Were you ever told that you needed to forgive someone that wrong you? I know I often told others this exact thing. Something possibly along these lines, “You need to just let it go.” Or quoted the verse that states we shouldn’t let the sun go down on our anger.
Very little room is given for those that are unwilling to “forgive and forget” the wrongs done to them. Now this may just seen innocuous and possibly even helpful. Who wouldn’t want to continue as a “peacemaker” and work towards restoring broken relationships?
However, this does have a bit of a darker tone when you introduce more serious issues. What happens to this concept when you introduce an abusive or neglectful partner or family member? Is this a flexible concept or does the victim still have to offer unconditional forgiveness to their abuser.
According to many fundamental evangelicals the victim is required to offer forgiveness. They must put aside their own feelings and pain and offer forgiveness to their abuser. There is so room left for unresolved anger or hatred. These are negative emotions, and they are mostly likely sin. I can remember having 1 John 3:15 quoted to me in regards to this. It was indicated that holding hate or anger towards a person was just a bad of a sin as murder.
“Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”1 John 3:15
I’m honestly writing this just as much to myself as I write it to others. I was that person. I asked my wife to forgive and forget the abuse she experienced. She had explained her pain, but I insisted she put that aside and put it behind her.
After moving away from the church, my attitude towards forgiveness has changed. And while I think holding continual rage in your “heart” can be a negative thing, I don’t see any issue with someone never coming to a point where they “forgive and forget” the person that wronged them.
Part of being human is embracing all of our emotions. We feel pain and anger, and if those feelings are ignored and suppressed it will only cause damage. Artificially suppressing them does not allow for one to be a whole individual.
Reach out and embrace your pain. Don’t run from it, or push it aside. If you’ve been hurt it’s okay just to sit in that and feel those emotions. There are alternatives to the idea of “just forgive and move on.” You don’t have to just “forget the past” and “move forward” without ever experiencing hate or anger towards the person that harmed you.
These are very normal responses and it’s okay to feel hurt. It’s okay to feel that pain. And that anger is also a healthy response. Don’t close yourself off from the very things that make you human.