying to get our steps down, and trying to do our best.”

That’s why if we’ll come to Him, and give Him not only our sins, but also all the times we’ve felt offended, betrayed, deceived, or injured, He can take those things and replace them with love — unconditional love that never ends. He will “bind up the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and open up the prison to those who are bound.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)

Will you join me in shifting perspectives? Can we stop taking other people’s actions personally? Can we choose to believe that, “we are all just inexperienced dancers bumping up against each other, and—for the most part—trying to get our steps down, and trying to do our best?”

(A Piece of Time by Victoria Fielding will be available online and in some Cosco’s in September. For more details visit www.VictoriaFielding.com )

47 Comments

  1. This message definitely came from the Lord to me today. He has been speaking to me all morning through emails and text messages from others. This message spoke directly to my problem with regards to my marriage. Thank you! It was right on time! But then again, he is an “on-time God”.

    • it is one of the issues that needs to be adressed,sum we are angry and cant forgive and we cant even realise it,we really need God,we need to forgive as we are also forgiven,we all do stafff wrong ,hurt people sum way or the other and we need to be forgiven,so we realy have t learn to forgive.thanks a lot for this wonderfulmessage.

  2. Another great article, Marnie! I love the image of all of us doing our own dance and accidentally bumping up against each other at times.

    One thing that I have learned about unforgiveness (from personal experience, of course;) is that it requires judgment and resistance to remain in a state of unforgiveness. I have found that curiosity is a natural antidote for judgment and resistance.

    So instead of going into a place of judgment (or more practically speaking — after going to a place of judgment and being tired of how that feels;) I try to get curious. I ask myself, “Isn’t it interesting that ____ did/said/implied _______? I wonder why…” I find myself going to a place of compassion for that person — so simple and so powerful.

    Now I’ll start saying, “I wonder where they learned to dance like that. Isn’t that an interesting dance move?” Or “I wonder what has them so distracted that they don’t even notice that they are stepping on everyone’s toes!” 😉

    Thanks again for the great article!

    • Isn’t that a great analogy? Victoria Fielding is a fantastic writer and her book is profound. Be sure to get a copy once it’s released! 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for this. I need this very much this morning and in my life. god listens!

  4. “How am I supposed to keep loving someone who may betray me again, may deceive me again, or may use me again? How am I supposed to unconditionally love those people?”

    Unfortunately, as sinful & faulty humans, we find ourselves hurt and betrayed many times by others, including those closest to us. While, we find the ability to forgive those closest to us, because we love them enough to find the patience, love and respect to do so, we don’t extend those same graces to others. Our focus tends to turns inward, and we deify our feelings and own personal demands. Others actions get misconstrued as personal attacks, hurting our feelings. We interpret it as disrespect or insults, and by doing so fail to show them the love Christ has demanded of us. Our feelings become our Idols, blinding us & causing us to stumble – and we become the monsters we thought the other person was being!

    We must humble ourselves, letting Christ work through us, submitting ourselves to His love & His will. We must admit guilt, admit selfishness, admit fault daily, choosing God’s love & grace over our hurt & anger. We remove ourselves from the throne, stepping back and letting God reveal to us the nature behind the betrayal. God does not look at the things man looks at, he judges the heart, not the appearance of actions.

    • the forgiveness was the easy part…but how do you get the incredible hurt out of your heart…when I look at him now I realize that I must not have known him at all for him to be able to hurt me like this…I cry daily…and I try not too, but my heart hurts so incredibly bad…and then it hurts more knowing how much Christ was hurt in dying for our sins…I am a mess…and just wish I could end my hurt forever….

  5. Praise God, it was very hard for me to forgive, and this message makes it very clear to me, god is speaking his word through you all. Forgivness is the key to open doors and only through jesus christ..amen.

  6. What a beautiful article. It so descriptively showed the picture of us all just doing our best here and how clumsy and inexperienced we all are.

  7. Thank you Marnie. This was the very thing I’ve been praying to find. You are terrific. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Thanks Stephanie! Maybe your prayers helped me find the answer I’d been searching for! 🙂 We LTW ladies do tend to travel the same paths. Love you!

