2 Corinthians 2:5-8 NIV
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.
There is a danger in becoming close with others. Sometime, someplace, somewhere, they will have the potential of hurting you, and you them. A wall quickly rises, attempting to sever us from the pain inflicted by others, but the sickening feeling in our gut tells us that we are affected, nonetheless. If we are honest, we have all tasted the bitter fruit of betrayal or hurt wrought upon us by someone else. Why does it hurt so badly? Often the betrayer was someone close enough to make the sting all the more piercing. You trusted them and they slandered or used you. You forgive, but then you are criticized for not allowing that person the same place in your lives. This is the struggle of forgiveness.
God has forgiven us, and so we must forgive one another. Forgiveness on the outset does not look so hard – you choose to apply grace when it is not deserved. Sounds like what God did for us. The trick is trying to determine when or if you can let someone back into your life. When is it safe? Is safety the goal? Is it selfish or self-preserving? Ironically, we can hold others captive by not letting them in for fear of further pain, but we ourselves are bound. Further, we find that we are just as guilty and needful of grace.
If we apply the separation strategy, soon we are isolated and living in fear, not wanting to risk further injury through relationships. No one will ever meet the standard of not letting you down, so where is the line drawn in determining whether a separation strategy is beneficial? If we apply the other extreme of overlooking and then plunging headlong into more of the same hurt, that is not a solution, either. A middle ground of boundaries can be useful, but only if we establish healthy, God-honoring boundaries laced in grace.
Common sense tells us that some relationships really must end. Sometimes people can be toxic to us, or vice versa, but sometimes we can use that as an excuse to avoid discomfort, too. The real heart issue, then, is trusting God. If we are avoiding potential pain and vulnerability because we either do not think we can bear it or we think that God might not enable us to walk through it, we are allowing fear to cripple us. This fear can keep us from wonderful relationships all because we base it on a couple of people who harmed us in the past and we are vigilant from allowing similar pain from ever happening again.
Pride might play a role, too. We do not want to be manipulated or fooled again. So we keep anyone at a distance who contains similar traits as the one who harmed us before. Yet if we take the time to consider why people hurt others, we might be surprised that they themselves are hurt and crying out.
I confess I would rather live without the drama of raw emotions, tangible to ourselves and those around us, but then, that would not really be living, either. Forgiveness is the choice to go on living, even when you walk with a limp. It is electing to not allow the stain of former hurt to ruin the garment of your life and perhaps not worry so much about yourself getting hurt, anyway. It is putting on love and covering sin. It is mercy in action, a perpetual decision to focus on the positive aspects of those around you and no longer hold their shortcomings against them. It is laying down the fears of what they could do and labels that excuse the protection mode. Forgiveness does not mean you allow others to abuse you, but it does mean laying down the hurt we keep picking up and loving imperfect people . . . since we are in that number, too.