As I woke this morning, thoughts began to gather in the channels of mind about forgiveness. That one word could well be among the most challenging in our vocabulary. The mere utterance of it conjures up memories of offense, abuse, rejection. It stirs up thoughts of who, what, when, where and how we were battered and bruised.
We are admonished to forgive but we find it so hard to do, especially if the offender fails to seek forgiveness. But should forgiveness be a hard choice? Should we demand the offender seek it before we extend our offer? My answer is NO!
Forgiveness should come easily, swiftly, readily.
This unconditional expression of love is operating among us. It is authentically attainable. We just need to chose it. Forgiveness is an element of our life journey. We won’t always succeed on first attempt. Some things may prove harder to forgive than others but the goal is to increase in the unconditional extension of this very precious gift.
One of the most profound examples, I have discovered occurred right here in South Africa. Nelson Mandela, imprisoned during the Apartheid era, upon release some 20+ years later set out to change the nation by forgiveness. Partnering with Bishop Desmund Tutu, Apartheid was brought to a swift end and a new age of democracy was unveiled. The beauty of it all was that this new era was not delivered on the platform of revenge and angry justice. Had it been, this nation would be at war with itself. It was delivered with forgiveness and restorative justice. Desmund Tutu expresses it beautifully with these words.
“ We contend that there is another kind of justice; restorative justice. Here the central concern is not retribution or punishment…The central concern is the healing of breaches, the redressing of imbalances, the restoration of broken relationships, a seeking to rehabilitate both the victim and the perpetrator, who should be given the opportunity to be reintegrated into the community he has injured by his offense…Thus we would claim that justice, restorative justice, is being served when efforts are being made to work for healing, for forgiving and for reconciliation.”
A beautiful transformation occurred that not only affected the people of this nation but people around the world.
South Africa is now a nation of equal opportunity and freedom. It is a young democracy with a growing global presence and influence. And this is so not just because Apartheid was abolished, but because forgiveness was granted and restoration offered while justice was served.
I suspect you might be wondering what my point is and how it could relate to wellness. Simple. Unforgivenes rages war against wellness. Its seeds, when germinated, take over the garden of our hearts. The roots of bitterness and anger, the children of unforgiveness, feed the growth of what will soon become a sour harvest that nourishes maladies of every sort on the mind, body and spirit of the unforgiving.
Unforgiveness, on a national, global scale results in war. Unforgiveness on a social scale results in chaos, segregation, indifference, intolerance. On a relational scale, unforgiveness destroys friends, family, spouse, and siblings. Personally, unforgiveness, leads to hard hearts, ill bodies and angry minds.
So, in no way does unforgiveness further the spread of love, peace and hope in our lives or the world.
Forgiveness, however, sets the prisoner free. It looses the chains that hold the offended in fear and resentment. It ushers in restoration, healing and growth. It changes lives. It changes the world. It empowers authenticity to who we are all created to be as individuals and as a community.
Why not choose forgiveness? Sure the experience hurt. It hurt like hell, I have no doubt!! I’ve been there far too many times to forget.
By the way, on that note, forgiveness does not require amnesia.
The memory should serve as a tool to move us forward but certainly not hold us back.
The bottomline is that foregiveness is a choice that bears a price or a reward. Should you choose to hold out in unforgiveness there will be a physical, emotional and spiritual price tag the amount of which may not be recognized immediately. Like interest on a loan, unforgiveness will cost you far more than what you ever gain.
On the other hand, forgiveness forces you to let go of a possession that may have seemed comforting, right, and fair in light of the offense. But if chosen, forgiveness will pay a huge dividend by setting you free. In fact, I have seen acts of forgiveness that have lead to physical healing, restoration of passion and joy for life.
Forgiveness, often seen as weak, is actually far more powerful than its opponent.
Embrace this powerful gift of wellness for yourself and offer it to anyone in your life who has caused any offense. Its a smart and wise choice to make!
And don’t forget.
Sometimes our chief offender is ourself.
We get busy creating a life for our family. We set aside our dreams. We shudder in fear, guilt or shame beacuse of something or someone. We gain weight, we lose that muscle tone, become tired couch potatoes that survive rather than thrive. Slowly we slip into a mode of anger, resentment and bitterness toward ourselves for who and what we have become. Set yourself free. Forgive yourself!!
How have foregiveness and unforgiveness been active in your life? Do you strugge to forgive? Have you experienced unconditional forgiveness? I’d love to hear from you. Just leave your comments below.