"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." — Lewis B. Smedes
I have had a hard time forgiving and letting go throughout my life. Lately, though, I have come to the conclusion, what good is that doing me? In the end, I am only hurting myself by not letting go of the pain of my past. When I finally learned that a person's behavior has more to do with their own internal struggle than it ever did with me, that is when I learned grace, mercy and forgiveness. I choose forgiveness, and I choose to believe that everyone has a beautiful heart but might not always make beautiful choices and that sometimes people might need a second chance because they weren't quite ready for the first.
As human beings, we realize that pain is the common denominator for all of us. Pain will change you, but not necessarily for the good, but as people, we have to choose which direction we will go in. Whether or not you are the one receiving the pain, or you are the one who inflicted pain on someone else, we all experience it one way or another. We tend to separate people into good and bad, but the world is much more complicated than that. When someone does you wrong and causes you pain and heartache, it is easier to go to a place where you believe that they aren't a good person and that they are undeserving of your forgiveness because maybe it's 99% their fault, and only 1% your fault. But let me ask you this: How long are you going to let bitterness control your life? How long are you going to hang on to anger? Bitterness and anger destroy relationships- keep this in mind.
When we feel this bitterness and anger towards someone who has wronged us, it is very easy to put them down and speak poorly of them in order to "make ourselves feel better." Don't speak hate towards or about someone, or corrupt someone's reputation in order to bring them down just because of the anger you might feel, because ultimately, is that going to get you anywhere? Is that going to heal you and make you feel better? We all want a sincere apology, which is remorseful, followed by change behavior and for that person to really, truly apologize by looking within themselves and addressing what caused them to hurt you in the first place and then fix it. Sadly though, we don't always get that. And even if we don't, we should still choose to forgive them because it will set us free. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger and replace it with kindness, compassion and mercy.
Forgiveness seems like such a simple word, but it's hard to do when you've been hurt. You might feel completely broken inside, but through those cracks, a little light comes in and a little light can drive away a lot of darkness, and I believe that light is forgiveness. However, forgiveness is not forgetting- it doesn't mean you have to trust the person again, because trust is lost quickly and built slowly. You might think what you've gone through or are going through isn't fair, and you're probably right, but when you choose forgiveness, fair is no longer on the table. We must go through pain in order to grow; grow through what you're going through. And through that pain, we experience love, hope, and forgiveness, because pain is fertile ground for radical change.
If you're feeling anger and bitterness, congratulations, you are human and you are also normal, but understand, that there is so much freedom and hope in the power of letting go. My pastor, Chad Moore said recently, "When I accept forgiveness from God, I am free of my sin. When I extend forgiveness to another, I am free of their sin." Forgiven people can forgive people, but you can't give what you don't have. Forgiveness is not always easy, in fact, it almost feels more painful than the wound we suffered, but there is no peace without forgiveness. So, if you are experiencing anger and bitterness towards another human being, when you choose to forgive, when you finally do it, you free yourself to move on. Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a decision and if you choose so, it will set you free. So, if you are wondering at all, I forgive you.