In her journey of recovering from childhood trauma and past mistakes, BJ Garrett learned about the importance of forgiveness: what forgiveness is and what forgiveness is not. Walking through forgiveness lifted shame and released the burden of unforgiveness which led her to a startling discovery that changed her life.
We also talked about trauma recovery on a recent episode of Your Hope-Filled Perspective podcast. If you missed that episode, you can listen here (Recovering from Trauma and the Mistakes of Our Past – Episode 150.)
Be sure to read to the end for a book giveaway!
The Importance of Forgiveness in Recovering from Trauma and Past Mistakes
By BJ Garrett
I can still feel the emptiness in my heart. So many memories of ugly…
Hopeless, ashamed, unwanted, unloved, dirty…
These are the words that used to describe me. They paint a picture of how I saw myself, how I thought others saw me, and how I felt.
As a child shattered by a sexually abusive father, a mother who when not absent would often allow me to be the currency in which she gained the things we needed, I grew up with such hatred and defeat in my heart it is a miracle today that not only am I alive, but I am thriving.
I was left unprotected, unloved, and unwanted by the people who should have loved me most. Instead, I found myself wanted by the wrong people for the worst reasons.
To this day, I cannot explain how the one thing that made me feel the dirtiest, the grossest, the most disgusting, is the one thing I later turned to for validation and affection.
As the old country song goes, “lookin’ for love in all the wrong places,” my search for self-worth lead to sexual promiscuity and unplanned pregnancies. Becoming a young teen mother initially saved my life, as I was determined that I would love and protect and provide for my baby girl. I loved being a mom. I loved fixing her hair, playing dress up, and making sure that no hunger pain lasted beyond moments. All the things I thought equaled being a good mom. All the things I had longed for as a little girl.
Excitedly I found myself expecting a second child, only this time I was desperately in love with the father, I was a little older, more mature, stable, and happy. Being a mom was the best thing that had ever happened to me, and I cherished each moment, so the idea of welcoming a new baby into our world was a dream come true. Nothing could break this happiness.
When the father told me he had no desire to be a dad, my entire world shattered. In complete desperation to not bring an unwanted child into this world to feel even for a moment the way I had felt nearly every single day of my life, I found myself in a small room having the first of what would eventually be multiple abortions.
Emptiness flooded my heart greater than the darkest depth of the sea.
More bad decisions, more hurtful relationships, more brokenness ensued.
When I was a married mother of three, losing everything to the blaze of a house fire changed the course of my life forcing me to turn toward a God whose love is pure.
Very quickly after surrendering my life to the Lord, I surrendered into full time ministry, but not before the Lord inserted amazing Jesus loving women into my life. These women began to pour into me, teaching me how to pray, how to love, how to be a wife, how to be a mother and a friend. All things I had no idea how to do on my own.
Most of all, they loved me. They loved me with a love so pure it was intoxicating. Love had always cost me something, usually my body, but this time, it was lavished on me in abundance with simple yet heaping loads of acts of kindness, gentleness void of hate and judgment.
Learning to forgive is where my healing took on a whole new level of discovery and growth. This is where my hope began to flourish and grow. I once had such a distorted view of what it meant to forgive, but through mentors and eventually going through Christ-centered Abortion Recovery and Education’s (CARE) abortion recovery program, I learned the true principles of grace and forgiveness.
Unforgiveness opens the door to a pretty miserable existence – I know – I learned the hard way.
It can be very difficult to forgive those who have no remorse and those who are not sorry or who do not acknowledge the harm they have done to you.
I wanted to set up conditions before I would forgive. If “he” would feel bad, or feel sad or apologize, “then” I would forgive “him”…
But guess what – I was the one tormented. I was the one hurting – my heart wound festered with the infection of bitterness and unforgiveness.
Through the ministry of CARE, I learned the following principles of what forgiveness is and forgiveness is not.
Let’s start with what it is not:
Forgiveness is not:
- Making allowances – excusing a wrong. It doesn’t mean you are letting the other person “off the hook.” It doesn’t mean you condone what the person did to you or that you trust the person.
- Forgetting an injustice – If an offense is serious enough to need forgiveness, then it is too serious to simply wipe it from your memory.
- An open door for more wrongdoing.
- Resolution – getting things back to the way they were before. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Reconciliation requires genuine repentance on the part of the person who did the hurting.
So now let’s dive into what forgiveness is.
- A choice, not an emotion. It is about getting your heart right with God. It is foremost about your relationship with God. We forgive because God forgave us.
- Breaking the power of pain, anger, and hatred – forgiveness not only expresses the power I have to forgive – it breaks the power of the wrongdoer over me.
- Forgiveness is saying “I release you from your guilt in relation to me. I will no longer be manipulated by the memory of what you did or the emotions it evokes.”
- Is an act of grace – it’s the one act we can perform that mirrors the character of God.
A friend may in time earn back my trust, but she cannot earn my forgiveness. I must give it freely.
We are never more like Jesus than when we forgive.
The blood of Jesus cleanses all sin including the ones committed against me.
It does make a difference whether or not we forgive – It reveals whether or not we believe the message we proclaim as believers in Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”
Colossians 3:12-13 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy, and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
With the shadow of shame lifted, the burden of unforgiveness gone, like me, you may also make a startling discovery—you’ve been wanted all along. God has amazing plans for you.
No matter what has been done to you, no matter what you have done to yourself, there is hope and healing through Jesus Christ.
Remember, Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
What have you learned about the importance of forgiveness? We’d love to hear in the comments below.
About BJ Garrett
BJ Garrett is the award-winning author of Unwanted No More from Exploited to Embraced by God. BJ is an energetic speaker, passionate about telling her life story of overcoming a life full of abuse and bad decisions, loves serving on the mission field and serves as the Executive Director for Christ-centered Abortion Recovery & Education (CARE)
In conjunction with this post and the podcast interview, Recovering from Trauma and the Mistakes of Our Past – Episode 150, BJ Garrett is giving away a free copy of their book, Unwanted No More.
Leave a comment below sharing with us one thing you learned about the importance of forgiveness and you will be entered into the contest for your chance to win a copy of her book.
You could also share this blog post on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter then comment here to tell us where you shared it and you’ll also be entered into the drawing.
The winner will be selected at random and announced next Monday, March 7, 2022. Continental United States only.