By Pastor Royston Smith
Who would ever imagine Michael Hirschbeck and Roberto Alomar as best friends! You see, four years earlier, Michael watched in horror as Roberto marched up angrily and spat in his dad’s face (Michael’s dad was the Baseball umpire who made a call against Roberto’s team). Such a gross act. Eventually Michael’s father and Roberto put the ugly scene behind them and worked together to raise money for ALD research (a rare degenerative genetic brain disease). At his retirement Alomar said, “That, to me, is over and done. It happened over nine years ago. We are now great friends. We have done some things with charity. God put us maybe in this situation for something.” This response shows the power of forgiveness.
A contrasting story emerged in Genesis 37:3-4, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” Israel’s bias towards one child shattered the family relationship for generations, causing mistrust, betrayal, and avoidable turmoil. Rejection causes pain, which can lead to hatred. Eventually Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers. This shows the damage caused by the inability to forgive.
“The remedy for life’s broken pieces is not classes, workshops or books. Don’t try to heal the broken pieces. Just forgive.” — Iyanla Vanzant
So, how does one truly forgive?
Step 1. Decide to forgive
Forgiving others is a deliberate choice. It is not just a casual ‘I forgive you, let us move on’. It takes effort, and results in emotional healing. Forgiving is unpopular, uncomfortable and painful. However, Robert Muller, UN Assistant Secretary-General, said, “To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”
Step 2. Acknowledge you are hurting
Rather than deal with the discomfort of hurt, many of us find it easier to ‘bottle’ the pain. The resulting emotional stress increases and, if left unchecked, will result in an explosion. Determined to hide our vulnerabilities, we alter our behaviours. While this response serves to prevent further hurt, it also robs us of future meaningful relationships. Admitting your hurt feelings is not a sign of weakness and it does not mean you are giving in. Acknowledging and working through your hurts will result in a more confident and freer version of yourself.
Step 3. Let go off the resentment
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outbursts, and blasphemies, with all malice, be taken away from you.” Ephesians 4:31. Resentment sits in our guts, like a heavy indigestible, meal and causes stomach-aches, headaches, or neck aches. Our bodies are designed to hold onto and share love, not negative emotions. Resentment makes it hard to focus on anything positive. Letting go enables us to embrace hope, gratitude, and joy.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” — Lewis B. Smedes
Step 4. Be kind, instead of being right
Being kind is hard when you know you are right. Niceness can be a very convincing mask that requires little effort. It is possible to be nice while also being indifferent, critical, and even sarcastic. However, it is impossible to be kind while displaying any of those attitudes. A kind person puts others first and expects nothing in return. To be kind means letting go of any unforgiveness and accepting people as they are.
Step 5. Trust God
God gives us the strength to forgive. If you struggle to forgive and live in peace, you can depend on God for the grace to do it and make it a matter of prayer.
You do not have to live with an unforgiving heart. You can have a fresh vision for the future. You can move away from hurts that shadow your past. Now, you have the choice to overcome evil with good. You can arrive at a new level of joy as you take meaningful actions to forgive. I encourage you to do yourself a favour and make the right choice. Forgive.
Dear Lord, please give me a heart of love. Keep me from unnecessary anger. Teach me daily to forgive others as you are always willing to forgive me. Amen