“I can’t forgive him. If I do, he’ll think he can look at porn anytime he wants.” Sheila exploded. “I just can’t. It isn’t right what he’s done.”
Breaking the marriage covenant hurts and builds fear.
Hebrews 13:4 says,
Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. . . .
Any time a spouse brings another into the marriage relationship through emotional affairs, porn viewing, flirting with others, and physical affairs, the betrayed spouse feels deeply hurt. Wounded people wound other people. And, hearing from your spouse that “everyone does it” or “it’s nothing to worry about” doesn’t resolve the issue or heal the pain.
Fear is an ugly monster and taskmaster.
Like Sheila, it’s common to want to control the other person or maintain your anger. Fear tells you to exact revenge. It never has your best interest in mind. Instead, fear seeks to keep you frozen in place, locked up, so you won’t take the following action step. Wrapped up in fear, you remain in trauma and pain.
Fear tells you that forgiveness allows the other person to get away with what they’ve done. Instead of finding hope and healing, cortisol courses through your body, keeping stress elevated. Freedom from fear seems like it’s an unreachable goal.
God tells us that his perfect love expels fear. We don’t have to live with acidic stomachs, tense muscles, and racing thoughts. We can kick fear out of the house, change the locks on the doors, and post a “no trespassing” sign.
Forgiveness is the key to unlocking your freedom from fear.
Depending on the trauma, forgiveness may come in pieces. You may feel that what happened to you is unforgivable. In Healing Is A Choice, Stephen Arterburn cautions that unforgiveness can be worse than anything else in the world. Arterburn refers to justifiable resentment as a terrorizing enemy.
“Justifiable resentment is a type of resentment that will kill you. It is not about the petty; rather, it is about real and horrible experiences. It is about a real-life event that anyone would say was terribly wrong. All the evidence supports your feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness, and unwillingness to forgive. The other person does not deserve forgiveness, and no one wants him or her to have it. . .It is resentment attached to a specific date and a person and a trauma that really happened.”
After reading that, I realized that the resentment I’d held for so long against my attacker was justifiable. But that unforgiveness ate at me for years and kept me from having freedom from fear.
Only God gives us the ability to forgive. Why? Because he forgave us. No one deserves forgiveness. It is a gift.
Holding onto any resentment disrupts your relationship with God and others and impacts your health.
You don’t forgive a person because they deserve it. Arterburn says this: “The reason for forgiveness is not to let the other person off the hook; it is to get you unhooked. You forgive so you can move on.” Read that sentence again.
Forgiving the other person allows you to move on. Resentment keeps you tied to the person and event. You become frozen in that time and place. As a trauma victim, you may need help healing enough to forgive. If that’s where you find yourself today, reach out to a counselor, pastor, therapist, or coach.
Forgiveness probably isn’t a one-time event.
Or there might be layers to your forgiveness. Remember, forgiving the other person allows you to move forward. In the early days of my recovery, I wrote out who I needed to forgive, for what, and the date I asked God to give me the grace to forgive. Specifics released me to move on. When the resentful thoughts returned, I told myself I’d forgiven that person. Now it was time to heal me by God’s mercy and grace.
In the conscious decision to forgive, I learned to replace negative, painful thoughts with new experiences and God’s Word. I searched for and wrote down verses that talked about my identity. Maybe this free resource will help you.
Sheila’s fear is valid. He might not give up porn, which is not within her control. But forgiveness allows her to find healing and move forward. Sheila finds new freedom to live life to the full.
Where do you feel locked in fear today?
Do you have justifiable resentment? Would you like to learn how to move forward and get unhooked? Let’s talk.