Why is it sometimes so hard for us to forgive others? Forgiveness is often the virtue we all believe in until we have to do it. Sometimes we forgive readily. Other times it is very hard and seems humanly impossible. Eric Wright the author of Revolutionary Forgiveness says it’s as if there is an ‘unforgiveness’ gene spliced into our DNA.
Without forgiveness, says Wright, our relationships become brittle and tattered — or non-existent. Forgiveness stifles the shrill voice of conflict, heals hurts and renews broken relationships. What might happen to our lives if we could learn to offer forgiveness, receive forgiveness and celebrate forgiveness? In Garcia Márquez’s book, Love in the Time of Cholera, a marriage collapses over the failure of the wife to replace soap in the bathroom. The husband exaggerated the problem. The wife refused to admit that she forgot. Since neither would ask forgiveness, they slept in separate rooms for seven months and ate in silence.
What would happen to society, says Wright, if everyone could begin each day with a slate wiped free of grievances, bitterness, anger, failure and sin? Unforgiveness reveals anger and bitterness in our lives. We easily become convinced that our anger is righteous and justified. Our disappointed expectations easily become hardened judgments of others. The Good Book tells us that our hearts are deceitful and beyond cure. It is so easy to point the finger at other people and be unwilling to deal with our own baggage.
In the world’s most famous prayer, we say “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” In effect we are saying to God “don’t forgive me if I refuse to forgive others.” Very few of us would consciously pray ‘Don’t forgive me’. We all want to be forgiven. We all want peace of mind. We all want to have the good night’s sleep that comes from a clear conscience. Jesus on the cross prayed ‘Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.’ People who hurt us deeply often have no idea of their painful impact on our lives and families.
When we forgive, we set the prisoner free. Sometimes that prisoner is ourselves. The Great Physician says that unforgiveness emotionally and spiritually keeps us in a torture chamber. Our unwillingness to forgive are like chains on our hands, heart and feet. Life is too short to hang onto bitterness. It is too short to wait for others to repent and say that they are sorry. Often they never will. Don’t wait for them to apologize. Give your bitterness to the Lord. Give your anger and resentment to God. Forgiveness will set you free. My prayer for those who reading this article is that each of us will have the courage to give our disappointments and bitterness to the Creator of the universe.
p.s. You can order Eric Wright’s Revolutionary Forgiveness book online at Amazon.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News
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