When Forgiveness Hurts

“If forgiveness is easy, there’s not enough blood on the floor.”

Editor’s Note: In the post below, there is a super grody image of a wound, which we included because it will help you remember this post and its powerful message FOREVER! But, if you have a weak stomach, well, beware. It’s super gross.

“If forgiveness is easy, there’s not enough blood on the floor.”  Brene Brown Wow.

I heard that this morning, and it just resonated with me.

I have always said that the way out of our marriage hell was a long, slow crawl over broken glass.

Before the crawl over broken glass, I was mostly trying to hold things together.

I forgave quick and I forgave easy and I tried to forget about it.

I never admitted how much I hurt, or how bad my marriage made me feel.  That wouldn’t be nice.  It wouldn’t be sweet.  It wouldn’t make any difference anyway.  And maybe if I just submitted more, that would take care of the whole thing.

Looking back, I realize.  Before the crawl over broken glass, there was just never enough blood on the floor.

And a lot of the blood was going to need to be mine.

We lived, at the time, on a little island in the South Pacific.  And since we had medical supplies at our house, I became the de facto clinic in the village, and I dealt with a lot of tropical ulcers.

I found this picture on Wikipedia, and they say it’s from 1952, but I think the color is too good, and I swear I could have taken this myself.  I can name the patient.


OK.  That’s nasty.  I know.  I feel a little faint myself right now.  Breathe.  Breathe.  Scroll down.  There’s a reason I’m showing you this, so hang with me a minute.

When somebody came with one of these sores, I couldn’t put antibiotics on top and hope for the best.  Much as I wanted to, believe me.  I would have to clean it out, down to the bleeding flesh, where the medicine could actually work.   This was absolutely no fun at all.  There would be a lot of blood on the floor.

And here’s the thing.

A lot of us have emotional stuff that is just this ugly, just this putrefied, just this life-threatening.

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We’re taught as little kids to say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” as a rote exercise.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s a good first step.  It works pretty well when you’re dealing with sharing a truck in the sandbox.  It’s like learning your ABC’s so you can read Plato someday.  You’ve got to start somewhere.

But as adults, forgiveness becomes complex, difficult, and confusing.

  • What is my responsibility?
  • What is the responsibility of the other person?
  • What about difficult or addicted or abusive people, who never seem to get it?
  • What about all this pain I still have, even when I thought I’d forgiven?

I’ve written about all this before.  And we can think about it properly, and get all our theological ducks in a row, and go to therapy and whatever.

But eventually, all the gunk has to come out of there.

And the gunk is not just in our heads, in how we think.  It’s in our hearts, with all the pain and disappointment and loss and grief that we just don’t want to feel.

Everything we use to block the pain.  The work and the ministry and the food and the exercise and the shopping and the admiration and the drama.   It has to go.

God can only work with our living flesh.

Brennan Manning said that we can go into the dark places of our lives with Jesus, knowing that we’re safe there with Him.

No matter how dark and ugly our gunk, His love never fails.  He always knows how to heal and redeem.

It’s not easy.  It hurts like crazy, down in there where the light don’t shine.

The stuff that’s down there, down deep, that’s the real stuff.  That’s where I need to bleed, much as I hate to.

But I want to be healed.  I want to be whole.  I want to walk free.

And this is the way.

Kay Bruner
I live in the Dallas, Texas area these days, with my family where I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice.  It’s my pleasure to work with clients who need to know, like I do, that we are all loved with an everlasting love.  I also enjoy sharing my story with groups, and I am available for speaking engagements.  

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