There are many wonderful books that provide a wealth of information on the many benefits of forgiveness, two that I found especially helpful are Don Miguel Ruiz in “The Mastery of Love” and Gerald G. Jampolsky’s book “Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All.” I highly recommend both books. Until you have time to read them, I will endeavor to give you a helpful sample here in “The Inside Scoop on Forgiveness.” In part one we are going to consider why we need to forgive, and what forgiveness really is. We will also consider what stops us from being able to forgive. In part two we will look at specific methods to help us to forgive.
You might sometimes ask, why should I forgive someone? They did something “wrong” or “hurtful” to me! “They don’t deserve my forgiveness!” If I forgive them, am I just “letting them off the hook?” We might feel very justified in saying, “I am so angry with them, I don’t think I can forgive them!”
First of all, regardless of how things appear nothing that happens is directed to you personally. Everyone is creating their own dream in hell. To them you are a secondary character. They are reacting to their own thoughts and perceptions about you, which you do not have to accept as true for you. If we make a judgement, that “they do not deserve our forgiveness, we are denying ourselves peace of mind. Our judgement and refusal to forgive them, only harms us, it does not affect them. Thankfully, “no” forgiveness does not “let the other person off the hook.”
For an example of how forgiveness does not let the other person “off the hook”, consider the story of King David and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. King David had sex with her, while her husband Uriah, one of his top soldiers was off fighting battles for him. She got pregnant, so he brought Uriah home and tried to get him to sleep with his wife. Uriah would not do so, as he said it was not fair to his fellow soldiers who were unable to be home with their wives. So David had Uriah killed by placing him on the front lines when he returned to the battle. God was furious with King David for this crime, and sent Nathan the prophet to confront him. The conversation went as follows between King David and Nathan the prophet.
1″The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
4“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
5 “David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
“7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despise me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’” 2 Samuel 12:1-10
After this event, David was forgiven due to genuine repentance for this terrible crime. However he suffered the consequences of this great sin for the rest of his life. Five of his sons including the one he conceived by this act all died. The consequences of our actions or the actions of another who has harmed you, do not go away once a person is forgiven. So rest assured, when you forgive someone, they will still suffer the consequences they have earned. Forgiveness is not letting them off the hook, it is simply letting go of the event, and not allowing it to hurt you any more.
Moving forward as we consider “what” forgiveness is, let’s look at this awesome quote from the book by Gerald G. Jampolsky. “Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All.” He says that, “To forgive is to feel the compassion, gentleness, tenderness, and caring that is always within our hearts, no matter how the world may seem at the moment. Forgiveness is the way to a place of inner peace, and happiness, the way to our soul. That place of peace is alway available to us, always ready to welcome us in. If, for the moment, we don’t see the welcome sign, it is because it is hidden by our own attachment to anger.” (found in Chapter 2 p. 18)
From Don Miguel Ruiz in “The Mastery of Love.” p. 204 I love this quote which says, “Let us love ourselves without judgment, because when we judge, we carry blame and guilt, we have the need for punishment, and we lose the perspective of your love. Strengthen our will to forgive ourselves in this moment. Clean our minds of emotional poison and self judgements so we can live in complete peace and love….Help us to be free of any conflict with others. Let us be happy to share our time with our loved ones, and to forgive them for any injustice we feel in our mind. Help us to love ourselves so much that we forgive anyone who has ever hurt us in our life.”
So as we consider “what” forgiveness is, we have found the following information in our search so far.
- Releases us from the painful power of both our judgements, and those of others.
- Cleanses our minds from emotional poison.
- Helps us let go of the painful event, so it can no longer hurt us.
- The greatest healing power available to heal ourselves.
- A vital part of love itself, including the ability to love oneself.
- The way to inner peace and happiness.
When it comes to “what” stops us from being able to forgive, it is often our attachment to our own anger. I know from personal experience that when someone hurts me, or even more so if they hurt someone I love, I can become so angry about what they did, that reaching that place of inner peace in forgiveness, can be very hard to achieve! Sometimes we have to seek Divine assistance to even begin to forgive someone when the event was terribly traumatic.
An example of this can also be seen in the story of Corrie Ten Boom, as told in her book “The Hiding Place.” She and her family all suffered greatly, going through the horrors of the Holocaust with their Jewish friends. They had hidden Jews in their home to save their lives. For this the Ten Booms were arrested. Their Father died right away. Corrie and her sister Betsey went through years of horrific treatment in a concentration camp, where Betsey eventually died. Corrie survived, and after the Holocaust began a lifelong ministry to help others heal from this terrible time in history. She taught forgiveness as one of the greatest tools to help other survivors heal. One of the hardest moments for her, was when she was speaking at an event in Germany. Corrie was met afterwards by one of the actual guards who had tormented her and her sister in the camps. He personally asked for her forgiveness. For a moment she felt frozen, unable to speak or move as she remembered the horrible things that he had done to her and Betsey. She cried out to God in her heart to help her forgive this man. God helped her, and she was able to say the words, “I forgive you” to him as she reached out and took his hand. She then wept with him, as they both felt the healing release from all that terrible pain!
To help us reach our goal of inner peace and freedom from our suffering and pain, through forgiveness, consider these thoughts from Gerald Jampolsky found in the introduction of his book, “Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All.”
- “Forgiveness releases us from so much. It stops our inner battles…it allows us to stop recycling anger and blame.”
- “Forgiveness allows us to know who we truly are, with forgiveness in our hearts, we can at last experience our true essence as love.”
- “Forgiveness is the greatest healer that allows us to feel joined and at one with each other, and all that is life.”
- Forgiveness has the power to heal both our inner and outer lives. It can change how we see ourselves and others. It can change how we experience the world.”
Basically when we fail to forgive those who hurt us, we are essentially holding onto a burning hot coal, which can engulf us in burning flames of anger and consume us, if not released so that healing can take place.
In the Lord’s prayer in Matthew chapter 6 Jesus taught concerning forgiveness by saying “… and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” Again in his parable in Matthew 18:33 Jesus said concerning the servant who owed him a great dept which he had forgiven. The same servant then viciously attacked and imprisoned a fellow servant who owed him money. To which the master said, “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had on you?’
In conclusion, we can clearly see that to be forgiven we need to forgive. To receive mercy we need to give mercy. To be free from our inner pain and suffering caused by our anger over the injustice committed against us, we must let it go. To love others, and stop judging them, we must first love ourselves and stop blaming and judging ourselves for the things we perceive as having been imperfect, or “not good enough!” In part two we will look more at specific ways we can utilize to help us reach this beautiful place of rest and inner peace that forgiveness alone can give us.
May you be blessed with the warmth of love for yourself and others, the light of truth, and the comfort of kindness and the peace that passes understanding with forgiveness.