The Forgiveness Challenge

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“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes

waitingIs there someone against whom you have held a longstanding grudge? Sometimes when we feel we have been hurt by another, the pain just does not seem to go away. Every time we think about the person or the incident it is like we are right back at that hurtful time.

Because we still feel the pain, it seems impossible to even think of forgiving that person. The bigger the hurt, the smaller the chance we will be able to let it go and move on. Or at least that is how it seems.

There is a different way to look at forgiveness. One definition of the word is to pardon an offense or offender. The word pardon means to excuse, and we may feel we simply cannot excuse what has been said or done.

If we go with this definition of forgiveness, then we may be stuck holding feelings of sadness, hurt, bitterness or resentment for years. However, there is another definition to consider. Forgiveness can also mean “to cease to feel resentment against.” In this sense of the word, we would do well to forgive others as we go along.

The resentment we hold towards another may have little effect on him or her, if indeed there is even an awareness of our feelings. It does, on the other hand, have a tremendous affect on us. My mother always used to say that acid eats away at the container that holds it.

Resentment and bitterness are powerful toxins that literally eat away at us: they eat away at our ability to be at peace, and to be healthy. Those feelings cause the body to produce stress chemicals that can suppress the immune system, raise blood pressure, and contribute to ulcers, to name only a few negative side effects.

We do not have to pardon or excuse hurtful behaviors in order to move on. We need only to decide we no longer choose to carry bitterness or resentment within our hearts and minds. This is the only way we can set ourselves free.

Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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