By Chris Mitchell, Pastor and Guest Contributor
Wouldn’t it be great if people in our world were more forgiving?
It would be such a better place if people stopped holding a grudge. If they didn’t keep recycling old offenses or adding fresh ones out of retaliation. What if people just forgave each other and let it go? Imagine that.
Imagine the impact on a global scale. It might eliminate war and terrorism. In my community, it might eliminate escalating acts of violence. Not to mention how it would cut down on the war at home. It would make the holidays better with fewer awkward silences and fewer outbursts recounting who got the turkey leg for the last five years. I mean, if people could somehow find it in their hearts to forgive each other, our society would be a kinder place in which to live.
Easier said than done, right?
It is so much easier to tell someone else to let it go, than it is to let go ourselves. Especially, when we experience betrayal from which there is no return. The kind of hurt you can’t take back. The kind from which we will never recover, we will never forgive, and certainly we will never forget. How could we? We can’t let people just get away with hurting us like that. We can’t just let it go and we can’t imagine anyone expecting us to. To forgive would be unthinkable.
The truth is it would be unthinkable to hold on to it. Unthinkable to live in the bondage of un-forgiveness. Unthinkable to be trapped in mistrust and bitterness. In that place we are impaired in our relationships, in our purpose, and in our ability to move forward. In time, every minor offense brings overwhelming rage. Unless we let it go we can never move on with our lives, but we can’t let it go because we can’t pretend that it never happened or that it didn’t matter. So, we are stuck…but it is obvious to us what is doing the sticking. But then again, there is another kind of stuck.
It goes something like this. We get injured by someone who matters to us. We tell ourselves it wasn’t that bad. That it didn’t hurt. That we are strong enough to take it or that we shouldn’t let people get to us like that. We stitch up our hearts and pretend we are fine, but we are quietly seething every time we see them. And we do it over and over again.
Until we live in a half-zombie state.
A little dead inside, but just enough alive to think that we don’t need to tend to this wound. It’s an even worse kind of stuck. It’s worse because we believe that we are better for it. We are smarter for being less trusting. Smarter for building up defenses so people can’t hurt us again. And we are under the impression that this is what it means to be alive. But we are wrong.
There is more. There is a deeper well from which to draw, a deeper richness to living, and a deeper richness to being in relationships. The catch is that the cost of admission is forgiveness. Now perhaps, the biggest barrier to forgiveness is that we do not truly understand what it means. Maybe it doesn’t mean pretending the hurt didn’t matter? Maybe it doesn’t mean we have to let the person keep on hurting us? Maybe we don’t understand what it is or what it is not?
But maybe we could learn…together.