Sunday, November 27, 2011



Forgiveness is a tricky thing. For me, when a person has gone to all the trouble to hurt me, I have a pretty thick skin, I can be pretty cut and dried on dealing with that person in the future. The defense mechanism that has developed within my 59 dysfunctional years has taught me to "Shut a Door" in my mind. As far as I am concerned, that person no longer exists. I have locked away any feelings, good or bad, I have had for this person - I guess in the digital age, I hit the delete key. From a spiritual and psychological perspective this is the worst thing I could do. I would assume many of you have been hurt or have hurt someone. Whether it is asking for forgiveness and actually forgiving someone, we often let our pride get in the way. In many ways we are hurting ourselves at a far deeper level than we could imagine. Holding those feelings and memories within just festers like a dirty wound. Hurt turns into bitterness, bitterness is followed by hatred, and as Yoda would say - "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to the Dark Side".

My best recollection of experiencing the healing affects of forgiveness was when my ex-wife, Angela, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). We had a horrific divorce. We said things about each other and generally took every opportunity to hurt each other. I can honestly say I hated her. When I heard the diagnosis, I called her. I really didn't know what to say and I blurted out, "I am sorry for all of the things I have done to hurt you and I would like to have this behind us." She expressed the same to me. We decided the past was in the past and that we needed to forgive each other; so, we did just that. What I can't get over was how I felt after that phone call with Angela. It was as if a physical weight had been taken off of my shoulders. I cried all of the way home.I joined her husband Curtis, our daughter Sarah and son Nathan to be there for Angela. It was a tough time for all of us as she slowly disintegrated in front of us. In May of this year I had the privilege to be sitting on one one side of her bed holding her hand as Curtis sat on the other doing the same as she passed away. 

What I couldn't realize at the time was that I had been spending so much time feeding that hatred, that I was destroying myself. That deep seated hatred begins to feed off of itself and you become addicted to thinking how you could hurt this person.

Jesus made a few comments that hit this issue dead on:

"Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors."
Matthew 6:12 - (NIV)
"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Matthew 6:14-15 - (NIV)
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your bother; then come and offer your gift."
Matthew 5:23-24 - (NIV)
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over."
Matthew 18:15 - (NIV)

Did you notice Jesus nailed both sides of this equation? To the person who has been hurt - go to the one who hurt you. The the offending person - go and be reconciled. This theme is carried throughout the New Testament. If we really do believe that we have been saved by the grace of God through faith, and know that all of our wrong-doing has been forgiven; how can we not forgive those who have hurt us?

In all seriousness - look at your life and try to see who you may have hurt or who has hurt you. Reach out and see if forgiveness can take place. In 12 Step programs they talk about:
  • Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Make a list of all the persons we have harmed, and become prepared to make amends to them all.
  • Make direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong admit it.
Now AA takes it from the side of the offender, but Jesus asks us to take it to the next step. He knew if you just sat around waiting for this person to come on their knees asking forgiveness - that may never happen. During that time you continue to fester. Please reach out and find peace in your life. You will be happy you did.

P.S. At the request of Josephine, here is another Johnny Cash song that fits this blog

1 comment:

  1. Here is a link by a Rabbi explaining the Jewish concept of forgiveness: