As a pastor, I have people ask me, “I think I’ve forgiven them but how can I know for sure?”
I love hearing this question because it shows that a person is genuinely searching his or her heart. It’s an important question.
Have you forgiven . . . really? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
I’ve heard people say things like, “I’ve completely forgiven so-and-so but I still can’t stand to even think about him or her. If you only knew what they did. It was awful.”
Some people are convinced they’ve forgiven while everyone else can see that the wound is still raw.
It’s sort of like an athlete showing up out of shape at the beginning of the season declaring, “I’m fit and in shape!” But then fails the physical assessment miserably! Everyone knows the athlete is unfit except the athlete.
What if there was an assessment that revealed your forgiveness fitness?
I’ve put together a 7 Question Test. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you probably haven’t forgiven. (Next time, we’ll look at some indicators that reveal you have forgiven.)
1) Have you told your story more than once to the same person?
You know that feeling when you’re talking to someone and you can tell they aren’t interested because you see their eyes glazing over? Suddenly you remember, “Oh, I’ve already told them this story!”
When you haven’t forgiven, you tell the story over and over not because your memory failed you but because the wound is raw and it dominates your thinking.
2) Do you replay the past events at least once a day in your mind?
Most people don’t like to watch the same movie twice unless it’s really good. Even a great movie would get old if watched every year. Who in the world wants to relive the same event every single day? Only a person who hasn’t forgiven.
3) Do you have imaginary conversations with the person who hurt you?
We want the bad guys to pay! That’s why we cheer for Luke Skywalker over Darth Vader; Marty McFly over Biff Tannen; and Neo over Agent Smith. We all want justice!
Imaginary conversations (arguments) are part of our natural desire for justice and seeing the bad guys pay.
Jesus reveals a very different . . . and much better way.
4) When you think about your pain does it cause a mental fog?
“We often react in extremes about our past. We either deny or exaggerate the damage. Why? It’s a psychological defense protecting us from anxiety.” -Dr. Robert Enright.
I offer a personal assessment tool in my new book to help you accurately identify your injustice and remove the mental fog.
5) Is it hard to explain to others why your hurt bothers you so much?
I often hear people say things like, “No one understands how much I’ve been hurt. They just don’t get it.” Honestly, I always hurt a little when I hear this because that’s exactly what I used to think.
When you think your situation is unique it makes you feel isolated. However, even if your circumstances are unique, your injury/injustice isn’t. Once you discover your injury, you discover that you have an injury in common with many other people.
In my book, I share a thorough list of the most common injustices.
6) Does your story focus primarily on your pain and what you have lost?
Talking about your past from the “victim” position focuses mostly on you, your pain, and your loss. When you’re still telling your story from the “victim” position, you probably haven’t forgiven.
Forgiveness provides a bigger perspective while unforgiveness remains mostly focused on us, our pain, and our loss.
7) Have you made a commitment to not tell your story again and then broken your commitment?
Two things happen after a deep hurt and we rarely connect the dots: 1) we tell our victim story, and 2) we can’t forgive. It turns out; our story is part of the problem.
The best time for you to hold your tongue is the time you feel you must say something or bust. –Josh Billings
If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you have not forgiven. You’re not alone. Most of us can relate.
Here are some ideas that might help you move toward the freedom of forgiveness: