Whether it’s a broken relationship with the person you are sure is the love of your life or being fired from a job you believed was your career and calling. Maybe a parent or child said something unimaginable to you and cut you so deep you cannot forget. Or maybe your best friend betrayed your trust ... or a business partner or associate cheated you in a deal. It’s all part of our human experience. Every single one of these has happened to me. How about you? We’ve all been hurt in the past and probably will be again. We all know in principle that we should forgive, but ...
Knowing and forgiving are two different things
I’ve always thought about forgiveness as "letting someone off the hook" for something they had done to me. I suspect that most people look at it the same way. You also may think that forgiveness means forgetting. I don’t think either are true. Others must live with the consequences of their actions. Nothing we can do will let them off the hook and we should never forget.
Jesus says to forgive others
Jesus also walks on water and turns water into wine. I find all three of those skills equally as difficult. Knowing we should do something is far different than doing it, but hanging onto the pain only punishes the person who was wronged.
You may say, “They don’t deserve forgiveness. They don’t believe or admit they’ve done anything wrong” ... or ... “They’ve never asked for forgiveness, so why should I forgive them?” Have you ever thought that maybe forgiveness isn’t something we do for them, but for ourselves?
Forgiveness is a triumph of the heart
I believe forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. Anger can be all-consuming, burning inside our head and heart, while stealing our time, energy and peace. Maybe forgiving is a way we release the hurt, anxiety and even hatred we may feel. But yes, I know ... easier said than done, right?
I am not exempt. It has all happened to me and I have suffered through the experience. I have someone who has hurt me deeply and until I started working on this column, I found their actions unforgivable. And yes, this person has never asked for forgiveness and continues to act as if they’ve done nothing wrong ... but why should that matter?
A gift to our soul
Forgiveness isn’t about them. I believe the act of forgiveness is a personal decision to let go of the pain and anger we are storing in our heart. Holding these toxic feelings causes us to be bitter, negative and sometimes vengeful. What purpose is served by harboring these damaging emotions? You may say that it serves the purpose of never forgetting but ...
Forgiving and forgetting are two different issues
Forgiveness doesn’t mean we must pretend the offense never occurred. It’s healthy to forgive, but we should never forget or we may allow history to repeat itself.
The nation and people of Japan are among our closest allies, even though it has been less than 80 years since they executed a surprise attack early on a Sunday morning killing thousands of Americans. Yes, we’ve forgiven the government and people of Japan, while working closely with them in friendship to advance our common interests, but we will never forget what happened on that “day that will live in infamy.”
And don’t confuse forgiveness with trust
Pastor Rick Warren, in his mega-selling book, "The Purpose Driven Life," writes: “Many people are reluctant to show mercy to others because they do not understand the difference between trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, while trust has to do with future behavior.”
It is through grace that we are forgiven and we should extend grace to others, because ...
We are also guilty
We have all wronged and hurt others in our journey and may do it again. It may be a purposeful act we inflict upon others, while at other times accidental. However, none of us are blameless, not one.
When we forgive others, we are demonstrating the strength of our character. I am realizing through writing this column that forgiveness brings freedom, dignity and peace into our lives. Not because we owe it to those who hurt us ... we owe them nothing ... but because we owe it to ourselves.
How sweet the sound.
That saves a wretch like ... like ...