Adult bullying is real. Sometimes it seems that the biggest aggressors in our lives, the ones who have caused us the most pain who are the ones that shout the loudest about HOW we need to forgive.
Bullies have a way of demanding forgiveness – on their terms and in their timing. There is not one thing in your interactions with them that can be separate and about you – even when it comes to forgiving.
Today’s Topic: Adult bullying getting real about forgiveness.
I am a Christian so one of the first examples I look at to inform my life is how Jesus walked something out. Jesus talks about forgiveness. He also offers us a perfect example of forgiveness as he hung from the cross dying (Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34).
That’s a big example to try and live up to… no?
I also look outward to find amazing stories of forgiveness exhibited in our world like the Amish community that came alongside the family of a perpetrator. A man had murdered and maimed their children in a one room school house shooting spree. In the face of this evil the Amish families ministered to the murderer’s family…. providing for his children’s future and forgiving in the midst of their own grief (you can read that story here).
But that does not mean that they have forgotten what happened to them.
That DOES NOT mean that there are no residual scars and hurt.
Forgiveness is what we should be doing. Every single day we will have opportunities to extend forgiveness, to speak peace, to be peacemakers.
However, there are some relationships we have where simply being near to one another will require a great deal of pre-forgiveness, grace in the moment, and then afterwards on your knees forgiveness when we are apart from one another.
Every single second of these relationships are a test and a struggle.
There is no peace.
In our culture forgiveness seems to have become something that we either demand or withhold.
Forgiveness is something that we believe we are DUE.
OR it is something we hold on to tight-fisted refusing to extend when we have been hurt.
We often fail to recognize that every person deals in forgiveness differently.
Forgiveness takes TIME.
It is not something we are due.
And there are also consequences when we withhold it.
Instead of giving that individual we have offended the opportunity to work out forgiveness in their own way and in their own time WE MAKE DEMANDS on what forgiveness needs to be and when and how and who.
Sorry, but forgiveness does not work like that.
We often fail to acknowledge or give credence to an offended party’s feelings about our actions that have harmed them.
“Hurry up already and get over it,” our insistence on being forgiven seems to say.
We discredit and invalidate how THEY have experienced us by not giving any value to their thoughts and perceptions of us.
We rush right over the messy stuff we have vomited into someone’s life – and expect them to get over it and move on.
FALSE! It doesn’t happen that way.
Bullies outright reject other people’s truth for their own ideas about what has happened or is happening and why.
They use defense mechanisms of: blaming, shaming, hiding, and demanding proof instead of humble submission and prayerful peacemaking.
There can be no peace made among a people who DEMAND peace.
There can be no peace among a people who are not peacemakers in all areas of their lives.
We can not pursue peace ONLY when it is advantageous to us, but then ignore the intentionality that peacemaking requires in all areas of us, all of the time.
It is a way of living – not just a way to get over hurt and get back to the status quo.
When you get straight to it: Bullies are NOT Peacemakers.
For a Bully peacemaking is counter-intuitive.
Peacemaking goes against a bully’s need to control and know the information, and play other people like a game, and be right about everyone.
They do not desire your truth – they only want your compliance.
- How do you forgive?
- How do you being to walk it out when someone does not believe they have done anything that needs forgiven?
- And when they express regret or apologize and then they use that word, “BUT?” how do you forgive when it feels like they are simply going through the motions to get you to cooperate again?
- What happens when you don’t believe them?
And do I NEED to forgive? What does that even mean?
Why We Need To Forgive
I talk about the grace of God because this is what I know. Grace is a love we are given that we do not deserve and we can not work to obtain. I believe that God loves me. There is not anything I can do to lose that or buy it. It simply is.
When I understand grace I know that I have been forgiven much. So it is important for me to forgive and often:
“The only way to experience healing and peace is to forgive. Until we can forgive, we remain locked in our pain and locked out of the possibility of experiencing healing and freedom, locked out of the possibility of being at peace.
Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us. We are bound with chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped. Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness; that person will be our jailor. When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberators. We don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves.” (Desomond & Mpho Tutu, “The Book of Forgiving”)*
I have been forgiven much and I am not one of those who takes the grace of God for granted. (Galatians 2:21)
So while it may be difficult I do what Jesus has asked – I forgive.
I preforgive, forgive after the fact, and when the bully’s vomit starts being projected onto my life. I forgive in process and along the way.
I do what it good and holy and sacred because forgiving is sacred work of the heart.
However what I am NOT as willing to jump into is reconciliation.
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