Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
Researchers again and again have found that forgiveness is not just good for the recipient, it is also good for our own physical, mental and spiritual health.
The best definition of “forgive” I know is to refrain from wishing ill to the person who has hurt you, but instead wish him/her well. Don’t nurse the grievance and let it fester inside you.
But to forgive doesn’t mean to forget, for if we forget, we are simply setting ourselves up for a repeat of the offense. Nor does forgiving means we must approve of the offender or the offending act. Nor does forgiving necessarily means we must continue the relationship because sometimes the offense enables you to clearly see who that person really is. As a result, you simply no longer desire to be in his/her company.
The late Christian psychologist Dr. Everett Worthington (1931-2019) developed some techniques that prove useful. One of them is the two-chairs technique. Someone with a grievance sits in Chair A and addresses a real but absent offender sitting in Chair B, telling him how he feels. The subject is then asked to move to Chair B and respond as the offender might. Sitting in the offender’s place to explain why they acted as they did, the offended subjects are forced to think “outside the box,” to put themselves in the other’s place, perhaps seeing for the first time circumstances they had previously overlooked. This can open the way for seeing both sides of the story, and, eventually, to forgiveness.
Here is Dr. Worthington on a 5-step method we can use to forgive:
The death of my husband a year ago led me to really realize just how ephemeral and fleeting our lives are. A result of that realization is my forgiving a college-era friend whom I had not seen in ten years. I simply decided to let go of the hurt from what she did, or rather what she failed to do. It was simply not important in the larger scheme of things. I discovered that forgiving her was surprisingly easy and very liberating.
How forgiving are you?
There’s a short quiz you can take to find out. Click here.
May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,