Forgiveness. It’s freeing. It’s always a result of pain. It’s a place for healing. It’s often hard. It makes way for restoration. Forgiveness.

Over the last few years, I have had my share of painful experiences through various friendships and relationships. In order to maintain peace, I won’t share details of these relationships, just know that I’m speaking from true experiences from my life with both genders and people of all ages, I’m not just talking about dating relationships here. And I know that we all have our own lives with extraordinarily different circumstances, but I believe that forgiveness has been put in place as a gift from God.

When I drifted apart from particular past relationships, I began to talk about them with my other friends. My intent was not to share about the good times from my past, rather I wanted to express the pain I felt and put all the blame on these people. I wanted to turn as many people as I could against them. Why? Because they hurt me and it felt good to inflict hurt back upon them without actually hurting them. However one time, I had shared some negative opinions of one old friend with a mutual friend and because I feared getting caught and actually hurting this person, I felt I should tell the person myself and apologize. So in an email I explained that I had trash-talked them and our relationship, and I knew that it was wrong, and I wanted to apologize. I thought it was a noble thing to do but it was not received well; but I did feel better about myself, and that’s all that mattered to me.

It wasn’t until this past year that I realized this all needed to stop. I was trash-talking old friendships and past relationships just because they didn’t go the way that I wanted them to. I took any opportunity I could to share with friends about the bad things these people had done to me in the past because it earned me sympathy and revealed the hidden dark sides of these people. But it was not healthy, and not the reason why God put me in those relationships. He didn’t allow these relationships to end so that I would hate them, or warn others about them or to turn others against them. No. God put me in these situations so that I could grow as a result of them. Each and every failed relationship or broken friendship has contributed to the man who I am today. And despite the amount of pain that came out of those, the amount of love and growth makes it all worth it. Do I wish I could go back and change things so that I didn’t experience the hate, the betrayal, the neglect? Not at all, because I’m thankful for those experiences that God allowed me to endure, because I’ve grown with Him so much more through them.

But to be thankful is only one part of the equation. To forgive is what completes this process. It is what brings about restoration, trust and hope for a brighter day. And to be honest, these can only be obtained through the love and grace of Jesus Christ. It was as if He just flicked a switch in my heart and told me that I needed to forgive these people. To make amends with them was such a difficult task. But through His strength, I was able to contact each one of these people who I held grudges against and tell them that I was thankful for them and the relationship that we had. Recognizing that although we were distant now, we did have some good memories and that I was thankful for God placing them in my life for the time that He did. The response was mutual and freeing, and so the restoration began. Now, whenever I engage in conversation about these particular people, I must be sensitive and careful with my words as to make sure my listeners understand that we although had our ups and downs, I am still thankful for them and I don’t hate them; in fact I love them.

Forgiveness. It’s an odd thing. It’s not forgetting the pain, but rather it’s being thankful for the pain. It’s realizing that some things are not worth our stubborn, bitter and hateful attitudes. It’s redemption. It’s love. Forgiveness.

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