Forgiveness (part 1)

Let me take this opportunity to give fair warning that we are going into some deep waters with today’s topic so brace yourselves. We may even need to continue this topic for two or three more blogs but we need to do it because what affects us emotionally adversely affects our health and wellness. With the arrival and passing of Father’s Day, I’m sure that day brought a slew of mixed feelings. For some, it was a positive day to be grateful for the influence our fathers (or father figures) had on our lives. So we were grateful for another opportunity to be able to honor them. For others, the day brought many, not so pleasant feelings of sadness, hurt, or grief. It was a day we probably dreaded or endured for one reason or another. Those feelings are normal if you are in that second camp. As I mentioned earlier, the word I want to talk about today is Forgiveness. I know that’s a difficult word for some of us but we have to go there, okay? Although the topic started off with some thoughts about fathers, I’d like to expand it to whomever it may apply. Perhaps it’s a mother, sibling, uncle, member of the clergy or church, or a best friend but take this discussion for what it’s worth. Oh I can hear the protests now…”you don’t understand how bad so and so hurt me,” “they never apologized or asked for my forgiveness so why should I forgive them. IMG_2513They don’t deserve my forgiveness,” “they’ll only hurt me again if I forgive them,” “they’ll think I’m okay with what they did if I forgive them and I want them to understand how badly they hurt me”, “I’ll have to let them get close to me and trust them again if I forgive them…” and so forth. I bet you didn’t realize I had a magic crystal ball. Yes, we can all think of reasons why we shouldn’t forgive but let’s take a look at forgiveness from a different perspective, shall we? Did you know that the Bible actually talks about forgiveness being a gift from God, to YOU? Contrary to what you might be thinking, it’s a gift for you and not the other person. By the way, none of those things I mentioned above about forgiveness is true. Forgiveness is a gift because it allows you to be set free from the hurt and anger of an offense or betrayal. It is not condoning what the other person did or giving them license to hurt you again but it is a way for you to move on. It is not forcing yourself to be in an unhealthy situation for concern that failure to do so means you haven’t really forgiven that person. I recall a dear family member being deeply hurt by an in-law and that in-law wanting to meet with her to make amends. This family member sent word to the in-law that she forgave her but was not willing to meet with her or have a relationship with her. Sometimes forgiveness demands that we set boundaries with those that may not be in a good place. Still not convinced forgiveness is for you? Okay, let’s consider the alternative – holding a grudge in bitterness. According to Stephen Arterburn, founder and host of the popular NewlifeIive radio program, it actually takes much more energy to do this because you find yourself reliving all of those negative emotions every time you think about that person and what they did. So essentially, you become consumed by pain and anger to the extent you are no longer at peace. Before you know it, that person is living rent free in your mind and there’s little left for more positive thoughts. Someone correctly asserted “Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison, staring at the offending person, and waiting for him/her to die.” The person unwilling to forgive is actually the one being slowly destroyed by that poison. Oftentimes, the poison shows up in unhealthy, and self-destructive habits to cope with the pain from our unwillingness to forgive. We all know someone like this, right? Someone that is so consumed by bitterness that they are M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E. Perhaps you’ve been that person. How about letting yourself off the hook by refusing to allow negative thoughts about someone to torment you? I know it’s hard, because you were probably hurt in some unspeakable ways, but it’s worth it.

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