How Forgiveness and Gratitude Work Together

Ephesians 4:31-32  (31)  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.   (32) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Forgiveness.  Where do I begin when I speak about this topic?  There are many aspects of how to forgive but I am going to share a few tools I use when I forgive.

One thing I always try to remember is I cannot control others.  When others choose to hurt us it is their own decision.  I have no way of controlling what they are going to say, act or choose how to hurt me.  I work on the fact that I am only in control of myself and my own acts and responses.

Many years ago my first husband gave me a laundry list of insults that with every verbal blow I shrank smaller and smaller and felt worthless.  The words hit like bullets.

You are too fat.

You don’t keep the house clean enough.

You don’t make enough money

I don’t like your cooking.

At the time I took every word he said and I allowed myself to be destroyed.  I felt his words had to be true because I was overweight, I was only making minimum wage and many times I came home late from work too exhausted to clean or cook.  I accepted his words and hid them inside.

After divorcing him several years later I recognized that his opinions belonged to him not me.  He said the things he did to cover his own wounds and secret life.  If he distracted me with hurtful comments I wouldn’t focus on what he was actually doing.  Those things were having affairs, not going to work and hiding alcohol and drug abuse.

When I realized I am my own self and what I believed was the only important opinion outside of God’s.  I told myself that his behavior was his behavior and he chose to act the way he did.  I set myself free from the haunting criticism ( if you call it that since criticism is meant to be helpful when used correctly) that I had held onto that was destroying me as a person.  It wasn’t easy and didn’t happen overnight.

Now it was many years after my divorce that I released the idea that I hadn’t any control over his actions and moved on. Eight years to be exact.   I said genuinely in a prayer, “God, please help me to release any hatred I feel for my ex-husband since he makes his own decisions.  Please help me to recognize I am who you made me to be and you would want me to forgive like You forgive me.  No one’s opinion of me matter except Yours God.”  I felt a peace come over me after I felt true forgiveness in my heart.

Isaiah 43:25 (25) I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

I also use gratitude constantly in forgiving.  Instead of remembering all the hurtful things that were either said or done towards me I flip it to gratitude.  I once heard a speaker say when you can’t forgive someone and move past the experience to begin healing you should say this as you visualize the person, ” I want to thank you “for giving” me this experience!”  This makes you actually use the word forgiving and being positive at the same time.  Believe me when I say this will work if you truly are sincere when you visualize and say the sentence a few times.

I also have practiced gratitude after my first marriage to appreciate the difficulties of that marriage to get to where I am today.  That place is a much better place because of gratitude.  Here are some examples and please note I was far from forgiving my first husband when I began doing this.

I began by saying things like, “I am grateful that because of that marriage I was blessed with my beautiful daughter, Lexie.”  “Because of that marriage I learned what the perfect husband would be for me.” (God blessed me with that perfect husband.)  “I am thankful I always had a roof over my head and a bed at night.” “I am blessed to know the signs of alcohol and drug abuse now that I have gone through that marriage and maybe I can help others.”

When I removed the mean things I was thinking and made it more about focusing on how I benefited instead of how I suffered I gained more peace in my heart.  I am now even more grateful that I forgave my ex-husband fully about 3 years ago because last fall he passed away.  It would be very difficult knowing he had left this earth and I was still holding a grudge towards him.  I think God gave me that forgiveness knowing He was calling him home.

The final thing and the most important thing is to forgive yourself.  Most people don’t realize that when you can’t forgive others it is because you are not forgiving yourself.  You hold onto what happened and many times blame yourself for what has happened.  For example I internalized all of my ex-husband’s comments and rationalized them as being my fault.  I had gained weight and I could fix the situation if I lost weight.  I could find a different job that paid more money and I could change how he felt about me.  If I would put food in the crock pot on my lunch hour and clean the house at the same time he would be happy.  You know what?  None of this would have made a difference.  He would have just redirected his comments to something else.

When I came to the conclusion that I was working more than full-time (close to 50 hours a week)  and taking care of my baby I WAS  being a good wife.  My house had clutter but not trash laying everywhere and no bugs or vermin so I WAS keeping a clean house.  I forgave myself for allowing someone to hurt me and not see what I was doing.  Please forgive yourself and only listen to God’s comments on your life.

When we hold onto issues and don’t give forgiveness a lot of times it’s because your ego gets in the way.  Remember EGO means Edging God Out.  Don’t edge God out by holding onto unhealthy feelings.  Ask God to help you forgive even if you can’t forget.  If you can’t forget then turn that into a lesson of what not to do again.  You will be healthier and your heart will be at peace when you forgive.

All my love and gratitude for you, LoLo

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