If you follow my Facebook page, you know most days I’ve posted about random celebrations designated for that day. Most of them are fun and many revolve around food, but others are more serious. Today, is Global Forgiveness Day and as I worked on the post, my thoughts went deeper than a social media post.
I see a tremendous amount of pain in the world, particularly when I watch the news. Rioting, violent crime, verbal assaults, all these stem from a place of anger and hurt. No amount of government intervention or additional policing will solve this problem. Forgiveness is needed to begin the process of healing in our homes, our local communities, our countries, around the world.
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
That part is well known, but Jesus continued: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Holding on to hurt and anger only injures the one carrying this burden. Quite literally, refusing to forgive can damage our physical bodies. A University of Wisconsin study regarding forgiveness found forgiving people suffered less from certain illnesses. On the other hand, less forgiving people suffered a higher number of health problems. Withholding forgiveness causes stress, which can lead to physical symptoms like – anxiety, high blood pressure, and depression.
The amount of relief and freedom that comes when we choose to release that burden and forgive the person who has hurt or offended us is immeasurable. It’s often easy to say we’ve forgiven but much harder to mean that in our hearts and allow the healing to begin. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation, either. There are some offenses that damage relationships beyond repair and make it unsafe to return to them. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we allow the person to continue hurting us, either physically, verbally, or emotionally. We may need to depart from those relationships as part of the forgiveness and healing process.
I struggled for many years with unforgiven hurt from my childhood that grew into bitterness and stunted my emotional growth. When I began releasing the pain, that process that took longer than I even realized at the time. Choosing to forgive isn’t always easy and doing so doesn’t guarantee the hurt will disappear overnight. Sometimes we need to make the choice daily to forgive the other person, to pardon them in order for us to begin our healing.
That early hurt shaped how I dealt with subsequent offenses until I realized I hadn’t completely dealt with it and sincerely cleared the debt of an apology I felt owed by that person. When that came to light, my eyes were opened to other hurts I had held onto and used not just as bricks to protect my heart, but offensive weapons to ward off potential offenses. Who here hasn’t used a past hurt in a current argument even if the two instances aren’t linked at all? We do that because we aren’t dealing with the hurt at the time and allowing true forgiveness to complete its healing work in us.
How much happier would life be if we could wake up each morning free of resentment, grudges, emotional debts we expect to be paid. Instead, we would wake up with peace, trust, and an open heart. I wish I could say I’ve reached that point, but there are still days I struggle with anger and resentment about certain things. Being aware of them, though, and making the choice to forgive them once again brings me one step closer to complete healing.