“Thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee” -Jehovah
The bed-rock foundation of life is agency—the power and freedom of choice, and with agency comes personal responsibility. Although we may not always have control over events which happen to us, in order to heal from the stresses of life, we must take responsibility for our reactions or responses to these events.
In my own personal experience after seventeen years of research and actual work as a healer, with many clients, I have found that stepping up, taking responsibility for our own health, and forgiveness is the most effective way to achieve the deepest levels of healing.
At one of my lowest points in my struggle to regain my health, I was asked “Who is it that you need to forgive? Yourself?, someone else?, God?”, But I was too angry and I couldn’t do it. So I struggled on, not realizing that I had rejected the one key that would give me back my health. I was shown the same key again and again without realizing it, until one day, an energy worker explained how the key worked. It was exactly what I needed, and for the first time I was able to see through the anger and resentment, and actually feel charity and compassion for those who had hurt me. The load had been lifted, and my strength came back.
When someone hurts us, we have a choice. We can either take offense or not take offense. A lot of times we do take offense and our first reaction is to get angry and retaliate or try in some way to get even. Sometimes we do it directly, and sometimes indirectly.
Most of us are not necessarily prone to retaliation by nature, so we say: “I’m not that kind of person. I’m not going to do anything. I’ll just forget about it, I’m not going to say anything. I’ll just swallow it.” And we do swallow it, but we don’t forget it. We bottle it up inside and think of the hurt or offense over and over until it begins to fester, and then illness has begun. This appears to be the reason there are so many sick people in our society. Most of us take offense and then bottle it up inside and get sick.
There is an alternative, a better choice which most of us never consider. It’s called forgiveness. If we forgive we don’t need to bottle the hurts up inside to fester, and we don’t need to retaliate or get even. We have a hard time with forgiveness. We say, “If I forgive that means I approve or condone the offense and I don’t, so I am not willing to forgive”, or we say “I have been hurt, and I am justified in feeling anger.” The Lord did not condone the crucifixion, but He forgave those who crucified Him. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Likewise, we don’t have to condone the offense, but we do have to forgive the offender. Forgiveness is not approving or judging. It’s allowing the offender the free agency to be less than perfect and having charity and compassion for them regardless of all their shortcomings and imperfections.
Sometimes we may self righteously say “I forgive you (you little scum bucket) because I am so good, but really I am justified in feeling this way.” So in truth, there has been no forgiveness at all. True forgiveness releases us from the hurt, anger, or pain that is associated with the offense we feel.
And to truly forgive, we have to take responsibility for how we feel and react to others, and repent of our own shortcomings at the same time that we forgive our brother. It goes hand in hand. I might say in humility “whatever it is in me that feels it must hold such and such feelings against you, I am truly sorry. Please forgive me for feeling this way, thank you, go in peace.” And then let them go with whatever it is they fall short in, and know that we have our own work to do.
The Lord says “I will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. -Jesus Christ
We tend to put conditions on our forgiveness which keep us from truly forgiving. Who benefits when we are willing to forgive? We do, so why would we ever want to put a condition on our forgiveness? The conditions we place on our forgiveness are things like: “I’ll forgive him when he asks me to.” “I’ll forgive her if she changes her ways.” “I’ll forgive this time, but if it ever happens again, I will retract that and won’t forgive again.” “I will forgive, but I will not forget, because I’m not going to get burned twice.” With conditions like these, forgiveness doesn’t happen. They don’t allow forgiveness. We must forgive whether we feel that the other person deserves it or not.
It isn’t necessary to tell people you forgive them, most of the time that just offends them. Especially if they don’t feel they have made a mistake. If they request your forgiveness, then they have recognized their mistake and are seeking your forgiveness. This is a very different situation and you should honor their request and forgive them openly, for their benefit as well as yours. Many times we take offense when no offense is even intended, so to tell someone, “I forgive you” would only cause more contention.
