Yesterday was a tough day for me. I came to this journal expecting encouragement and laughs in response to a post that I've since deleted. But that's not what I found. Because I had used a careless word in a journal entry, I saw just the opposite. So I went through the day yesterday upset with myself and others. How could I have said such a stupid thing? And how could people who love me take my main source of encouragement and use it against me? At least that's how it felt to me. Where I had approached this journal each morning with great anticipation and excitement, today I was a little afraid to look at it.
I told you on Monday about a spiritual breakthrough I had in church last Sunday. Well, that breakthrough wasn't worth much if it didn't even last a week, was it? It was all about letting go of past hurts. Forgiveness. It's the key to happiness. I'm convinced of it.
I needed both to give and receive forgiveness yesterday, and I'm grateful for the forgiveness I've received. But today I want to talk about forgiving others. Receiving forgiveness is easy. Giving it is hard. If it's more blessed to give than to receive, giving forgiveness is one of the the greatest examples of how the giver gets the greater blessing than the receiver. When you extend forgiveness to someone who wronged you, you're not freeing them. You're freeing yourself. Many times, the person you forgive isn't even aware that they hurt you. They might no longer be alive. Your forgiveness won't help them at all, and your lack of it won't hurt them. But it will make all the difference to you. As I heard Elisa Morgan say on Sunday, refusing to forgive those who wrong us is like getting revenge for someone chopping off your right arm by chopping off your left. It only hurts you.
A couple of decades ago, someone wronged a friend of mine, and I refused to forgive him. That began a long period of decline for me, spiritually. Later, when another event happened that made me question God, (see My Complicated History With Divine Healing) I had a crisis of faith, and came close to rejecting Christianity altogether. I cried out to God, asking him why I had fallen so far from him, and he showed me that it was because I had failed to forgive the person I had something against. Once I took that step, my burden was lifted.
By the way, if you call yourself a Christian, forgiveness is not optional. Look it up. Matthew 18:21-35, Matthew 6:12:14-15, Matthew 5:23-24. Each one of these passages is an expansion on one of the Beatitudes; "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." We all need mercy at times. If we want it from others, we must give it to them ourselves. In the Lord's Prayer, it's not "Forgive us our debts, and then we'll forgive our debtors." It's forgive us our debts as we have already forgiven our debtors. If we believe that God has forgiven our debt to him, how can we hold the paltry things we think others owe us against them?
What does it mean to forgive? My simple definition is that it’s treating the person as if it never happened. Like love, it’s not about how we feel, it’s about what we do. We may still feel angry and hurt about what the other person did, but if we treat them as though they never hurt us, that’s forgiveness. If you are in debt, and your creditor forgives the debt, what happens? Your debt is canceled. You no longer have to pay. When we forgive someone else, their debt to us is canceled. They owe us nothing, including an apology. If we will forgive others as God forgave us, we are imitating God. We are extending mercy, so we can receive the mercy we so desperately need. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Of course, I can't help but think that this is a test for me. To see if I really have changed, or if Sunday was just an emotional outburst. If I allowed what happened yesterday to take the joy out of writing my blog, who loses? You might miss it for a day or two, but I'd miss it for the rest of my life. So I have to keep going regardless. I need it.