23 February, 2017

Forgive and Let Go

This morning I woke up very early, just after 4:00 AM and could not get back to sleep. I came down to my office and was browsing the net and I read a quote from Lewis Smedes that I've seen or heard at least dozens of times before, but today it set the wheels turning in my head. Smedes said: "Forgiveness is like setting a prisoner free... and then realizing the prisoner is you!" 
Now, as I've sat here drinking my coffee and watching the sun come up (sort of... winter in Illinois does not mean you actually "see" the sun) my thoughts have gone back to that quote over and over. Sure, it sounds like the Christian thing to do when we say "forgive and forget"... but let's be honest here. It's just not that easy. It's not like you can just hit the delete button and all memory of pain is gone. Yes, forgiveness is a needful thing, a beautiful and precious thing... but if most of us would be really honest, forgiveness does not come without a fight. We can say the words, and I believe, truly mean it when we say, "I forgive you", but it's that forgetting thing that is hard. I won't try to throw this off on anyone else... maybe it is just me, (but I doubt it) but there are plenty of times when I really think I've forgiven something, and then I find myself getting angry or hurt all over again when it all comes flooding my mind somewhere down the road. Often times we think of forgiving someone who has wronged us, but there is a great struggle in actually putting forgiveness into practice. I believe that one of the reasons we struggle is that even though we know that we shouldforgive, somewhere deep inside we don't feel like that person (or persons) deserve our forgiveness. Truthfully, sometimes they don't deserve it! But I have come to learn that those who deserve forgiveness the least, actually need it the most! It's pretty easy for us to say, "they hurt me... they cost me... they put me through so much... I need to get even with them!" But that's a trap. The only people that we should ever try to get even with are the people who have helped us! You'll never get ahead as long as you are trying to pull someone down. Instead, pull yourself up to a higher level. As long as we are trying to get even, trying to pull someone else down, we will never get any further or higher than we are now.
Forgive and forget? That's not very likely. We generally tend to remember things. It is forever locked in our minds. Rather, I say, "forgive and let go."  You know something? I've learned that often times the person that I'm hurt at doesn't even want my forgiveness. They are trapped in the gall of bitterness too, and when you forgive... they may not even be willing to receive it. They may want to fight some more. But when we choose to forgive and let go, while it may not set them free... it sets YOU free. It's like taking the shackles off or opening the prison door. But you have to choose to walk out of the prison once that door is opened. One of the problems for many of us is that when we choose to forgive, yet the other person refuses to let it go... we tend to stay in that prison, trying to "fix" things that may never be fixed. You can only choose to forgive. You have no control over what the other person does. It only takes one person to forgive, but it takes two to be reunited. If that other person chooses to stay in the shackles of bitterness, it does not mean you have to do the same. Forgive, and let go. Move on.
One last thought. Forgiveness does not mean that we must tolerate. To forgive someone and that person continue to do the same hurtful things, say those same words or commit the same grievous actions against us, that is abuse. We don't have to stay there and take it. I can hear someone saying that Jesus said to "turn the other cheek."  Yes he did. But while the Bible may not say it, I do not believe that Jesus was implying that we are to stay there and be beaten repeatedly. Forgive, and let go. Move on and learn. Forgiveness not mean that you have to subject yourself to continued abuse. Some of the most powerful times of forgiveness have happened in my life when I've said to someone, "I forgive you... but we are done."  But you have to mean it. You can't just say the words, you must truly forgive. For when we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, it eats at us like a cancer. It is a surrender of our destiny, because we will keep falling back to that same place, no matter how high we climb. When we have unforgiveness in our heart, it is like a magnet that always pulls us back to that place of hurt and pain. It's just not worth it. When we forgive, we win.  Forgiveness will set you free from what holds you to your enemies. Forgive... and let go... and be free!

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