I’ll meet you at high noon, in the town square. We will dual to the death, you rotten scallawag–I’ll teach you to mess with me!
Revenge is the raucous stuff of action movies, righteous justice and heartbreaking crimes of passion. Forgiveness is the forceful murmur when the anger and resentment of being wronged is released.
The world is bursting with people who can’t move beyond a betrayal, an infidelity, a murder of a loved one, or other hurts, whether they are monumental or minute. Revenge and forgiveness are both human instincts, but massaging either of them will have enormous and varying outcomes.
Living in a human world with human frailties is perfect fodder for misunderstandings, hurt feelings, pain and agony. At one moment or another, we all experience pain at the figurative hands of another human being, whether physically or emotionally. No one enjoys feeling hurt, yet each of us, in some manner has walked in those shoes. The problem lies in remaining in those soles of unforgiveness, bitterness and hatred.
It’s been a practice since ancient times–most faith backgrounds ask that we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness and do some sort of penance to try to make reparations for the evil that has been done. But what do we do when we carry hurts that have no resolution? What do we do with unrequited forgiveness? I have carried hurt, hatred and resentfulness in the past, but when I have done so, it was such an enormous burden that it made me physically ill. I was so captivated by anger and pain that I could not move forward. I wallowed in my own squalor of bitterness. One day, I decided that I would no longer be a prisoner of unforgiveness, so one by one, I went through the list and forgave each person for the pain they caused me. I was not off the hook, for there were plenty of people who I had wronged in my life. One by one, I named those people, named my sin and asked for forgiveness. It made all of the difference. For the first time in decades, I was free.
We are not designed to hold such agony within our hearts. But of course, we can find it genuinely hard to forgive those who have hurt us; and sometimes we can’t forgive ourselves for the pain we have caused–but it is the only means to move forward. Forgiveness does not involve condoning, excusing or reconciling and is separate from seeking justice. Forgiveness is something that needs to be learned, taught in the home and modeled in schools and places of worship. It isn’t designed as an immediate response to crisis–of course not. Go ahead and feel pain! The problem is, when people hold onto a hurt they allow the perpetrator to hurt them twice–once in the initial injury and then by the long-term anguish it causes.
The choice to forgive another human person is liberating and for me, it was realizing the great love Jesus had for me that he was willing to come to earth and go to an old rugged cross so that I could be forgiven for each and every one of my sins. But, I understood that I could not just receive that wonderful gift from Jesus and not pass it on to others if I was going to experience the beauty of forgiveness in my life. I came to know the power in forgiving others; that my ability to let them off the hook, releasing the hurt and pain, and moving on with my life, is at the center of all that God intends for me. If I simply received God’s amazing forgiveness through Jesus but do not forgive others, my heart remained ugly and dark and it was impossible to enjoy the beauty God desired for me.
My prayer is that not only will you accept the gift of forgiveness that God offers by allowing Jesus into your life, but that you ask Him to give you the ability to let go of the hurts and pains that others have caused in your life. The beauty of forgiveness is not fully realized until you are able to not only say that you have forgiven that person, but that you actually mean it and release it from you heart, never allowing it to return. Then and only then you will be able to experience the gift of forgiveness that only Our Lord can offer.