It’s only mid-January, and already I’ve hit a day where I don’t know what to write about, but I committed to posting every day in 2011. So I thought I would check out the ideas at The Daily Post at WordPress.com. Today’s writing prompt was:
Describe the wackiest but most useful advice you’ve ever received.
The best advice I’ve ever received is to forgive others even if they don’t deserve to be forgiven. This idea seems so wacky and counter to all that society teaches us. After all, society says that when people do something wrong we should want to see them get what they deserve. The millions of men and women who are in prison or on probation in the U.S. attest to the fact that we are a nation that desires that justice be served, and justice requires punishment, not forgiveness.
From a societal standpoint, it does make sense that there should be consequences to breaking the law, especially laws designed to protect the citizens of the nation. But from an individual standpoint, the anger and bitterness that goes hand-in-hand with wanting those of have committed some offense against us to be punished is not a good thing. For the individual, forgiveness is the far better option. It’s a wacky idea, to forgive a drunk driver who killed your son or the robbers who murdered your parents or the arson who burned down your house and everything in it or the rapist who violated your very body and soul.
It’s a wacky idea; it’s advice that many refuse to take. Instead, they hang onto the anger and bitterness that eat at their mind and their soul. Partly, I think this is because of a fear that forgiving the transgressor means that you must admit that what they have done is not that bad. But forgiveness requires no such admission. In fact, forgiveness would not be necessary at all if the transgression were not a transgression at all, if it fell within the realm of acceptable behavior.
Rather, forgiveness is the act of giving up our right and desire for vengeance. The ability to forgive starts with the recognition that we ourselves need forgiveness for something we have done. Now most of us have not committed a terrible felony, but we have all done things that have hurt others in some way. And we have all, at some point, turned our backs on God and are in need of His forgiveness.
Jesus said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37. This sounds like pretty wacky advice, but it is the best advice I have ever received.
For many years, I refused to forgive. I held on to anger and bitterness towards someone who had hurt me. My unforgiveness didn’t hurt them in the least because they knew nothing about it. But it only made me more and more unhappy. Though I had a good life, a wonderful husband, a small child who loved me, a nice house, and a terrific family, I was miserable. I was gripped by depression and negative thoughts. But then God revealed to me that the core of my unhappiness was my unwillingness to forgive. It wasn’t easy to forgive and I needed God’s help to do it, but once I made the decision to forgive it was as though a black cloud was lifted from all around me. The world was bright again. I was able to enjoy the wonderful things in my life and my relationship with God began to blossom.
Did my decision to forgive mean that what had been done to me was okay? Certainly not! But it did set me free from a life imprisoned by anger and bitterness. The truth is that vengeance belongs to God and He will deal with the person who hurt me as He deems appropriate. And that truth has set me free.
Is there someone you are holding a grudge against? Take my advice and make the decision to forgive them. As Jesus said,
“I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Mark 11:24-25.
God wants to set you free, He wants you to have an abundant life. But to enjoy that life, you must be willing to forgive and let God take care of justice.