When we are hurt, we have the urge to hurt back, or to at least withdraw, out of self-protection. Sometimes the hurt that we experience is something we just have to accept as a part of life. (See the post on Things You Don’t Have to Forgive.) Often the quickest way to heal the hurt is through forgiveness. Biblical forgiveness is always in the context of sin. So what do we forgive? Sin. However, there are three types of hurt that come from sin.
Universal Hurt is anything that is legally, morally or ethically wrong. In other words, sin. If there is a law against it or a moral or ethical code about the behavior, forgiveness is an appropriate response. Figuring out the law part is easy but the moral and ethical aspect is much more difficult to discern. Sin includes the 10 Commandments as well as anger, lying, gossip, criticism, arrogance, lust, etc. When these sins are committed, there might not be a law about them, but we know they are not right.
Perceived hurt is a little more difficult to figure out. Perceived hurt is hurt that reminds us of a sin done against us in our past that hasn’t healed yet. That memory gets triggered and we overreact to the present event. For example, if someone stabs me in the arm with a knife, that is a universal hurt (legally, morally wrong.) However, if I wrap up the wound but never clean it and never change the dressing the wound will become infected and very sensitive. If someone brushes that arm, I will have a huge reaction to a very small event. I perceive the brush to be a universal hurt because of the intense pain I feel. However, the brush is not what needs forgiveness. It is the knife wound that needs to be cleansed and healed through forgiveness.
Compiled hurt is hurt on top of hurt, or sin on top of sin. Take the knife wound example. If instead of a brush, the second offense is a punch in the arm, that is also a universal hurt. However, I will have a greater reaction to that punch than if I was hit in my other arm that doesn’t have an unhealed wound. Both the stabbing and the hitting are universal hurts and both need forgiveness. However, the intensified pain of the punch in the arm is the clue that there is more than one wound that needs forgiveness.
So, when you find yourself responding to an offense with greater intensity than is warranted, ask yourself, “What does this wound remind me of?” and “Have I experienced an offense similar to this before?” If the answer is yes, then there is more forgiveness that needs to be done. You may not be aware that you are overreacting to an event because of the level of pain that you are feeling. However, if others around you are saying you are overreacting, it would be wise to check it out with those same questions above.
Keep reading for the next blog post introducing the 6 steps of forgiveness.