Thursday, June 5, 2008


I was thinking about forgiveness recently. It is not likely that we are going to change other people. All we can really do is change our reaction to those people. Perhaps winning an intellectual argument becomes less important than letting go of feelings like anger and resentment. True joy and contentment do not come from other people. One person who is surrounded by people who love them can be totally lonely and unhappy. Another person who is physically alone can be fully content in life.

Forgiveness seems to be the issue. There are some things forgiveness is not. Forgiveness does not mean that we let people walk all over us. Forgiveness is not for the weak; it is for the strong. Forgiveness doesn't mean that we enable self-destructive behaviors. Sometimes letting people off the hook is the worst thing we can do for them and for us. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. That is usually impossible and often not even very wise. Forgiveness is not conditional. True forgiveness isn't, "I'll forgive you if..." That sounds more like “for-earn-ness.” And, forgiveness does not mean that the relationship is fully restored or that it even continues. Forgiveness may or may not be a gift that the offending party embraces. Whether the forgiveness is accepted or not is generally out of the forgiver's control.

Forgiveness is God's gift to us -- the forgiver. It goes something like this: “You have offended me and / or you have hurt me. But, because I care about you and I care about me, I forgive you. I'm not going to let somebody else's mistake define who I am in the present or the future. Neither of us can change the past, but I / we can prepare for a better future.”

One more thing. Forgiveness is generally a process as opposed to a one-time event. Like most other wounds, emotional / relational healing takes time. I tell people that one of the most important choices that we make in life is this: Do we remember and resent or will we forgive and live?

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