Hatred and Forgiveness

On February 28th, 1944 Nazi soldiers broke into the house of Corrie ten Boom and arrested her with her entire family for hiding Jews in their family home. The Nazis sent Corrie and her sister to Ravensbrück concentration camp where Corrie’s sister died. Corrie was released from the camp and made it a mission to travel the world speaking on God’s mercy and forgiveness in the face of hatred. One day after giving a talk, a man walked up to Corrie. She recognized him as one of the Nazi soldiers at Ravensbrück concentration camp. This man had treated Corrie as less than human. This man had let her sister die. This same man walked up to Corrie, looked her in the eyes and said… Will you forgive me?

Corrie was silent. Standing there she thought forgiveness is not an emotion… forgiveness is an act of the will, but she could not forgive him. He let her sister die. He had done such evil things! At that moment she prayed, “Jesus, help me!… I can lift my hand. I can do that much.” She lifted her hand and shook his. She said to this former Nazi soldier, “I forgive you, brother!… With all my heart!

“Hatred is like drinking a poison and then waiting for the other person to die.”

What Corrie chose to forgive seems unforgivable. The reality is we live in a broken world. There are people in our lives that have hurt us, maybe are continuing to hurt us in some way. There are people who have betrayed us, embarrassed us, treated us so poorly. How can we possibly forgive, in the face of such anger? How can we find peace in the middle of such hurt?

Like Corrie, we need God’s help to forgive. Christ longs to help us carry the burdens of pain and suffering as He suffered on the cross. Corrie knew that holding on to anger was a recipe for hatred. She knew that this hate was harmful to herself, to her relationship with God. She knew and witnessed that when people hold onto hate, they die spiritually.

Not a Waste

Contrary to cliches, forgiving does not mean forgetting. Christ does not want you to just forget about hurt, abuse, injustice and return those same unhealthy situations or relationships. Forgiving doesn’t mean pretending that nothing happened. Quite the opposite, forgiveness means accepting and learning from what has happened. It means giving Christ permission to come into the hurt and anger, to use this suffering for good to happen. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, but He does make beautiful things come out of suffering. Our hurt and anger don’t go to waste when we forgive. In fact, when we invite God into this cross our hurt, anger, and sadness are even transformed to help us become the people God calls us to be.

Emotions Do Matter

As humans we are emotional. God gave us emotions as signals to point us to what is important to us. God calls us to look at and understand our hurt and anger. Jesus wept, he got angry, He was emotional. Jesus shows us that our emotions are important and a part of our humanity. One of the first steps to forgiveness is simply recognizing our emotions and letting God into them. Naming how we are feeling means that we are not a slave to our feelings. Accepting our emotions and realizing that God gives us the ability to work within them gives us options to begin healing.

To Be Free

Like Corrie’s story, maybe what has happened in your life seems unforgivable. Maybe there is so much hurt, anger and pain. Even in the face of suffering Christ longs to give you peace and freedom that is found in forgiveness. Christ longs to come into your heart and give you the grace to take those small, real steps towards forgiveness today:

Want to want: Honestly, sometimes forgiving someone who has wronged us can seem so out of reach. Often the first step is to just want to forgive the other. When we don’t feel like forgiving we can always pray and first ask God for the desire to forgive itself. We can invite God in by praying: God, help me to want to forgive this person! In asking for God’s help to begin, we can imagine what forgiveness would look like and begin to take steps towards healing.

Real-time: Forgiveness isn’t just a one-time event. It takes time. Forgiveness means being patient and loving to ourselves during this process. When we try to rush healing, we can get mad and even hateful towards ourselves. It’s okay to be angry, healing is a process of letting God in and letting go of anger. Don’t rush it, trust in God and give Him permission to work.

Write it out: Take your feelings, good and bad, outrage and joy, to paper. Begin to journal about your experiences. What do your experiences mean to you? What have you learned from them? What is God trying to speak to you? Create a prayer journal telling God what is going on inside you. Writing can help get your thoughts out of our heads and can help us process them better. Try to write a letter to someone who has hurt you and don’t give it to them. Say whatever you need to say.

Talk to someone: Christ puts people in our lives as His hands and feet. Talk to your Youth Minister, a therapist, your parents, or a friend. Share how you are feeling and share how these feelings are impacting your life.

Change the focus: Hate is addictive. It’s easy to think about hurts and pains over and over but when we do it weighs us down and weighs others down. Letting God into our anger and hurt means giving it to Him and turning our thoughts to better things. When hate and anger grab your attention, give those negative thoughts and feelings to God and ask Him for help to redirect your focus to better things. Have some good alternative thoughts and activities to do when you find yourself thinking about negative thoughts or memories

Lift them up: One of the hardest things we can probably do when we are angry is to pray for those who have hurt us. Christ said, forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us and this step in forgiveness can mean simply lifting up this person to God and His love. It doesn’t mean that we have to make a shrine in our prayers for those who have hurt us, but we can simply pray that even those who have wronged us know the love of God. We can entrust them to God’s justice and mercy as the King of Kings.

Find the words: Turning to Scripture gives us the words to forgive. The Old Testament reminds us of the unending patience and mercy of God in our own sin. The Psalms give us the words to cry out in our anger and hurt. The New Testament gives us the model to forgive and to let go as Christ did. Scripture as the Word of God reveals to us what it means to be human, to suffer, to forgive. It reminds us of the unending love and forgiveness God pours out. Scripture can be our map to forgiveness, road bumps and all.

Hatred and holding onto anger only eats away at us and pushes us away from God. Christ calls us to true healing and freedom found in forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t pretending that nothing happened, it is saying yes to, inviting Him into our hearts and taking real steps to be free from anger and sin.