Tuesday, May 16, 2017
“To err is human, to forgive, divine.” ― Alexander Pope
I have been having a tough time lately, emotionally. It seems that almost every person I have liked and trusted has let me down and as the disappointments piled up, my depression just got worse and worse. It was as if every time another person let me down, I had to carry a heavy, concrete block that was dragging me down. After a while, I needed a wheelbarrow just to move around, I had so many concrete blocks to lug. With no medication or therapists around, I had to climb out of the hole I had dug on my own. Guess what? Every time I forgave one of those who had hurt me, it was as if another concrete block turned to dust and blew away. Block by block turning to dust, it became easier and easier for me to get around. The depression began to lift. None of those people did anything to try to hurt me, they just said or did things that made me expect one thing and then didn’t deliver or it turned out they never really meant what they had said. I took each and every disappointment to heart though, and it turned out to add up to an almost crippling series of blows. However, as I forgave, I healed. Christ knew all about this. He said it lovingly, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “. . . as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He said it more forcefully with the parable of the unforgiving debtor who was cast into prison, but the message was the same. Forgiveness is not an option—it is a choice but not an option, if you are to be a follower of the Christ and to live a life of love.
After teaching His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, Christ went on to say, “For if you forgive men their sins against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins against you, neither will your Father forgive yours.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
These are words written in red in many Bibles, and as I am a “red letter” man, I take them very seriously. I know it is frequently very hard to forgive, but it is just not an option. I have a friend who survived the holocaust at Auschwitz who says he can never forgive the Nazis. I have counseled many going through divorces who say that they can never forgive the understandably truly rotten and mean behavior of their spouses. It’s very hard to forgive those whom you loved and trusted yet betrayed you and hurt you. God never said it would be easy, just worth it. Every one of you probably knows what it’s like to have to lug a bunch of concrete blocks with you everywhere you go. It’s a hard thing to do to forgive, but the hard thing to do is also almost always the right thing to do. Going back to yesterday’s blog, if God can forgive the unforgivable in you, how can you not forgive those who have hurt you? The other thing you can do (and many choose this option) is to hate and resent the ones who hurt you, but that is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Hate and resentment will destroy you and your relationships with your loved ones. Forgiveness frees you and gives you life. The choice should not be that hard in the end. Remember that forgiveness doesn’t equal amnesty, bad deeds do get punished. Ethel Kennedy flew to California to forgive the man who assassinated her husband, Bobby, but she did not ask for his release from prison. Consequences will always follow bad behavior—you don’t need to help them along. Besides, remember also that many times the people that hurt you don’t even know that they have done so. Your job is to forgive them whatever the circumstances. When you forgive, you free a prisoner—yourself. As the Nike ad says, “Just do it.” You’ll be glad you did.