Clergy spouses and clergy families are often the collateral damage during church conflicts. So much so that sometimes you just have to laugh. We would be bitter persons, indeed, if we couldn't forgive people who hurt us. But sadly, it's too easy to be bitter or want that sweet revenge.
What makes us hold on the those hurts and withhold forgiveness? After all, not forgiving only hurts ourselves. The other person may not know or even care that they've hurt us. But we continue to harbor the grudge, stewing over our wounds--sometimes for years. It's like taking the poison we want someone else to drink. It only hurts us. Sometimes not forgiving can cause depression or physical illness. Not forgiving will weaken our immune system, making us even more vulnerable to other hurts. And don't you know that bitter people look bitter, even to the ones they love.
So what can we do? We all know we need to forgive, but it's not simple. How can we just let it go? Does forgiving mean that we forget? No. Even if we forgive easily, it still takes time to heal--like a broken arm or a black eye. You can forgive, but the body takes time to mend, so be patient. Does it mean that you let someone hurt you over and over? No. Getting hurt serves as a warning to stay away, or when we can't do that, take appropriate precautions.
Sometimes the best we can do is just let it go. That's the first step. The next step can be to walk away or, at least, not cast stones in revenge.
A number of years ago a co-worker told me this when sometime had hurt me. She said, "You may have to wait on them, but you don't have to do them any favors." In the church, you may have to see them every Sunday and you may have to sit in the same room with them during a meeting, but you don't have to do them any favors. You can forgive, but you don't have to invite them to hurt you again either.
Yes, we pray for our enemies, even begrudgingly. But to truly forgive often means that we need to rely on God's grace. That's what makes Christians different.