The Art of Forgiveness is my best-selling book, which makes perfect sense as we try to maneuver our way through a life betrayed by political correctness, social media saturation, and the “me generation.” Whether we are in the boomer, Gen X, millennial, or Gen Z generation, all things subjective, such as clothing, cars, and hair styles are valuable to a plethora of herd mentalities of this world.
Life is hard. We want to belong. However, it is this infatuation—that we want to belong—endangers solid relationships. Hostility instead of forgiveness for our family members, co-workers, and friends causes conflict. “Minor disagreements and/or major disunity in our relationships are an unpleasant fact.”[i] Why can’t we get along? The fact is, “We cannot escape regrettable circumstances in which two or more people turn from each other and in an instant, one, or all regret it. The ensuing insults to our well-being grow over time, and in some instances can make us sick—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”[ii]
I lived with unresolved anger my whole adult life until I had counseling. Unresolved anger, in my humble opinion, is a sickness and much of the world’s population suffers from it. They just don’t know. We think it’s much easier not to confront our anger. Not so. It smolders in us until we lose our temper and take it out on someone we deeply love, like our spouse, our child, or parent. It hurts the whipping post we inadvertently chose to take our fury out on, and sometimes that person has a hard time understanding the outburst.
Negativity is much the same because it’s the result of an unforgiving spirit. Negativity is a habitual thing that damages us because we prefer to complain and feel sorry for ourselves, which of course leads us to a heart filled with hate not love, a mind filled with animosity rather than friendliness. The cup is always half empty, not half full. People don’t want to be around us, let alone listen to us.
Day to day forgiveness seems like the right thing to do; a dutiful expression checked off our to do list. But true forgiveness is an organic expression of otherness. It comes not from us but from the love relationship we have with Jesus. In organically true forgiveness:
- We don’t try to get even.
- We find a way to be nice to the other person.
- We forgive the same misdeed numerous times.
- We pray for the person.
- We are willing to receive forgiveness.
Interestingly, some of us aren’t willing to forgive ourselves. Why? Perhaps we think we don’t deserve it. Or maybe we lived in an unforgiving family as children and young adults. True forgiveness is a learned discipline from which we receive a new perspective on life. We no longer live “with a painful incident from 25 years ago,”[i] which leads to living in the murky past.
Maybe it’s time to evaluate ourselves by asking questions. For example, is there something we’ve not thought about that hinders us. Let’s think about a past grievance and try to understand the root cause. And what about the other person or persons with whom we disagreed with. Remember, true forgiveness is for you, not the others. “As pastor and evangelist, Max Lucado, once said, ‘Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner.’”[ii]
Are you able to forgive yourself. It seems like such a silly question. However, there are times when I still fret over something I did during my “before Jesus” life. For some reason, I can’t shake certain incidents that were over the top; my disgust with myself gets the upper hand and I am compelled to shout, “Get away Satan, you aren’t in charge of my life anymore. Jesus is.” Sounds crazy doesn’t it. But the truth is this. Satan is alive and well, waiting to make you get off track. Insidious is the best word to describe him.
Although God forgives us of our sins of stupidity, disregard for others, and disobedience, he does not take away the consequences. You see, he wants us to learn from our sinfulness. And that’s because he loves us unconditionally; we are his children. And he wants us to enjoy his love, peace, and grace that he so lavishly gives to us.
So, what is your perspective about the difference between forgiveness and true forgiveness? Do you want revenge or respect for other people groups? What about after 9/11? Are all Muslims like the Muslims that attacked our country? How would you feel if you were unkind to someone and when you tried to apologize, he or she said, “I’ll never forgive you?” Life’s too short to live under the dark cloud of unforgiveness. We can choose the contentment that comes from a loving relationship with Christ or suffer the damage we do to ourselves by hiding under the black scourge of unforgiveness.
My friends, choose light. Choose love. Choose gratitude. Choose grace. And choose to live with an attitude of otherness. I promise—you won’t regret it. Paying forward the art of forgiveness to others is like putting our hands together, hugging the world, praying and forgiving the acts of war, killing, cheating, hating, and letting social media dictate how we live. If we can do that our lives are richly blessed.
i Giles, Carol Flohr, The Art of Forgiveness (2018, Clay Pot Publishing, Denver) 7
ii Giles, Art of Forgiveness 8
iii Giles, Art of Forgiveness 24
iv Giles, Art of Forgiveness 28