  8. dear Marnie…I am actually sitting speechless in front of the computer. This email, blog, book, and most importantly this topic is the core of a deeply personal struggle currently. My father is battling a life threatening depression and has been illl for months. He has just had a feeding tube placed this morning as a life saving measure at this time. Apart from the grief of seeing him physically and mentally so ill, my stepmother has been the center of the battle. They’ve been married 33 years; she is controllng and he is passive. Only in the past number of months did this unhealthy relationship create a serious crisis. My stepmom’s need for control and deep fears of seeking help prevented necessary medical attention in a timely manner to prevent his spiral. My father’s worries, lack of purpose, and a life void of Christ left him so empty that only Jesus can fill him back up. He did accept Christ – Praise God!! – about two months ago before the severity of the depression became so serious!! Unfortunately, my stepmom has fought against help and seen myself and his only other daughter as enemies only for wanting to save his life…. Im so sorry for writing so much but I truly believe the Holy Spirit is choosing this day to begin breaking me in a way I never imagined. Please know I am grateful and humbled to read this carefully and need this material as soon as it is released. If you have any other council or feel led to share any other material with me I would be so grateful. For now I bend my knees at the Cross and seek His face. God bless you Marnie. In His grip, Jen

  9. hi.this is very inspiring,but ive learnt through experience to let the other party off my system and life,its much easier to know they are not there and you can move ahead in full force,

    • I do want to make it clear that I’m not talking about being a doormat and staying in abusive or immoral situations. There are times you have to love and forgive yourself enough to let someone move on out of your life. God loves you and wants you to be happy. We can love and forgive and realize that some people are not healthy to be with. I believe God can let you know when to self-advocate, when to turn the other cheek and when to walk away.

  10. I like your post overall Marnie. I struggle with unforgiveness and, as a Christian, I need to let it go.

    What about people who entered your family (via marriage) and seek to break the family up? I could see it being easier to forgive a one-time occurrence or a ‘different’ offense. My daughter-in-law wants to be able to manipulate my son and does not want me and him to have a relationship.

    So she will not be moving out of my life (although I am praying that
    God moves her out of my son’s life) and I have to deal with her even though I don’t like her.

    • I think the root question is, why is she doing this? What drivers, motivators, false beliefs, fears or life experiences are causing her to behave this way? I’d be tempted to take her to the Lord every day in meditative prayer — picture her with the Savior and let him love her/heal her. There’s obviously something that’s wounded and needs healing here.

  11. We are a large family and most of us have long standing differences that have kept us apart. I have always felt I had a responsibility to facilitate a healing and forgiveness process and after praying I have recently asked for a meeting for all of us and 9 sub-families of the bigger family have confirmed attendance. I have been praying for a message to start off a discussion and what a great thought to just know that we could just be ‘amateur dancers’ stepping on each other’s toes as we innocently do our thing. Thanks Marnie for this revelation.

  12. http://youtu.be/nsT_Fnq-H5k

    So a funny follow up to this idea, today I did Zumba twins workout with my 10 year old and 6 year old daughters. We didn’t look anything like the above Youtube video we were working out to. and My 3 year old son thought it would be a good idea to try to hug me at this time. Well needless to say he got bonked on the head by my flailing arms and was sortof shocked

  13. Marnie, your question is one that I have struggled with for years (which, in turn, is why I wrote A PIECE OF TIME).

    As an adult child of an alcoholic, my ‘husband picker’ was broken early. I went into two marriages thinking that if my husband(s) did not DRINK, then they had to be a good choice (yes, I know; young and naiive). Wrong. (in my own defense, growing up in a family where there is addiction, children tend to naturally navigate towards that in a partner; the addictive personality is what feels ‘familiar’ and normal). Thus, I have had the interesting experience of choosing two husbands who were addicted to pornography, and which–in turn–led to affairs. I truly loved these men, so I was knocked to my knees not once, but twice. Unfortunately, my children seriously suffered the repercussions of two marriages ending in divorce because of those affairs.

