Notably, I’m not one to beat around the bush. We all know I have a degree in Just Putting It Out There and by no means, do I ever claim that I’m always right or have a deep, theological understanding of the Bible. I have not studied the scribes or Greek and Hebrew text. Nope. I study the back of the shampoo bottle in the shower and the junk mail and that’s about it.

I do, however, hold the same struggles common to every human being and that is the conundrum of unforgiveness *MOAN* I know it’s probably gonna grate you a little bit. That’s OK. It grated me too. I got grated good.

Now, before we dive in, it’s important that we make the distinction between offence and pain. I’ve seen a post written by a pastor that’s flying around the internet about offence and how everybody is getting too offended. I wholeheartedly agree. But, there is a big difference between getting petty (offence) and feeling pain inflicted by someone else.

Offence:

Complaining that the music is too loud, there aren’t enough seats, there’s too many seats, the soft lighting is hurting your eyes, Carol got to lead worship but I didn’t get picked, the church café doesn’t sell those coffee beans that a cat digested and defecated etc.

 

 

And here is pain:

A decade ago, I finished up bible college with an invitation by a very prominent, highly-esteemed and “Instagram famous” staff member of that very very famous bible college to attend a small gathering at his house with his wife and several other graduates. In gratitude, I emailed the couple the following day, expressing how glad I was to be invited and join them for dinner.

I received a reply from the wife saying, “Is Amanda the weird one?” Turns out, she accidentally replied to me instead of Mr Very Very Famous Bible College Staff Member. Being young and eager to please at the time, it seriously made me worry about what was wrong with me, like the chronic anxiety-filled obsessive worrier that I am. It shattered my already fragile self-esteem and to this day, it’s something I have not been able to forget.

PAIN.

 

That year I finished up college, I was so burnt-out I suspected I may have had chronic fatigue. When I consulted my youth pastor about it, he just looked me straight in the eye and told me, “I think it’s all in your head.” He was right. It was in my head because I was depressed from being in a constant state of distress after going to classes and serving in weekend services, women’s ministry, kids ministry, youth ministry, community outreach ministry and all whilst holding down a part-time job to pay my way through that 12 months (you can read about stress and distress on our church blog here).

PAIN.

 

A few years ago, I became really mentally unwell but I pushed myself beyond my limits and obligingly attended a baby shower full of Christian girls. The previous night I was awake until 5am dealing with Elias in the ER at our local children’s hospital. I know for a fact that these girls were all completely aware of our son’s recent Haemophilia diagnosis, in fact, one even messaged me to tell me I can “call her anytime.” When I showed up, they all stuck their noses in the air and completely ignored me. Nobody would talk to me. Except one gold nugget. I don’t even know her name. She walked straight up to me and started berating me publicly about the way I was dressed and how I had my hair that day (you can read the full story here). It completely broke me and from there, I spiralled further into a deep and dark depression that took almost a year to recover from.

PAIN.

 

There is offence and there is pain. There is a difference. A big difference.

 

Sweet sweet revenge

Pain is everywhere. Everyone has felt it and usually, it’s the ones closest to us. As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. But what do we do with all this pain that has been inflicted on us in situations that are unwarranted and just plain unfair?

Admittedly, I’ve recounted many events where I’ve felt the sting from another, going over what I should’ve said and a strategy for counter-attack. In re-living the scenario, I’m doing myself a great disservice. I’m re-living the pain. The psychological term for this is ruminating. Ruminating the past, going over regrets and rehashing painful memories stops us from healing and moving forward.

 

 

I know, I KNOW that forgiving is biblical. It is not a suggestion, it is an action fundamental to our faith as Christ-followers. But it is SO FREAKING HARD. Sometimes, it feels like it is impossible. In fact, it’s more likely that I’d be struck by lightning twice and then invited to go on tour as a back-up singer for Adele than forgive those assholes. Just sayin’.

That’s honestly how I felt. Until I saw this:

 

 

Verbatim:

“When someone else does us harm we are connected to that mistreatment like a chain

“Maybe retaliation doesn’t combat evil it feeds it

“And, if we’re not careful, we can absorb the worst of our enemy and start to become them

“[Forgiveness] is saying, ‘What you’re doing is so not OK that I refuse to be connected to it anymore’”

 

WOW. I had never heard forgiveness explained like that. In my thirst for revenge, I had fantasies about publishing a book called, “Is Amanda The Weird One?” and sending a signed copy to the couple who were/are in a powerful and influential position leading thousands of young aspiring church leaders. I’d send the same book every day until it piled up on their desk and eventually filled the entire office space. That was my plan. I had thoughts of printing out copies of the email and mailing them across the countryside. Oh, it had me salivating at the mouth.

But after viewing this, I realised that if I pursued the path of revenge, I’m only feeding the pain and becoming EXACTLY LIKE THEM. I’m absorbing the broken part of them that tried to break me. I’m taking upon myself the accumulated hurt in them that has gone unaddressed. Just like the saying, “Hurting people hurt people.”

“And, if we’re not careful, we can absorb the worst of our enemy and start to become them”

 

Let it go, let it go

Something miraculous happened when I watched this clip. In only two minutes, my life completely changed. There’s “OMG Kmart home deco is life-changing” and there is THIS. I realised that those people were merely extending their hurt onto me and that moving forward, I refused to take it upon myself anymore. I just made a decision: no more. And just like that, I was free.

For as long as I breathe, I will always have opportunities to become like those who inflict hurt upon me. And so will you. But now I am much more conscious of what’s happening, like a spectator from the outside observing a dynamic at play: an offender who is so crippled from internal pain that it flows out of them and spills onto everybody else. And if I’m not careful, the fountain of destruct will flow onto me and into me and then I will spill it onto somebody else.

He then called the crowd together and said, Listen, and take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up. Matthew 15:11

Jesus’ call to forgive, pray for and bless our enemies is two-fold:

  • It is for us, so we don’t take on their attributes and become destructive ourselves. So we can be free.
  • It is for them, so they can heal from their hurt.

 

if-you-never-heal

I’ll finish up with this: we are all on a journey. I have hurt family, friends and even total strangers. And to you, I say I’m sorry. I have been hurt by family, friends and total strangers. And to you, I say, you are forgiven.

 

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xxxxx Mindi (The Weird One)

PS. I actually am in the middle of writing a book about embracing your inner cray-cray and learning to love all parts of ourselves including the imperfect and messy parts. But I’ll have a better title!

 

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