03 September, 2010

The Gift

If you have been around me any time at all, or if I have ever counseled with you, you have undoubtedly heard these words from me: "Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself." These are not my own words or thoughts, rather, this is something that a very wise Catholic priest spoke into my life not too long after I gave my life to Jesus. Those words, and putting them into practice had a profound impact... a liberation, if you will, on my life. 

Recently I was talking with someone going through some issues with anger and bitterness toward someone who had hurt them in their past. I spoke about the need to forgive, to which they said that they did not know if they ever could forgive them. Of course, my statement came out... "forgiveness is a gift you give yourself."  The persons eyes sprang wide open and they said, "say that again." They sat there for several minutes and you could just see something melting off of them... something they had carried for years.  Since then, that person has spoken to me several times about this, about how it was helping them, and trying to work through it more. Then they called me and told me that they had heard me say those words numerous times since they had known me, but it had never "took hold" like it did that day when we were talking.  They said to me that I really needed to take it a step further and explain it to more people so that they could really grasp what I meant by that statement. Thus, this blog entry.

Forgiveness really is a powerful thing, and it is a gift that you give.... BOTH to the person needing forgiveness AND to yourself. That other person may not deserve forgiveness; thus, it is a gift. What I learned back in 1982 was that the greatest power you have over anyone who hurts you is the power of forgiveness. When you or I say, 'I forgive, and no longer hold it against you', there is a release that takes place where both sides are set free from the crippling, negative bond that exists between the two of you. But there is something else that takes place: when we forgive, we also free ourselves from the burden of being the offended one.  You see, as long as we don't forgive those who have wounded us we carry them with us where ever we go. It is like a bowling ball fastened around our neck by a chain.  The sad reality is that we often carry this with us so long that it defines us, and we cling to that anger and resentment because it is our sense of identity. Our identity is "the victim", one who has been wounded... and that identity becomes our security blanket, while at the same time, our ball and chain. We are defined by that pain and the person who has wounded us.  To separate ourselves is the only way to change that identity, but how do we do that? 

By giving them forgiveness!

You see, forgiveness not only liberates the other party, but it also liberates us! It is in this forgiveness that we find the way to true freedom. 
Now, forgiving does not always mean forgetting. 
I know, the old saying is, "forgive and forget."  That simply is not possible, nor is it practical.  Even though we forgive somebody, the memory of what they did might stay with us a long time. We can carry it in our emotions as a scar, or even in our bodies as a physical reality. But what happens is that forgiveness changes how we remember
It is forgiveness that turns the curse into a blessing. For example: when we forgive our parents for their divorce, or our children for their lack of love, or our friends for their turning their back on us in times of need, or our boss for treating us unfairly, the person who abused us, (insert your pain here) we no longer have to identify ourselves as the victims of events of our lives over which we have no control. 
Forgiveness allows us to take back our power and not let the events control, embitter, limit or destroy us.
Forgiveness truly is a gift you give yourself.

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