~One of the hardest things we will ever do~
What does it mean to forgive? Does it mean we suppress our feelings and try to forget what has happened or does it mean giving ourselves the gift of freedom and peace of mind?
Forgiveness is not a weak act, quite the contrary, it takes much strength. It does not mean that you condone what has happened but that you choose to move forward instead of staying stuck. Whatever you are forgiving may take a long time to get through and that’s okay as long as you work toward forgiveness. You may choose to speak or write to the person or organization that has hurt you. If you cannot speak or write to them, write a letter anyway to help release what is built up inside of you and then tear it up or burn it. You can pray and meditate to help forgive. Journaling is another great way to get your feelings out or seeing a therapist to help you work through your feelings. Being in nature and walking or some form of exercise can also help. Forgiveness is mainly for you, although it can sometimes benefit the one who has harmed you, it really is for you. You may choose to forgive someone and then decide if they can stay in your life or if it would be best to let them go. If you find yourself forgiving the same offense repeatedly, you and only you know if and when you are ready to move on. An American Indian proverb states that “If you have discovered that the horse you are riding on has died…it is best to dismount.”
An example of true forgiveness, which may seem unimaginable, is the forgiveness given by Scarlett Lewis, mother of Jesse Lewis who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. I have two beautiful children and cannot imagine how hard this had to be for her. Lewis not only forgave the shooter who killed her son, she wrote a book, Nurturing Healing Love and founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation. Lewis was inspired by Immacullee llibagiza who wrote Left to Tell which is a book on forgiving the people who murdered her family in Rwanda. Nelson Mandela is another extraordinary example of forgiveness. These are only three examples of true forgiveness. If we hold on to unforgiveness and resentment it will at the least make our lives miserable and can even cause physical disease (dis-ease) in our bodies.
In the book, What Really Matters by Karen M. Wyatt she writes about 7 lessons for living from the stories of the dying. You probably already know what one of the top lessons she wrote about, yes, Forgiveness. Wyatt writes “The task of forgiveness can be as big as the entire Universe, requiring a lifetime to accomplish, but bringing blessings and treasures to us along the way.” What Wyatt is stating is that it can be an enormous undertaking to forgive but that blessings can come from it. A recent example of forgiveness is hearing statements from the families of the victims in Charleston, South Carolina forgiving the shooter. He took the lives of nine people during Bible study where he had been welcomed. Sometimes during great sadness, good can come from it. The families joined together in love instead of hate and forgave the one who caused them so much pain. This extraordinary act of love on the families part shows the world that love wins and hate does not. Alana Simmons, granddaughter of one of the victims stated “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof — everyone’s plea for your soul is proof they lived in love and their legacies will live in love, so hate won’t win. And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn’t win.” This unspeakable act did not tear people apart it brought them closer together. The shooter did not win, Simmons was correct when she said “hate won’t win.” In all of these examples, Love and Forgiveness won-and always will.
Is there anything that you need to forgive and let go? You may need to forgive yourself, someone, or some thing.
“Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~ Louis B. Smedes