We have been outlining God's Guaranteed Weight Loss Plan. With this plan you can lose the weight of bitterness and anger caused from lack of forgiveness. If you are carrying around an unforgiving spirit it is weighing you down spiritually and emotionally. Days one and two set the stage. Yesterday I outlined six facts about forgiveness. Today we wrap up the list.
Fact 7: Forgiveness is not denial of the hurt.
Pride will often cause us to "not allow the person who hurt us the satisfaction" of knowing we are wounded. That is absurd. Acknowledge the reality of the injury, but make the choice to be healed.
Fact 8: Forgiveness eliminates revenge as an option.
The late author Lewis Smedes makes a brilliant point about revenge. No matter how much we try "we cannot get even; this is the inner fatality of revenge." When we start trying to get even, we have lost. How many times must I gossip about you to get "even" for the hurt you caused me? When is the scale even? Or do I need to have the scale tip a bit toward me to be satisfied? What a self-defeating pursuit that becomes! And the truth proclaimed by author Josh Billings is "there is no revenge so complete as forgiveness."
Fact 9: Forgiveness lets go of the need to know why.
Forgiving hurt without explanation is part of the faith-tour contract we signed when we decided to follow Jesus. Author David Stoop notes that, "People choose the Path of Bitterness when they get caught up in trying to understand the reasons for the offense. They think, if only they could understand why the other person did what he or she did, they could get over it and let it go."8 I have three words for that approach: does not work.
Fact 10: Forgiveness lets go of the need to be right.
Forgiveness requires humility. We can be 100 percent right about an issue and lose every relationship around us in the process. Or we can be just as right but exercise grace and humility and not leave a trail of battered sheep in the dust.
Fact 11: Forgiveness requires praying blessings on those who have wounded us.
Begin to bless and wish good things for those who hurt us. This may be my least favorite requirement. But Jesus said:
"When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person." (Luke 6:28)
I do not like to do this. The last thing I feel like doing is praying for the people who hurt me. But here's a secret: Praying for our enemies changes our attitude about them. When I was a kid I was a voracious reader of comic books (certainly one factor that explains my intellectual prowess). One of the advertisements that captivated me while reading those volumes was the little ad in the back of the comic book for the Incredible X-Ray Glasses. With these amazing glasses I imagined that I could see through walls. I will confess that not all of my intentions for the glasses were pure. But I was sure that with the X-ray glasses I could see people in a way I never had seen them before. I would suggest that is how forgiveness works. We put on the glasses of gratitude and grace and we see people who hurt us not as the enemy but as weak, fallible, needy people just like us. We see through their outer garments of pride and confusion and see the naked truth of sin. They are people who needed forgiveness (just like me) and perhaps have not reached the point in God's timing to be able to administer forgiveness (just like me a lot of the time). They are sinners saved by grace…just like me and you. A key component of forgiveness is to not make the other person evil. The people who did not allow our terminally ill daughter Katie to stay in the nursery were not bad people. They were fallible and fearful people just like me, and to demonize them would have made forgiveness impossible.
Paul wrote in the Book of Romans that we should bless our enemies. The word "bless" can be translated to mean "to speak well of." Now, Paul understands life in the trenches. He knows that we can smile that tight-lipped smile and say polite things about those who hurt us and be murmuring out the side of our mouth. So he throws the big punch right after the semi-colon.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. (Romans 12:14)
Did I say that out loud? Anyway, blessing our adversaries messes with their minds, so at least we get that satisfaction. As Abe Lincoln sagely asked, "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?" The Christian paraphrase is: The best way to destroy your enemy is to bless him in prayer. One of my favorite quotes relating to this issue comes from Pastor R. G. Lee. "Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons; but they are helpless against our prayers."
General Robert E. Lee was asked what he thought about a fellow officer. The man in question had been most unkind in his remarks about Lee, yet the general rated him as being "very satisfactory." The person confronting Lee was astounded. "General," he chided, "I guess you don't know what he's been saying about you." "I know," Lee responded, "But I was asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me." That, my friend, is the grace of God in action.
Fact 12: Forgiveness allows you to be selfish.
Say what? I have heard bitterness described as drinking rat poison and hoping the other person dies. Who wants that? I also appreciate the insight of author Hannah More when she writes, "Forgiveness is the economy of the heart…. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits." When we follow the directive of Jesus and forgive, we are free to concentrate on the blessings in your life.
Lewis Smedes wrote powerfully about forgiveness. He often said only forgiveness can "release us from the grip of our history." We cannot change an abusive upbringing. We cannot alter dysfunctional theological training that denied grace. We cannot simply deny the hurts that have been visited upon us and be spiritually free. Only forgiveness can release us from the grip of these real and historical events. And that forgiveness will drop the weight of bitterness and anger. If you only keep one resolution make forgiveness the one you keep this year.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com