How to forgive when you’re still mad

Beth Marshall

There’s nothing quite like a good friend, one who will always have your back. But what happens when it seems like your closest friend has stabbed you in the back instead? If you’ve ever experienced betrayal from a trusted friend, you know the pain cuts like a knife, and forgiveness is probably the farthest thing from your mind.

My first experience with betrayal came from a church friend, of all people. It seemed like a bad dream to hear the untruthful and vicious words she had spoken about me. I would love to say my initial reaction was merciful and sprinkled with grace. In reality, as I played and replayed her comments over in my mind, the idea of letting the air out of her tires seemed to be a more appropriate response. It was clear I was going to need help.

When We Want Revenge

The next morning I remember reading in Matthew 5:44-45, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." Ouch. As I asked for the Lord’s help, I felt a gentle prompting to do something kind for her.

Kindness was 180 degrees from the direction my mind was racing, but I knew it was what needed to happen. I bought a small gift and card for my friend and quietly snuck them in her mailbox. The gift was nothing extravagant, but the result was astounding. The next time I saw her she seemed confused, yet treated me with genuine kindness as though nothing had ever happened.

Jesus did not leave us the option to hate.

The Lord’s reminder to bless her had not only softened her heart towards me, it had also changed mine. My dreams of getting even and vehicular sabotage were gone, and I could see a glimpse of a restored friendship.

Forgiveness Is Possible

Being hurt or betrayed can leave you paralyzed in bitterness. If you’re thinking, “you don’t understand, I can’t forgive them,” you are absolutely right. You can’t. Admitting your helplessness is an important first step. The Lord may ask you to do something kind for the person who hurt you. Even if it doesn’t seem to make sense, do it anyway.

Your decision to forgive doesn’t mean what happened to you wasn’t wrong, but it will remove the ability for the hurt to define and destroy you.

Jesus was no stranger to hurt and betrayal. One of His disciples, Peter, when asked if he knew Jesus, sadly denied knowing his dear friend. The most compelling act of forgiveness in history came as Jesus hung in excruciating pain on the cross. He cried out asking His Father to have mercy on the very people taking His life, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Lord, please give us Your heart to forgive.

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