What If I Still Feel Hate?
“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”
Forgive me for being the cliché Christian by beginning with a C.S. Lewis quote, but I promise I have an important reason. There’s more to this quote than you might realize. Lewis is talking about forgiveness in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust - the result of a hatred so deep that people were treated as less than human. At that time, few would dare to talk about forgiveness.
Hatred. It’s too broad, too awful, and too prevalent in this world to look at all at once. Yet there is something more powerful than even the darkest, most evil hatred: a crazy kind of living that forgives anything at any cost. I don’t know about you, but I don’t much like the thought. Whether it’s because I want to feel more righteous than someone else or I’m afraid to be hurt again, I give myself many reasons to hold onto my anger. With God, however, forgiveness is not a suggestion.
“Forgive us our sin as we forgive those who sin against us,” as The Lord’s Prayer says.
Forgiveness may sound impossible, but C.S. Lewis gave us the first practical step to forgive: start small. “If we really want (but all depends on really wanting) to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo,” says Lewis. “One might start with forgiving one's husband or wife, or parents or children… for something they have done or said in the last week.” You could be fighting your little sibling about stealing the remote. Or you resent your co-worker for eating the yogurt you left in the fridge. It doesn’t matter how banal it seems, as long as you start somewhere.
Then, dig deeper. The neighbor who always gets under your nerves, the relative who stole something you can never get back, the former best friend you haven’t seen in years. If you haven’t forgiven them and you don’t want to forgive them, what would you do if you had? How would you think about them? How would you treat them? That is your action plan. You love them anyway. Even if that person is not and should not be a part of your life for your wellbeing, you can love them from afar. You don’t have to be afraid of doing it wrong because the feeling isn’t there. I’m going to tell you from experience, your pain can last a long time, no matter how much you might want it to go away.
Thankfully, you’re not facing the hurt alone. Your Father loves you and everyone in your life that you have struggled with. He knows we can’t magically muster up happy go-lucky feelings or forget our biases, so He offers His hand to you. Forgiveness is His specialty. If you want to forgive like He does, you’ll have to let him in, day after day after day for as long as it takes. I can’t imagine how hard it would be for you, personally, to do that. But He knows. He understands. He will come through for you.