Why Forgiveness Is Essential

1995 graduation photo jpg

Forgiveness has been a long, necessary task, and it’s been essential in my healing as a child of divorce.

Most of my posts talk about the hurt I’ve endured and the healing I’ve experienced, but not much about forgiveness.  The act of forgiveness has been an integral part of my healing process.

Several years ago, our church did a sermon series and small group study based on the book Life’s Healing Choices.  The book suggested writing forgiveness lists for all the people who had hurt us in the past.  My lists included the ways my parents had hurt me, and that was the beginning of my healing journey.

As I wrote out those hurts for the first time in quick succession, the anger I had held in so long burst to the surface.  It felt good to release it on paper.  I began to understand myself better.  No wonder I struggled so often as a child and young adult.  I had held in my hurts too long.

The lists got longer and longer as I remembered more hurts.  I realized the longer the list, the more I had to forgive.  The more I needed to release my expectations and longings so I could be set free.

Forgiveness didn’t come overnight.  Hurts kept bubbling to the surface, and sometimes new hurts were added to the mix.  Instead of pushing them down, I had to release them over and over again.  I had to develop a practice of forgiving every time a hurtful memory or new offense came to me.  I still have to say out loud, “I forgive you,” when I remember an old hurt.

In his excellent book Total Forgiveness, R. T. Kendall writes,

Not only do we need daily forgiveness as much as we need daily bread, but we also need to pray daily that we have the grace to forgive others as a lifelong commitment.

I also wrote a list of ways I had hurt myself.  Forgiving myself has been even more difficult than forgiving others.  I had to forgive my self-loathing, my seasons of self-destruction, my refusals of love and kindness when they were offered.   For being so hard on myself, for talking to myself with such condemnation.  For making myself the target instead of giving myself a break.

What’s amazing about the forgiveness process is that once I’ve written my lists, grieved the losses, and spoken forgiveness, the memories have far less power over me than before.  They are scars, but no longer open wounds.  I’m no longer writing out memories for my own healing—I write in the hopes that others can relate and receive the same healing that I received.


Where are you in the forgiveness process?  If you were to make a forgiveness list, whose name would be on your first list?