Forgiveness: what a radical, world-changing act! It runs counter to every instinct we have. When I think of offering forgiveness, I kick against the injustice of it—especially when the person I’m forgiving has not asked for forgiveness, sees no need to be forgiven, does not want it.
“Why should I forgive them?” I ask. “They don’t deserve it. They were wrong and what they did really hurt me.”
Forgiving them feels like letting them off the hook. What’s to stop them from doing it again and again and again?
No, I would sooner wish indictment on them. When their actions condemn them, then I will think of forgiving them. Then and only then will I rest.
When I run the scenario in my head, I see the futility of it. The imagined indictment cannot be scheduled or controlled. The condemnation I wish will not come through me because my enemy does not care a whit for what I think—and I cannot compel God to pronounce judgment on any given date.
When I linger unforgiving, I put my own life in a holding pattern. Around and around the circle of hurt I revolve, hoping that with each tighter circle the offender will finally feel the pressure and repent. Thus, a lifetime of free journey is exchanged for determined guilt-tripping.
But there is good news. When I grow tired and rest even for a moment from this obsession, I begin to feel hope’s heartbeat. The future calls—at first in a whisper of wind, then a song on the air. Freedom and joy are in earshot. If I can manage to break free of my insistence for justice, my horizon will shift. No longer will I remain fixed on a single spot. I can leave it behind and move on to greater things.
But only if I forgive. The choice is mine—not theirs, not God’s, not anybody else’s.
“But, why? Why should I forgive? What they’ve done is wrong. It’s not right.”
There is no argument about that. Still, I should forgive. Still…still…
My heart is stilled. It is quiet enough now to hear a different narrative. When I listen to the ancient and ever-new story, it astounds me.
Once upon a time there was a man, totally innocent of any wrongdoing. His accusers flogged him unjustly. As he hung on a cross, he said, “Forgive them.”
Just like that. They did not deserve it. They were least deserving of it. But he forgave. And a new life, a totally new way of living, emerged.
There was no wishing the murderer and the apathetic get their just desserts. He did not harbor resentment and in that act, he released both the victim and oppressor.
Now, because of his selfless love, the lawbreaker was freed and given another chance.
No, they did not deserve it. But wiping the slate clean was the only way to end the war. The powerless one wielded the most powerful force imaginable: forgiveness.
Let it go. Just let it go. See? Freedom has a friend named Joy. They both call you to come play with them. Join them. Just let it go. You don't need the misery.