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“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Mark Twain

Forgiveness-Is there anything more difficult (at times) to give? Oh, forgiveness is quite easy when the offense is small. But when the trespass is big, our hearts can be much more stubborn. However, there is no weight greater than unforgiveness. It is like a ten ton barrel on our back, and destroys us from the inside out. Unforgiveness costs a lot–in terms of physical illnesses, such as ulcers, arthritis, skin problems, high blood pressure, and stomach upsets (to name a few.) It costs in terms of mental distress also, often resulting in depression, uncontrolled and unpredictable anger, and an inability to trust.

But so often, the reason that a person can’t forgive, is that they’ve never had an opportunity to voice their hurt, sadness, or anger.  Many times in relationships this is necessary. Before you can truly forgive, you may find it important to talk the situation over with the person involved, explaining your feelings. Sometimes they may reciprocate with an apology, and sometimes they may not. But at least you got the feelings out.  If the person is not available, or has passed on, try writing a letter, expressing your feelings. Sometimes just being able to vent, will allow you to put the hurt behind you, and move on.

What is forgiveness? The dictionary defines it as “ceasing to feel resentment against, to grant relief from a payment or claim to requital, to overlook an offense, to give up the desire to punish.” Seems like a tall order, doesn’t it? We think that holding onto our resentment is the least we should be able to do when we’ve been mistreated, and the desire for revenge is often strong.

What it doesn’t mean is that you condone what the person did. You are not saying that what they did was okay. When you decide to forgive, it doesn’t always mean that you will be reconciled with the person. That would be the optimal outcome, but sometimes it just isn’t possible. Sometimes wisdom dictates that you end the relationship, in order to protect yourself from more pain.  Some abusive relationships are dangerous, and require that you separate yourself from the person. In time, you can still forgive from a distance. Forgiveness starts on the inside; it’s about finding peace within.

Another great quote about forgiveness is by Lewis B. Smedes, and he says, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” That’s the key. Unforgiveness holds us hostage, not the one who hurt us. They may never think of it again, or may not even know how much they’ve hurt us. But all the while we are bound up with anger, hatred, bitterness, and unforgiveness, and our life has become miserable. Some people never recover, because their unforgiveness has imprisoned them forever. When you do not forgive, you give your offender control over your emotions. Booker T. Washington, an emancipated slave, had lots of reasons to be bitter. But his lifelong motto became, “I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.”

Remember your unforgiveness affects others also. If you’ve been through a divorce, and you remain resentful toward your ex-spouse, your children will be affected. If there are family disagreements that are not resolved, holidays can be ruined for everyone. Unforgiveness has a ripple effect-it just keeps on giving. Constantly dwelling on the wrongs you’ve suffered, will make you a person that no one wants to be around.

So often in our personal friendships, we give up on each other too quickly. In marriages, if we don’t forgive easily and often, we’ll find the relationship doomed. Many people hold onto previous offenses, refusing to move forward, and they are chained to the past. We should fight harder to keep the relationships that we value. If we learn to work through disagreements, and to forgive, we will experience spiritual growth as well.

Some people say that in order to forgive, you must completely forget. I’m not sure I agree. But I can tell you that in time, the hurt will fade, if you release that person, and move on. If the resentment comes back, just say to yourself, once again, “I forgive.” Your future is more important than your past. If you do not surrender your past wounds, you will not be able to trust others, because you will always be afraid of being wounded again. In a way, letting go of resentment is reaffirming trust in life and love. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness, and let go of the poison that’s been ruling your life.  Ask God to help you. You will be emotionally and physically healed, and you will be set free from the chains that have bound you.

What is the sweetest revenge? Forgiveness…


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  1. It seems to me that if the offense is large – say, someone permanently and severely physically disables you or kills someone you love – then it just wouldn’t be possible to forget. Even things that are a lot less than that – say someone defrauds you out of thousands of dollars – I really can’t see how you’d actually forget that it happened.

    To literally forget, I think it would have to be something trivial – say a sarcastic remark at a meeting at work. Now something like that, after enough time goes by, I can see forgetting or at least coming really close – you might never remember it unless maybe someone reminded you of it.

    Forgiveness is an emotional process; memory is cognitive and it’s still there even when the bad feelings resolve.

  2. Hi Paul: I agree with you on that. Forgetting completely has just never seemed totally possible to me on some things. But forgiving is required. I think the main thing is, that we don’t hold a grudge, or become bitter to the point that we make ourselves sick rehashing the offense. I seem to continually learn more and more about forgiveness. It’s not a simple thing. Thank you so much for your wonderful comments. Lonnette

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