The Gift of Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is giving someone from your PAST something they don’t deserve… so you can give someone in your PRESENT what they do deserve.”
– Andy Stanley

Everyone who has ever been harmed knows that forgiveness is not an easy thing to consider, let alone do. It is especially difficult for those who have been harmed by no fault of their own: physically or sexually abused children, victims of random crimes, employees who have lost their jobs because of the illegal behavior of their company’s CEO, etc.

Despite the personal difficulties surrounding it, forgiveness is worth the effort.

Yesterday as I walked, I listened to my favorite preacher, Andy Stanley. In his message, he shared on the importance of forgiveness as it applies to how we interact with the people we love the most. He explained that when we carry anger or hurt with us in our lives today for something that was done or said to us in our past, we will have difficulty loving the people closest to us and accepting the love those people want to give to us. In other words, if we cannot find a way to forgive the hurts done to us in the past, we will end up creating hurt in the relationships of our present.

One of my personal experiences with this is a great illustration of this idea. My father was an alcoholic and a minister who hurt me in many ways as I was growing up. He never apologized or took responsibility for the things he did; and I spent many years hating him. Because of my hatred toward him, there was a block between me and any “man of the cloth” with whom I came in contact. It was not until I started working towards forgiving my father for the man he was (and wasn’t) as I was growing up, that I was able to open the door of trust with anyone who served the church. What I realize now is that if I had not looked within to overcome the anger and distrust of my past, I never would have been able to trust the chaplain at my place of employment, who has become a treasured friend and guide in my spiritual life today. Additionally, if I had not worked through the pain of that lost relationship with my own father, I never would have been able to experience the relationship I have with the God of my understanding, who I refer to as my Heavenly Father. In doing that extraordinarily difficult work of letting go of my “rights” to a better childhood and the bitterness that held me hostage in anger, I was gifted with the willingness to follow God’s guidance to enroll at seminary – a course of action that has brought me more joy and fulfillment than I can even put into words.

When I look back on just that one example from my own life, I am overwhelmed at the gifts that have come simply from my willingness to open my mind and heart to the idea of forgiveness. Does my father “deserve” the forgiveness I feel in my heart for him today? The little girl he hurt over and over again would stomp her feet and say, “No way!” But, because of the process of forgiveness, the love I have to give today is more than I ever thought was possible. That I do deserve; and so does everyone who crosses my path.


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