The destructive power of unforgiveness

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” - Matthew 6:12

The famous writer Leo Tolstoy thought he was getting his marriage off on the right foot when he asked his fiancée Sonya to read his diaries, detailing all of his sexual indiscretions. Instead, Tolstoy’s confession sowed the seeds for a marriage that would be held together by bitterness, not love. Sonya wrote in her diary, “When he kisses me I’m always thinking, ‘I’m not the first woman he has loved.’”

Some of his adolescent flings she could forgive, but not his affair with a particular peasant woman who continued to work on the Tolstoy estate. Another diary entry dates from January 14, 1909. “He relishes that peasant wench with her strong female body and her sunburnt legs, she allures him just as powerfully now as she did all those years ago…”

Sonya wrote those words when this peasant woman was eighty years old. For half a century, jealousy and unforgiveness blinded her and destroyed all love for her husband.

It’s difficult to truly comprehend the power of unforgiveness. Years, even decades, after a person was wronged, he or she can hold onto bitterness so tightly that it is as if it happened yesterday.

But God calls us to a higher level of forgiveness, one that understands our own brokenness before Him and forgives others because we were first forgiven. So instead of holding onto bitterness, let it go. Allow God to soften your heart and forgive others because you were first forgiven!

Prayer Challenge

Pray that God would reveal areas of unforgiveness in your life and give you the strength to forgive others who may have wronged you.

Questions for Thought

As you think back, are there people in your life against whom you still harbor bitterness and unforgiveness?

What would your life look like if it exemplified the forgiveness toward others that God has already shown to you?

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