Lewis Smedes, in his book, Forgive and Forget tells about a self-righteous man named Fouke whose wife betrays him. Superficially, he forgives her, but secretly he hates her. Every time his secret hatred boils to the surface, an angel pops a stone in his heart until the man is stooped and bent under their weight.
Ever been there? Maybe you’re there now. First, I’m sorry; few things are more painful. But how do you move beyond that? I have one piece of advice: Choose to forgive. Impossible? No. Only till you do it. Here’s some truth about forgiveness:
1) It’s a decision, not a feeling. If we wait till we feel like forgiving, we won’t, period.
2) Forgiveness isn’t forgetting. That’s impossible. The power of memories diminish over time, but they never entirely go away. Healing is a process that takes time, often a long time.
3) Be honest. Don’t downplay your pain, or make excuses for the one(s) who hurt you. Just bring it openly before God; He’ll take it from there. "Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." (Ps. 55:22)
4) Accept the price. Forgiveness always costs us more than the one we forgive, but the alternative is carrying around a bag of bitterness the rest of our lives, which will leave us stooped and bent over, like Fouke, whom I referenced above.
Guess what? It’s time. Throw away your file cabinet, your blacklist, and your score pad. Keeping lists never changes anything, ever. That list with your neighbor’s name, your boss’s name, a relative’s name, or your ex’s name? It’s time to mentally, spiritually and physically tear it up and toss it. You know why? It controls you. Seriously, is that what you want? How can we live in the moment if we're looking in the rearview mirror at past hurts? Live for today. Walk out of the fog of the past and breathe in the fresh, clear air of now.
I love that wonderful line in Gone With The Wind where Old Grandma Fontaine is talking to some children about forgetting and forgiving, and she wisely says, “The whole world can’t lick us! But we can lick ourselves, by longing for things we don’t have anymore, and by remembering too much.” Brilliance. Friend, don’t be someone who remembers too much. Thomas Mann, the great novelist, used to say, “It always IS. It always IS...no matter how much we try to say ‘It was.’” Don’t ruin today by trying to re-live or rewrite yesterday.
I’m reminded of that scene in Forrest Gump where Jenny is dealing with the pain caused by her abusive father and she’s standing outside, crying and broken, throwing rocks against the house where she was raised. And then she runs out of rocks, so she throws her shoes; then she falls in the dirt, utterly spent. And Forrest says, “Sometimes, there just aren’t enough rocks.”
Sometimes there aren’t, dear friend, and all we can do is commit it to God, extend forgiveness, and let go. We don’t give up on justice; we just give it up to God. But understand this: forgiveness is not letting someone get away with sin; it’s letting Jesus be the judge of it. We’ve got to do that; we really do. It’s how we get free.
Today’s your day to decide...your moment to walk out of the past and breathe the fresh, clear wonderful air...of now. But remember? It’s your choice. I believe in you. Now, believe in yourself. Do it.