Forgiveness Takes Courage

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

Jacob didn't always make the best choices or do the right thing. But he finally took responsibility for his actions, learned from his mistakes, dealt with his fears, and trusted in God. As a result, his nature was transformed; his name was changed to Israel. Ultimately, he became the father and grandfather of the 12 Tribes of Israel.

How Jacob made a difference:
Because Jacob stole Esau's blessing, Jacob had to flee to his uncle's so Esau wouldn't kill him. But after several years and many struggles, Jacob was directed by God to go home. He would now have to confront Esau, who had previously wanted to kill him. How Jacob overcame his fear changed his nature.

  • Jacob asked his brother for forgiveness. (Gen. 32:3-13)
  • He wrestled with his concept of himself, his brother, and God. And Jacob forgave himself for his part in creating the division between himself and his brother. (Gen. 32:24-30)
  • He didn't let his fears stop him from moving forward and meeting Esau. Jacob relied on God, rather than his own strength, to save himself and his family. As a result, when Jacob and Esau finally met, forgiveness allowed for a peaceful and immediate reconciliation. (Gen 33:1-12)

How you can make a difference:
This month's focus is on changing our own thoughts, experiences, and lives. The result will make a difference in others' experiences.

  • Make a commitment to yourself that you won't let your fears control you.
    1. Write down 1-3 fears that you would like to face or conquer.
    2. Create a plan on how to overcome these fears. Prayer is very helpful.
    3. Follow through on your plan. Maybe it means going on a roller coaster, learning to water ski, singing in public, writing a story, forgiving someone you've held a grudge against for a long time.
    4. Celebrate the fact that you faced a fear, that you faced down the words, "I can't do that."
  • Is there someone you have hurt or wronged by something you said or did? Have you asked for his or her forgiveness?
    1. Be very honest with yourself.
    2. Take responsibility for what you did.
    3. Stop feeling burdened by guilt. Guilt reminds us that we need to change something. But if we hold onto it, it keeps us depressed.
    4. Forgive yourself. God loves you, so you can love yourself. If you keep holding onto mistakes you've made, you don't allow yourself to grow.
    5. Be humble.
    6. Go to that person and ask if she can find it in her heart to forgive you.
      • If the person does forgive you, that's great! You can move forward together.
      • If the person does not forgive you, she will have to deal with her own anger. You have done your part and can now move on with a greater sense of peace knowing you did the right thing.
  • Is there someone who has hurt or wronged you? Have you forgiven him or her?
    1. Stop replaying the scenario in your mind.
    2. Ask the person if he meant to hurt you. You may be reacting incorrectly.
    3. Let go of your anger, frustration, or pain.
    4. Try to see the other person's side of the story. You may not agree, but if you assume the best from the other, it helps.
    5. Feel compassion towards that person.
    6. Go to that person and tell him that you forgive him.
      • He may feel relieved. You may have released him from the guilt he was feeling. As a result, you can improve your relationship.
      • He may not care or may not feel that he has wronged you. But, again, you can move forward knowing that you have forgiven.

And to have forgiven is indeed doing much. Forgiveness is a crucial part of the Lord's Prayer: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matt 6:12). We need to ask ourselves: "Am I truly forgiving others as God forgives me?" When we can answer, "Yes," then we will have given the gift of forgiveness that transforms lives.