An excellent book that I highly recommend is, Return from Tomorrow, written by Dr. George Ritchie, which has one of the greatest stories about forgiveness. I quote Dr. Ritchie from his book beginning on page 114: “And that’s how I came to know Wild Bill Cody. That wasn’t his real name. His real name was seven unpronounceable syllables in Polish, but he had long drooping handlebar mustaches like pictures of the old western hero, so the American soldiers called him Wild Bill. He was one of the inmates of the concentration camp, but obviously he hadn’t been there long. His posture was erect, his eyes bright, his energy indefatigable. Since he was fluent in English, French, German, and Russian, as well as Polish, he became a kind of unofficial camp translator.” “We came to him with all sorts of problems; the paper work alone was staggering in attempting to relocate people whose families, even whole hometowns, might have disappeared. But though Wild Bill worked fifteen and sixteen hours a day, he showed no signs of weariness. While the rest of us were drooping with fatigue, he seemed to gain strength. ‘We have time for this old fellow,’ he’d say. ‘He’s been waiting to see us all day.” “His compassion for his fellow prisoners glowed on his face, and it was to this glow that I came when my own spirits were low. So I was astonished to learn when Wild Bill’s own papers came before us one day, that he had been in Wuppertal since 1939! For six years he had lived on the same starvation diet, slept in the same airless and disease-ridden barracks as everyone else, but without the least physical or mental deterioration.” “Perhaps even more amazing, every group in the camp looked on him as a friend. He was the one to whom quarrels between inmates were brought for arbitration. Only after I’d been at Wuppertal a number of weeks did I realize what a rarity this was in a compound where the different nationalities of prisoners hated each other almost as much as they did the Germans.” “As for Germans, feeling against them ran so high that in some of the camps liberated earlier, former prisoners had seized guns, run into the nearest village and simply shot the first Germans they saw. Part of our instructions were to prevent this kind of thing and again Wild Bill was our greatest asset, reasoning with the different groups, counseling forgiveness.” “‘It’s not easy for some of them to forgive,’ I commented to him one day as we sat over mugs of tea in the processing center. ‘So many of them have lost members of their families.”‘ “Wild Bill leaned back in the upright chair and sipped at his drink. ‘We lived in the Jewish section of Warsaw,’ he began slowly, the first words I had heard him speak about himself,’my wife, our two daughters, and our three little boys. When the Germans reached our street they lined everyone against a wall and opened up with machine guns. I begged to be allowed to die with my family, but because I spoke German they put me in a work group.'” “He paused, perhaps seeing again his wife and five children. ‘I had to decide right then,’ he continued, ‘whether to let myself hate the soldiers who had done this. It was an easy decision, really. I was a lawyer. In my practice I had seen too often what hate could do to people’s minds and bodies. Hate had just killed the six people who mattered most to me in the world. I decided then that I would spend the rest of my life–whether it was a few days or many years–loving every person I came in contact with.”‘ “Loving every person… this was power that had kept a man well in the face of every privation.”
To me this is an exciting story on the power of forgiveness and the effect it can have on us physically and psychologically. Even though, from Dr. Ritchie’s account, this man lived in such a dreadful environment, like everyone else that was there, he was not emaciated like the others. He had made a choice to forgive right from the start of an extremely difficult experience. He did not become emaciated because he overrode the fear, hate, anger and other negative feelings his fellow prisoners had bottled up inside, which festered in their bodies, in many cases even unto death. He chose instead to act in service, with love and compassion for his fellow inmates in the camps, and even his enemies. What an example! The difference it made in his body as compared to the others was incredible!!
One of the most wonderful aspects of forgiveness is the purifying and ennobling effects its application has upon the personality and character of the forgiver.
The ideal situation would be to reach a level where we simply don’t take offense, but until we can reach this level, we need to forgive quickly and not allow the negative feelings to fester.
Can you imagine a world in which we all sincerely practiced the principle of forgiveness? Wars, road rage, hate crimes, revenge, anger, and all the other negative sources of contention and hurt would be eliminated.
We can begin to change our life, our family relationships, our community and maybe even the world, as we learn to practice forgiveness.
Forgiveness really works!