    Forgiveness? Forgiveness even when lives are s h a t t e r e d because of the selfish actions of one person? Yes. We have no choice. For those of us who love the Lord, to not do so is–as Lilly, in a PIECE OF TIME discovers–to throw the Lord’s gift to us–the atonement–back in His face. I have forgiven. I am good friends with one of my husbands. I refused to give the offender, nor the deed, free rent in my brain. I struggled for a full year after the last divorce, but I vividly remember when, upon my kness, I felt the burden lifted from my shoulders. He took it, as He will all of our hurts and betrayals–over time–when we are ready to let them go. Forgiveness is a choice, and to make that choice is to set us free. Best wishes to all of you who are struggling with that choice. Victoria

    • Thanks so much for sharing your insights here, Victoria! And for modeling what you teach in “A Piece of Time.” As you can tell, I love the book and couldn’t wait for it to be in print to start spreading the word. 🙂

  14. This was a great article, Marnie. Loved the analogy and can’t wait to read Victoria’s book!! Forgiveness is so healing. It is also very hard. One thing that I still have to repeat in my brain is that to forgive does not mean to condone. I spent a long time thinking that if I forgave someone, then I condoned what they did. So wrong. It truly is about lifting this heavy boulder and placing it at the Savior’s feet and knowing that all will work out.

    Like Alisa, I always try to look at the other person and see what made them do what they did. It is often heartbreaking to know what some people came from. Personalities make a big difference, too. Fortunately, love really can conquer all.

    • Very good point, Denise about forgiveness not meaning to condone. Another thing I’ve learned is that loving someone doesn’t mean you condone their behavior/choices either. I think sometimes we feel this need to withdraw our love from someone who is living out of alignment with God’s laws. We think if we act loving to them we’re somehow condoning their misbehavior. This is SO NOT what the Lord would have us do. Why would anyone want to come to Christ for healing if all the Christians they know are judging and condemning them? I believe our role as disciples of Christ is to reflect His love to everyone… regardless of their choices. We don’t have to turn a blind eye, eliminate boundaries, or condone the behavior; but we can be kind, respectful and loving toward that person.

      • Marnie:
        Love this writing, topic and all this discussion.
        Quick note:
        Please be aware that your association with others may appear to be a recommendation. If you know someone has hidden habits / secret lifestyle choices / sin that causes them to be be less than trustworthy, you wouldn’t want to unintentionally recommend them to your friends for dating or interdependent friendships (I’m sure you wouldn’t want to warn everyone either as that would be gossip).

  15. Thank you very Marnie. I most needed to read that today. It addresses one of my biggest problems in life: taking things personally. And as you can imagine, this causes much problems with my relationships and friendships, including the closest one: my marriage life. God bless yo so much for sharing this.

  16. Hi Marnie

    Thank you for sharing this.

    I find that forgiveness is an ongoing work – a daily one. Mentally and emotionally there can be scars or bruises as a result of a hurt suffered and unforgiveness can subtlely creep into the heart if left unchecked. Yet when I am challenged in this way, I do remember Jesus and all that He went through for us and so I pray and ask for His strength and His heart to forgive. Considering all that the Lord has done, we really have no excuses. At times it feels almost difficult to do but in the end we have to choose to forgive.

    God bless you.

  17. Hi Marnie,
    I can’t stop thanking God for blessing me and many others with your kind words that are inspirational. How to forgive came at a time when I’m actually struggling with forgiving a friend. After reading through I realized that I’m the real cause of the problem. I’ve been self-centered all along but I claimed my friend wasn’t fair. I’llgo back and make amends with my friend and I’ll start working on myself but I still need help along the way, you’ll agree with me that this journey of mine isn’t something I can do alone, please be there for me at least.

    Kemi

  18. Thanks Marnie,
    It has been a few days now that I read this but it has never left my heart.
    I’ve been constantly thinking about the little or trivial things I nag about incessantly and the times I get wired up because I think someone has done something I consider odd.

    How sensible and of course rewarding if we could overlook a million things just by thinking we are all bumping into each other just because we are trying to find our way.

