THE WONDER AND POWER OF FORGIVENESS
One of the most difficult actions to accomplish yet the most beneficial for our health; body, soul and spirit, is the act of forgiving. There is a wonder and power here that too few individuals experience to its fullest extent. The tendency among us is to harbor offenses, mull them over, stew about them...but we are stewing a pot of bitterness that we ourselves drink daily and it poisons our entire life. Offenses, heartbreak, disappointments come into every one's lives...it is part of the journey of life. We cannot keep it from coming, but we can control our response and therefore the outcome of these disappointments. Our attitude is not just important.. it is EVERYTHING when it comes to the issues of life. Being one who desires to live in optimal health and enjoy this life God has given us, I have learned to harbor no unforgiveness or bitterness in my heart!!
THE PROBLEM OF UNFORGIVENESS
When we harbor ill will, bitterness, anger or hatred toward another soul, we often do not realize that it is our own selves that are experiencing the result of our attitudes. Often the object of our anger is oblivious to the fact or totally disinterested in our feelings. I like the way Joan Hunter phrased it: "unforgiveness is a poison pill we take hoping the other person will get sick". Unfortunately, that is not the case! Rather "he who angers you...conquers you" says Elizbeth Kenny. They are actually controlling your future with an action perpetrated, often in the distant past. We may be seeking revenge, but they may have totally forgotten that you even exist!
Unforgiveness damages our life in three main ways. First of all, unforgiveness has a detrimental effect on your physical health. Many studies done recently by those in the medical community confirm the effect these negative emotions related to unforgiveness have on the health of our bodies: Some suggest it alters the pattern of chemicals and electricity in your body. Others that it disrupts the harmony of the brain wave - affects thinking and decision making processes. Still others suggest it stresses your skeletal muscular system producing muscle tension, headaches, stomach aches, neck and back aches, tiredness or dizziness. Anger triggers the bodies fight or flight system bringing stress to your entire body. Some have suggested a tendency to restrict blood for to the heart, digestive problems, cellular stress...the list goes on and on!! In fact prolonged anger and unforgiveness is estimated to hasten your chance of death before fifty by 500%!! In Philadelphia they are seeing great improvement in cancer patients that have been encouraged to practice the virtue of forgiveness!
"Vengeance is having a videotape planted in your soul that cannot be turned off. It plays the painful scene over and over again inside your mind...And each time it plays you feel the clap of pain again." Lewis Smedes
And each time it plays the same toxic poison is released into your body, soul and spirit. Unforgiveness may not be the sole cause of these illnesses, but it opens the door by suppressing the immune system functions that keep you in optimal health.
Secondly, unforgiveness can have detrimental effects on our current relationships!! Often those who have not learned to forgive offenses have a difficult time in trusting and entering into meaningful relationships because of the previous disappointments. One of the reasons second marriages fail at a higher rate than first marriages is because of this distrust factor. Commitment to another is difficult. The tendency is to see the faults rather than the virtues of others. Often those who harbor unforgiveness also share their feeling with friends or family, to find support for their attitudes. This colors their attitudes as well and spreads the poison pill around. Families begin to feud, churches and organizations are split, business partnerships fail, marriages fail all because we cannot forgive! Many times something that was a misunderstanding or unintended act at first, becomes a larger and larger problem if unresolved. Rather than forgive we allow pain and resentment to grow. Some may be satisfied to go on resenting those who have wronged them, stewing in their inner poisons, spreading it to others around, but I choose to forgive for my own future. Forgiveness is a selfish action that you take to save yourself!! "There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness" states Josh Billings
Thirdly, unforgiveness hinders our relationship with our creator and our ability to receive forgiveness ourselves!! "He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven" according to Thomas Fuller. The most famous prayer in the world we call The Lord's Prayer contains these words "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" . Notice the linkage between our giving and then receiving forgiveness. We do not have the capacity to receive forgiveness if we are unwilling to forgive others. Also, when instructions are given to pray in scripture, there is often this caveat, when you stand praying....forgive!! "and when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." Mark 11:25 We were created to live in harmony with one another and where the harmony is broken it is difficult to make contact with our creator. The offending party should not even bring a gift of worship to God if he remembers that another has something against him!! He is instructed to "leave his gift at the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift"
If you have read my previous posts about "Three Essentials to Live In Health" you understand why learning to forgive is of utmost importance!! I talk of a three legged stool that supports optimal health, and when you harbor unforgiveness...you are trying to sit on this stool with 2 broken legs...only one remains! There is no support and you cannot balance on one leg for long without crashing and falling into "dis ease"!!Some individuals do not want to forgive because they see it as letting the person off the hook when they actually want revenge, want they to pay for it, to make it up to them. All the years spent and energy wasted in this pursuit generally results in absolutely no change!! You cannot change the past, you cannot change another person, but you certainly can change yourself and you can change your future!!!
HOW CAN WE FORGIVE?
We can forgive first of all because we have several amazing examples in the Judeo-Christian faith! In the book of Genesis the story of Joseph takes up a large portion of the book, and the example is unmistakable!! After being nearly killed by his brothers, sold as a slave, he maintained a heart of forgiveness. When his master's wife lied and accused him of rape, had him put in prison, he kept a forgiving attitude, and even later when his brothers we at his mercy and feared for their lives, he loved and forgave! One of the most powerful statements I have ever read is found in Genesis 50:20 when Joseph's brothers feared his wrath and Joseph answered "you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good"!! Even the hurts caused by others can become avenues of blessing in our lives if we keep a forgiving attitude of faith. Of course the greatest example of all is found in Luke 23:34 when Christ is dying on the cross. His statement is "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing". Yet as a result of his unjust death, millions of lives have been transformed through the power of His love and forgiveness. He set the pattern for forgiveness and each time we push our way through to the miraculous benefits of forgiveness, we are imitating our creator. We were created in His image...and we can heal the wrongs done to us by being the first to forgive.
We can forgive because it is the only way to break the vicious cycle of pain, blame and shame in any relationship. Forgiving does not settle the issue of whose at fault...who wronged who...the punishment deserved. Always remember, "judge not, that you be not judged" and let God decide, because he is the only one that knows every ones hearts and attitudes. The law of reciprocity does work and what we sow...we will surely reap! So make certain the seeds you sow are ones of love, understanding and forgiveness. You can only find inner peace when you release the hurt and pain and exchange it for love and forgiveness. As you change yourself....for you alone...for the peace of mind, understanding, physical, emotional and spiritual healing...you will find joy, laughter and a better future awaits!! We can start new relationships and many times heal old wounds that have separated us from those we love.
"IF YOU WISH TO TRAVEL FAR AND FAST, TRAVEL LIGHT.
TAKE OFF ALL YOUR ENVIES, JEALOUSIES, UNFORGIVENESS,
SELFISHNESS AND FEARS." - Glenn Clark
The word "forgive" means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. It is time that we cancelled the debt and walked away from the hurts and pain and blame and allowed the healing power of forgiveness to operate in our lives! You will find healing for your body, healing for your emotions, healing for relationships and a new fellowship and faith when you worship and pray!! Why? Because we are doing what our creator has taught us "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us?.