Have you ever hurt somebody and wished
to be forgiven? Do you spend time thinking about how
someone has wronged you? How do you forgive? People
through the ages have wrestled with similar questions.
Jesus and Christianity have changed the world with
teachings of forgiveness.
When the Apostle Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, how
oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive
him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say
not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy
times seven." (Matt 18:21,22).
Jesus wasn't telling Peter to forgive someone 490
times and stop at 491. Rather, the numbers Jesus used
were symbolic of infinity. We must forgive unconditionally
So, how do you describe forgiveness?"
When asked, our Guest
of the Month, Rob Miller replied:
I wrote an essay once where my mother forgot to
bring cookies to school as she had promised. It
was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul.
I refused to forgive her. I went to my room, slammed
my door, and buried my head in the pillow. She came
up to the room and just sat there. I thought I heard
her laughing, so I turned in anger. I realized she
wasn't laughing; she was actually crying. And the
second I saw my mother cry, I forgot all about being
mad; I forgot about holding a grudge. All I knew
was that my mother was crying, and I had caused
that. In that instant I forgave her. And then I
wanted to be forgiven at that point.
Let's further explore the power of forgiveness. To
"forgive" means "to cease to feel resentment
against; to pardon" (Webster). Rodale's
Synonym Finder further adds: "harbor no grudge,
bear no malice, make peace."
When we forgive, we are being "merciful, compassionate,
humane" (Rodale's). We are
- letting go of any grudges;
- removing focus from past mistakes or problems;
- dissolving any anger that we've been harboring;
- being peacemakers.
What are the blessings of forgiveness?
- We gain a better view of ourselves and others
that does not include resentment.
- We start the healing process.
- We feel happier because we are no longer angry.
- We are able to move forward with a greater sense
- We provide others with the opportunity to change
What if we don't seem to be able to forgive or
don't want to forgive?
How important is our own happiness? Forgiveness plays
a key role in maintaining joy. It is often helpful
to recognize if someone meant to hurt us. The simplest
way to find out and to keep ourselves from mentally
replaying hurtful conversations and actions is to
ask. If the person did not intentionally do us wrong
-- which is usually the case -- and we have been thinking
negatively about the person, we can more easily let
go of grudges or hurt feelings.
But what if we think we are justified in feeling
angry at someone for doing something that seems unforgivable?
There are ACTIONS that we certainly should not forgive.
And we all need to take responsibility for our actions.
But in order to progress, we need to separate the
action from the individual and forgive the INDIVIDUAL,
who is God's child, just like us. If we are having
a hard time letting go of resentment, then we have
to think about ourselves for a moment. We need to
- What is NOT forgiving doing to me?
- If I hold onto the grudge, who am I really hurting?
What happens when we refuse to forgive or to ask
We are hurting ourselves more than others. We've let
the other person win! We have given that person power
to ruin our day, week, or life. NO ONE has that power
except us. When we relive the pain and remember the
wrongs that were done to us, we become bitter, unhappy,
angry, tense, and frustrated. And if we have hurt
another, we often hold onto the guilt we feel. Our
emotions are all bottled up inside. Often we may take
our frustration out on those we love. They certainly
don't deserve our anger. So what about those who we
blame as the cause of our pain? Blaming others for
how we feel and focusing on getting back at others
robs us of time and happiness. Revenge and blame escalate
problems. They certainly don't solve them. Jesus told
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for
an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto
you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall
smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other
also. Matt 5:38,39
So how do we turn the other cheek? How do we forgive?
The answer is simple: we love.
- Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself"
(Mark 12:31) is one of the two greatest commandments
that Jesus gave us.
- Now while the answer is simple, loving someone
who we think has made us miserable may be difficult.
But it is necessary if we want to be free of pain
and gain a sense of peace. Loving doesn't require
becoming best friends with another, just that we
see the other as God's child.
- We might want to start by loving ourselves. Is
there anything in ourselves that we have to forgive?
- We have to forgive ourselves just as much as we
need to forgive others if we want to move towards
resolution, healing, and transformation.
What happens if we ask forgiveness from someone
and he or she won't forgive us?
You can be confident knowing that you have done the
best you could do. You have acted humbly and graciously.
Those who refuse to forgive will just have to wrestle
with their own anger, which, as we've already discussed,
will hurt them. As we learn from the story
of Jacob and Esau in the Bible, Jacob had some
wrestling to do before his nature was transformed.
He had to change his concept of himself and his brother.
He had to take responsibility for his actions and
forgive himself, and he had to confront his fears.
Rob Miller shares how the Jacob and Esau story
reveals the power of forgiveness:
I've thought that I would be as furious as Esau
was when he discovered that Jacob stole his blessing.
But we don't really get to hear his side of the
story. Rather than focus on Esau, the story reveals
how Jacob's nature was transformed (Genesis
32: 24-30). Once
Jacob changed, the same power changed Esau. Though
there's not one word written about Esau saying,
"I came to myself and realized I was overacting,"
we know that he forgave Jacob. When the two brothers
met, there was a complete reconciliation, a complete
dissolving of the hatred between them (Genesis
33:1-12). I'm impressed by the 2nd chance in
life that God always gives us when we recognize
our wrongs and are willing to turn from them as
Jacob did. The end result of such forgiveness has
to be transformation. In movie terms, there has
to be a happy ending.
And what is the happy ending?
- If we can love ourselves enough to let go of any
anger that we are cherishing, then we have the freedom
to forgive ourselves and others.
- Such freedom enables us to experience a greater
and more permanent happiness.
- Forgiveness allows us to see ourselves and others
as made in God's likeness.
Just as Jacob saw Esau, we, too, can see ourselves
and others as God's children and say to those who
have hurt us, "When I saw your face, it was as
the face of God smiling on me" (The Message