As I have been pursuing healing and wholeness the past 4-5 years, a lot of old memories have popped up. God brings me through seasons of heart healing and, as He does that, I recall moments of wounding from my past–times that had left a deep scar.

God doesn’t do this so that I can live a life of blame toward those who have hurt me. Instead, He brings me through a process of acknowledging the hurt, releasing the emotions that have been repressed for many years, and forgiving those who hurt me.

The more I go through this process, the more freedom I experience. No longer am I burdened by unforgiveness. No longer am I unknowingly being controlled by the undealt-with wounds from the past.

From this place of freedom, I am able to share my story. I want others to experience this freedom too. But sometimes I encounter resistance from others or, at the very least, confusion as to why I need to “bring up the past”.

It seems as though many people just want to leave the past alone and pretend it never happened. They believe ignoring the past will bring freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You cannot truly forgive until you acknowledge the past and its effects on your life.

Imagine that you were literally stabbed in the back. Many Christians would give you the advice: Just forgive and forget! So, you pretend you didn’t get stabbed and go on with your life. It starts to hurt worse because you are not seeking medical attention. Before you know it, your wound is infected and you become hyper-vigilant about who’s around you. Someone comes up beside you and attempts to give you a big hug, but you react and push him away. Meanwhile, your wound gets worse and worse as you fail to deal with it.

This is how I dealt with life for a long time. I ignored the pain of my past and just played it cool. Whenever those negative emotions would begin to surface, I would push them down deeper. The only problem was that I was eventually triggered. Something or someone would set me off and I exploded in anger! My anger was the biggest cue for me that I needed help. I knew there was something going on below the surface that I was completely unaware of.

The only way to get healing is to acknowledge what happened and seek healing.

How can you truly forgive someone if you are not acknowledging the hurt that was caused? When Jesus was on the cross, He actually felt the burden of all our sin. Forgiveness for our sins wasn’t cheap. And just as Christ suffered for us, we too must face the pain of our wounds in order to forgive.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24

Now, what I am not saying is to just blab about all the details of your past to just anyone. Choose healthy, trustworthy friends or family members who are capable of empathy and could possibly guide you through the healing process.

Some people may need extensive counseling to fully process and forgive. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve seen a counselor at different times in my journey when I just felt “stuck” and I needed the perspective and advice of a professional.

I also received priceless support from experts such as Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Brene Brown, and others. For some recommended reading, check out “8 Books You Need to Read for Emotional, Relational, and Spiritual Growth“.

As I have gone through this difficult, messy, heart-wrenching journey of forgiveness, God brings me to a place of more freedom and wholeheartedness where I am able to live a life of honesty and authenticity. I’m free to be me with the burdens of the past no longer holding me back.

Now, I don’t forget my past or discard it; I embrace it as part of my story. I’m no longer afraid of sharing because there’s not the shame attached to it anymore. And through my story, I have the honor of connecting with others.

Read my next blog, “Layers of Forgiveness“, to understand the times we need to forgive someone over and over.

What’s your story of forgiveness? Have you experienced times when forgiveness felt painful? Please share in the comments below!