The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. Gandhi
I’ve been pondering the whole principle of forgiveness quite a lot lately. Thinking about how it feels nearly impossible to break free of the emotional entanglements when someone hurts you (or hurts someone you love deeply.)
Impossible (for me to forgive.) That’s the word I would use to describe the feeling inside of my heart when I recall the pain another person purposefully inflicts on another. But I also recognize that without forgiveness the pain just lingers, then festers, and eventually will consume me.
Which is why I found author Paula Rinehart’s excerpt on the value of forgiving (and doing so quickly) so meaningful to me. I love the way she gets how painful needing to offer forgiveness can be…and how absolutely impossible it is to do without God’s grace.
The lack of forgiveness does exact a staggering toll. First of all, being unable or unwilling to forgive means that you remain emotionally under the control of the person who wronged you. Which is a bit ironic, don’t you think? Here you are, desperately wanting to break free from the pain of it all, but everything under the sun sticks to it. We ourselves are stuck to it.
A harbored wrong can control a life. It becomes what we feed off of, and we feel full – occasionally even happy in our misery – but we are full of awful stuff.
Sometimes a person asks, “How can I tell when I’ve really forgiven?” Certainly, there is a new willingness to stop replaying the mental tapes of “how I was wronged.” As they say, resentment actually means re-sentiment, meaning to rehearse the feeling over and over. In other words, I may have been a victim once, but the next forty-nine times I replay the home video in my mind are injuries by my own hands. I have a friend who claims he knows he has really forgiven when he can’t remember the details anymore.
It does seem like an impossible task when God tells us to love our enemies and bless those who harm us. Of all things, love an enemy! But blessing someone who has hurt us is actually our saving grace. If you’ve ever done that – asked God’s blessing on someone who has hurt you – you know that even as you are speaking the words you feel the release in your soul. Talk about getting unstuck from something. To bless someone is to ask God to accomplish his purpose in their lives – with all the change and repentance and growth that entails. Only God is the one doing the work. You are free.
We are such broken people – all of us, both victim and agent – standing in the need of the grace of God.
But God. 🙂