Forgiveness is a journey, rarely a destination.
This realization brought me a new perspective regarding the encounter between Peter and Jesus when Peter asked, “How many time should I forgive my friend?” Jesus responded, “70 times 7.”
I used to think it meant forgiving an individual for hurting me 490 times. Now I see it differently, it may take me 490 times to truly forgive that person and be restored fully.
Neither is easy to accomplish, yet forgiveness can provide certain benefits.
The call to forgive others and be forgiven yourself is peppered throughout the Bible. Most notably, Jesus included the petition—forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors—in his model prayer for his disciples to emulate.
Episcopal priest William Countryman maintains forgiveness requires a change of mind and is for the strong, not the weak of heart.
The staff at the Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.org) determined, “letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace.” They cite possible benefits, like healthier relationships, greater spiritual and psychological well-being, lower blood pressure and fewer symptoms of depression.
Forgiveness counselor Ana Holub (anaholub.com), writing on wisdomtimes (wisdomtimes.com) claims, “Evidence is mounting that holding onto painful memories and bitterness results in long-term health problems. Forgiveness, on the other hand, offers numerous benefits.”
“Forgiveness requires a change of mind and is for the strong, not the weak of heart”
Ana names 13, including stress reduction, better anger management skills, more friendships and improved psychological well-being.
Amanda Chan on Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com) began her “8 Ways forgiveness is good for your health” with, “In an era of lawsuits, it can sometimes seem like forgiveness is a concept from biblical times. But a wealth of research suggests we should apply the act to our daily lives because it may hold a myriad of health benefits.”
She described how forgiving unconditionally could mean a longer life, making amends helps you forgive and could benefit your immune system.
However, Wilma Derksen’s (wilmaderksen.com) “one woman’s walk towards forgiveness” documents the power and challenges of forgiveness.
In her book, The Way of Letting Go, she tells about her 13 year old daughter Candace being kidnapped while walking home from school in Winnipeg on Friday, November 30, 1984. Seven weeks later, her body was found in a nearby shed. Twenty-three years later an arrest was made, then a trial and now maybe another. Wilma writes, “It’s now thirty-two years since Candace disappeared, and in a way it is starting all over.”
When a reporter asked, “What about the person who murdered your daughter?” Candace’s father Cliff replied, “We forgive.”
Wilma names fear, narrow faith, the old me, self-pity, guilt, blame and rage among the 15 things she had to let go.
She relates each letting go to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
In the chapter “Letting go of my Guilt and Blame,” she describes what happened while wiping away Candace’s fingerprints. “With each stroke of washing the walls, I was washing away some of my guilt and blame.” Then she transports us to the mountain where Jesus reminded his listeners, “in the same way you judge others you will be judged, and with what measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Space prevents me from including all of Wilma’s insights, but here are my favourites:
- It takes a village to help us forgive.
- ]Forgiveness is not a quick fix.
- We have to learn to forgive, time and again.
- The cross is the tree of forgiveness to help us deal with the tree of good and evil.
In our quest for forgiveness we may never reach our destination, but we may benefit from the journey.
P.S. I mentioned on Facebook that my HOLLIStorial would be about forgiveness. Three friends share their experiences below
Forgiveness allows second chances.
I forgave my mother and after not speaking for many years we are able to have a lovely relationship.
Also, I am a seminarian because of second chances.
If only I was able to forgive sooner rather than waiting for so long.
Not forgiving means wallowing in the pain of the past.
– Caroline Sharp
Forgiveness allows you to open up your heart and free your spirit.
Forgiveness does not mean you forget what the transgression was, but you can think about the thing that happened without feeling the hatred and bitterness that happens to yourself when you hold on to the hurt. This can be an unwillingness to forgive ourselves as well.
Self-talk is very revealing. What and how we talk to ourselves tells the story. For example, if you talk negatively to yourself about yourself. I have learned to use mirror work to help me forgive myself. Prayer, too, is very helpful; to release our transgressions to the Lord.
However, it is easy to forget we already visited a situation, repented and asked for forgiveness. Sometimes we repeat ourselves and relive the transgression over and over. We need to learn to release it when it comes up over and over, until it doesn’t.
Our spirit becomes lighter and our smile brighter when it is coming from within the open and free heart and soul.
– Windy Collins
I’ve experienced these benefits from forgiveness: mental health (I’ve often thought atheists could take the New Testament as a guide to mental health even if they don’t agree with the spiritual focus); letting go and freedom to move forward. And above all, freeing my recovery from being interlinked with the offender’s repentance.
The person who wounded me may never recognize their wrongdoing, or apologize for it. They may even die before doing so.
But when I free my attitude from their repentance, I can take charge of my own spiritual growth, my own attitude about what has happened between us and let it go.
Hollis Hiscock welcomes your thoughts and insights.