This month we are honored to share the words and wisdom of our guest contributor and friend, Laura Forman. We think you’ll be blessed by her perspective on the power of forgiveness.
The question I was asked to reflect upon is, “How has forgiveness transformed my relationships?” What I love more than being asked is the presumption I actually practice forgiveness.
My younger brother picked the measly lock and read my diary when I was 12 and gushing on about my love for the neighbor boy. Prying into my deep, innermost secrets wasn’t enough; he couldn’t help but blab all the details to you know who. I was enraged. Mom made him apologize, and I was to forgive. Obviously, I’m not completely over it and have more work to do.
I’m sure you have even bigger hurts than stolen diaries, and I’m no different. All of my important relationships have brought some level of pain. Some relationships didn’t last, most have, and forgiveness has helped both.
Embarrassing as it is, until about six years ago, I gave only lip service to forgiveness. How does one forgive? I thought it was something I just had to think about. I assumed it was a head thing; I tried to will myself to forgive. However, I got no results. I was imprisoned in misery until I absolutely had to learn to forgive.
Even now, I’m not perfect (though I’m still holding hope). I have been known to: take things personally, etch all harms into my long term memory, craft detailed arguments to shift blame away from me, put up emotional walls, re-hash conflict and let resentment permeate my mind even when that person is no longer a part of my life. None of this is forgiveness.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you used it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:37-38
Forgiveness hasn’t merely transformed my relationships, it has transformed me. Here’s what I’ve learned about it so far:
- It takes introspection.
Relationships are great mirrors. When frustrated with someone’s behavior, it’s usually because I’m guilty of the exact same thing. And, if there is someone to forgive, chances are I’ve contributed to the issue in some big or small way.
I look at myself with honesty, admit my part and make amends without hesitation.
“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye…” Luke 6:42
- It takes repetition.
I may think I’ve moved on, but if the thought of the wrong brings with it all the hurt feelings, then I’m not done. If the thought of the person or action doesn’t bring empathy to my heart, I have not forgiven. Forgiveness takes practice, patience and extended grace.
There is no limit to forgiveness. I will always forgive.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seven times seventy times.” Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV/KJV)
- It’s the key to happiness.
My faith story shows a clear before and after. Worry, fear, shame and despair each turned to their opposite, in an instant. I was touched by Spirit and transformed. I was forgiven by God for the complete mess I had made of my life. The forgiveness I receive gives me the power and obligation to in turn forgive others.
Forgiveness lightens my burdens and creates freedom in my life.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
- It’s not up to me.
Ultimately what allows me to forgive is the belief that God is in charge and I am not. He is the only one qualified to change hearts and dole justice, in ways much more effective than my own. I believe the promise that He is working out all circumstances for my good if I follow His commands, especially to love no matter what.
Each challenge is a reminder to rely on God to fight my battles. My focus is on following Jesus.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… Romans 12:19-20
It was a forgone conclusion that forgiveness is a big part of my life because of my faith, because I take it seriously. If you’ve not felt the transformative power of forgiveness, give it a chance. Learn from the best teacher, He’s given us a road map in His word. You have nothing to lose but your prison.