Many people are outraged and shocked that the people of Charleston have chosen to forgive the racist terrorist mass murderer who took the lives of nine people who were attending a church prayer service.
As I read the comments online across many online platforms, I felt compelled to repost something I wrote in December 2014 on the subject of forgiveness:
What is a grudge?
Grudges hurt us far more than the person they are aimed at.
We can’t sleep.
We can’t eat.
Our spirit is disturbed.
We are anxious to see our offender reap what they have sown as they seemingly prosper.
So we steep like a tea bag in hot water, intensifying our resentment.
Often the person our grudge is directed against is unaware or unconcerned with our angst.
Let go of the grudge. Resolve your anger.
Forgiveness is not for their benefit.
Forgiveness is for you.
So that you can sleep at night.
So that you can move on.
The reason many of us can’t let go of a grudge is because we don’t want to give the other person the gift of forgiveness.
We want to hold on to our right to be right and hold them accountable for their wrong.
But God has already that covered, doesn’t he?
“Don’t be misled–you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” Galatians 6:7
And more importantly: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14
How can you forgive someone who has hurt you so deeply?
You choose to.
We make it difficult to forgive ourselves and others.
You can choose now to forgive your offender.
What is forgiveness?
It’s merely giving up your right to be right.
It’s your ability to look at the facts of what happened, remove the emotion and look at the person involved and acquiesce.
You don’t have to like what happened to you. You don’t have to like the results of the person’s actions.
But, if you don’t let go of the grudge, you can’t forgive. And if you can’t forgive, you can’t have peace.
Years ago, someone tried to kill me.
As a result of the events on that day, he was ordered to serve 12 years in jail and the Judge granted a lifetime restraining order.
On the event of his sentencing and each time he was eligible for parole, I had to give a statement.
When I made the first statement, although I still lived in fear, I had forgiven him.
I had to, because I was tired of having nightmares.
I wanted peace in my life.
I needed to be able to trust people again.
And I needed to begin living again.
In making my first statement, while I never said the words “I forgive him,” his attorney knew and so did the Judge.
Because in that first statement to the court, I stated that I wanted him to get counseling for his deep issues of unresolved anger.
My reasoning was that if he got help, he would accept responsibility for his actions and I would not have to worry about him coming after me upon his release.
Well, his attorney told the court that meant that I forgave him and the offender took it a step further and thought that meant reconciliation and started reaching out to me in violation of the court ordered restraining order.
Society wants us to believe that when we forgive someone who has seriously injured us in any area of life, that we are weak.
That’s simply not true. In fact, we injure ourselves when we choose not to forgive.
Forgiveness is not even about the other person.
Some people do it to relieve the other person of a burden – but, that’s only after the offender ASKS for forgiveness.
The moment you CHOOSE to forgive, you change the course of your life.
Now, this is where it gets tricky for a lot of people:
FORGIVENESS IS NOT RECONCILIATION.
And for me, that’s the most difficult reason to forgive people.
Because FORGIVENESS DOES NOT MEAN TO FORGET.
That’s simply NOT what God says.
If God forgave and forgot:
We would not be suffering the results of sin – we were all forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice.
There are consequences to our actions. If they were forgotten, consequences would not exist.
People like to think that if we forgive them, it means we welcome them wholeheartedly back into our lives.
So, what is reconciliation and how does it differ from forgiveness?
Reconciliation is a process.
Forgiveness is a decision.
Reconciliation MUST be done with the cooperation of TWO people.
Forgiveness requires no input from the offender.
Reconciliation is OPTIONAL.
Forgiveness is MANDATORY.
Let go of grudges.
Forgive so you can heal.
And YOU choose if you want to participate in a reconciliation process.
Wait on God.
He will guide you and provide the strength and resources to get you through the process of letting go of grudges, forgiving others and reconciliation.