    An illustration that came to my mind: the car rides at adventure parks; no matter how good a driver one tends to be, you find yourself bumping into another or some others bumping into you. At times it can cause delays as it might need one of the attendants to come in and sort the collision out but no one gets upset, it is fun and if nothing else, it releases adrenaline-causing everyone to leave happiliy, thinking something great has just been achieved. This I believe applies not just to the children but the adults too.
    Thanks for this exposition, indeed the word of the Lord is ‘new every morning and great is His faithfulness’ Lamentations 3:23
    I would personally share it with others.
    Modupe

    • I love the bumper-car ride analogy. It really does come down to our attitude and perspective. What’s fun for one person could be offensive to another.

  19. Thank you for this message. it really confirms yesterdays message of God’s unconditional love.
    We always tend to think that everything is always all about us. This just helps us see things in perspective and the bigger picture of life 🙂

  20. Thanks again, love the dancers analogy.
    This is a VERY important topic. Forgiveness is what we all need; that is the sole reason for Jesus coming down, and how He saves us.
    By being our sacrificial and unblemished lamb, willingly laying down His life to save us, He takes on our sin and demonstrates how we are to forgive one another – even when we are innocent victims.
    In addition, it appears we each have an idea of how others are to fulfill their roll in our life and likely encounter disappointments here. I recently came to the realization, through answered prayer, that I can stop expecting and waiting for other people to love me enough in the right ways, somehow fulfill my needs and I realize they ARE human, make mistakes, and have their own priorities.
    God bless. Thanks again.

  21. Marnie,
    Thanks for sharing the beautiful article about dancers on life’s stage.
    So many of us want to forgive and yet struggle to understand how to forgive those who have bumped into us.
    A minister once described unforgiveness as poisen that one drinks and hoping someone else will die from it. We are actually turned over to tormenters when we don’t forgive others. (Mt 18:34-35) That same speaker commented that often we judge others by their actions and judge ourselves by the intent of the heart. Above all the reasons to forgive others the most helpful knowledge of how to forgive others came when I learned that forgiveness is a decision –not a feeling.

  22. It is so great to pick up a piece of your writing, and again be in the flow of ‘real stuff’. The analogy of the dancers on the stage is so…kind of perfect and descriptive. One can clearly imagine little pre-schoolers bouncing around to their own drummer, and knowing that this dance is all about them. It makes me smile. I have another thought however:
    I can relate to the authors own story, as I have a similar one. Curiously, I do not struggle so much with judging his intentions, or even ultimately, with forgiving. But I do struggle with, getting to a safer part of the stage. Maybe because I CAN see that we are all so human, and I have a bizarre ability to forgive almost anything, I just keep believing that we can get ‘in step’. In other words, forgiving and not judging are not helping me to…not get hit over the head. Maybe he is just someone that I really really wanted to dance with, or maybe leaving that part of the stage means leaving so much….a family etc. Forgiveness….? Sadness…? Another topic, I know. Thanks for sharing this. Sadly, we are now talking divorce. 30 years…kids, grandkids…it feels so huge. Hugs, Tina

    • You, my friend, do have an incredible ability to forgive and step outside of judgement. But I agree… there comes a point where one must move to a safer part of the stage. No one could ever say that you didn’t give it your all to safely dance with this partner! Love you! – Marnie

      • Marnie….you are a dear. I do so appreciate your words of support, as I know that you have heard my struggles. AND, I will just add, that God does work in mysterious ways. As I sat with the reality of the Divorce place, something different drifted into place. Weird is all I can say. Maybe it took me getting all of the way to the other side of the stage, to get a different perspective. The wind has shifted, and it feels peaceful and open. Maybe this is the topic for another of your insightful blogs. . Perhaps the memory of getting bonked on the head so often, just made it hard to see…new possibilities. Anyway, much love to you my dear

        • “Perhaps the memory of getting bonked on the head so often, just made it hard to see…new possibilities.”

          Tina, this rings true with me based on my experience with an emotionally shutdown man. I am struggling to gain perspective and confidence. I’m so thankful for God’s provision – I now have a job. Thank you for sharing. Hugs.

  23. Good thoughts for a thorny issue. From a CS Lewis perspective, pride is out biggest enemy and plays out in this issue as well. Thanks!

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