What this release process looks like for you will be your own journey to take. For me, it’s deleting messages, pictures and, hardest of all, the mental files of examples where I can weaponize the past for whatever case I’m building today. No more retelling what happened with precision in ways that condemn. No reducing my offender to the confines of “wrong” and “guilty.”
And please hear me … they may absolutely be wrong and guilty. They may have been declared that by a court of law. Or just in the court of public opinion. Or maybe by no one else but your own heart. But with the proof, what you do from here matters.
What I do from here matters.
We cannot truly forgive while simultaneously holding onto proof we can use later.
I want to pause and assure you of what forgiveness does not mean. Forgiveness does not always mean there will be reconciliation nor does it ever mean placing yourself in harm’s way. You can let what someone else has done inform you of needed boundaries. You can even determine it’s no longer healthy for you to be in that relationship.
Those decisions do not make you less Christian, less kind or less healthy. And all of those decisions can be made with the help of a wise, godly counselor.
But all of these case files of proof we’re keeping? We need to release the part of what happened we keep replaying over and over in our mind with increasing feelings of resentment toward this person. We can do this in prayer, meditation or through writing it all out in a letter that may never need to be sent.
However we do this, the key is to listen to how you tell the story of what happened from here on out. If we tell the story and stay focused on the gory details of how we were hurt and how awful this person is, we are probably still holding onto the pain and proof. But if we can state what happened and then focus the story on life lessons we are taking away that will make us a better human, this is where the dysfunction ends, healing begins and peace can finally start to settle in.
Processing, healing and letting go of hurts is good. Avoiding hurts that are festering and manifesting unhealthy thoughts and scripts inside of us is not good.
The hurts you have experienced are real. And if no one has ever told you how sorry they are for all that has happened to you, I will. I am so deeply sorry. But, now more than ever, you deserve to stop suffering because of what other people have done to you. 2020 may have been the year that brought all of this to the surface, but 2021 will be the year that you start moving forward.
I know how hard it can be to let go of all of the proof, but this is where I am learning healed hearts and healthier relationships begin. They begin when we choose to let the dysfunctional cycles of pretending we are okay while still simmering in pain and proof-keeping end. When we choose to believe God is able to be both our healer and our defender. And we decide for ourselves to stop waiting for the other person to make things right and instead rise up to pursue healing for ourselves.
(Lysa TerKeurst is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her latest book is “Seeing Beautiful Again: 50 Devotions to Find Redemption in Every Part of Your Story” (March 2021). Lysa lives with her family in North Carolina. Connect with her at LysaTerKeurst.com or on social media @LysaTerKeurst.)
This article originally appeared here.