We close out this month with another discussion on the topic of forgiveness, with today’s important topic being the reciprocal nature of forgiveness. Call it Karma or what you will, but there’s been lots of evidence that what you sew you will reap. If you help others they’ll help you, if you hurt others they’ll hurt you, if you help others be successful you’ll be successful too and that sort of thing.
Today we’re basing our discussion on two beliefs. One that we’re human and no one is perfect and two that forgiveness is important. Now, before we get to the real point we do need to discuss what is usually the elephant in the room: deserving/undeserving forgiveness. Are there unforgiveable acts? Should everyone be forgiven? These questions can be debated endlessly but I believe that in most cases forgiveness should be attempted. If someone is a repeat offender your level of trust and interaction after repeated forgiveness conversations should be limited or the relationship should be terminated. Some people just don’t get along well together but that doesn’t mean that you need to hold a grudge when you end the relationship.
So why is it important to forgive others? The biggest reason is that you’ll need to be forgiven at some point in time (and usually more than once). If I know that someone is really mad at me it hurts. I don’t want to feel that pain for longer than I have to, and I know that if I feel that way others feel that way too. It’s really hard to do good in the world when you’re all tied up in pain and anger, and we don’t need more pain and anger in the world, we need healing and working towards a better tomorrow for ourselves and future generations.
Forgiveness isn’t something you do because you want others to like you or the world needs to be all sunshine and roses. Forgiveness is something we practice because we’ll need to be forgiven.
“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.” Thomas Fuller
This month our forgiveness discussion has brought us through many of the things that challenge us about forgiveness, and on Wednesday, we’ll conclude our forgiveness discussions with answering the question everyone asks: why should I forgive? Today though I wanted to talk about where God fits into this topic. Simply, God is where forgiveness started. God chose to show some mercy and forgiveness after Adam and Eve sinned, creating the imperfect world we live in today. God continued that forgiveness story with countless men and women throughout the Old Testament, giving them second and third chances. Then in the New Testament we met Jesus who totally changed the forgiveness story and many great leaders and teachers followed Him.
But it all started with God. This is important to recognize because we often ask today how God can still be relevant. How could He, however many years after He made the world, still be relevant? I mean you look at stuff from Abraham Lincoln’s time, just some 200 years ago and it’s completely outdated. So can God, who came onto the scene so many years before Lincoln’s time, still be the one to look to as the example for forgiveness?
I believe He can. One of the major differences between the Adam, and even Jesus’ time is the number of people on earth now. It’s not really possible to create a book, like the Bible, that tells all, or even a real sampling, of the stories about people and how God has impacted them over the years like they could back then, there are too many people now. But if you look at some of the outspoken individuals throughout history who were recorded you can see that forgiveness and some of the other teachings in the Bible certainly aren’t outdated, and God’s forgiveness still plays a major role in people’s lives.
Forgiveness isn’t a medieval castle, it’s something that has gone on for years and will continue to be necessary, as long as we’re not perfect. And God will continue to teach and share forgiveness with those who will listen.
“But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love.” Nehemiah 9:17b
Everyone has a bit of wisdom for you if you ask (myself included). We’re really blessed to be living in the world at this time, a time with so much potential and opportunity and so many smart people. Sometimes the wisdom is something we can apply to our lives now, sometimes it’s something that helps us years later, and sometimes the wisdom isn’t really for us, but for someone we know. Why does this matter? It matters because it reminds us that we’re not alone in this life. There are other people who are in desperate need of support and encouragement all around the world, and sometimes that person is us.
When it comes to wisdom and forgiveness, our topic this month, many people shy away because it’s just too touchy of a subject. But forgiveness is about more than just the pain of the bad stuff that happened to bring up forgiveness in the first place. Forgiveness recognizes the innate need in each of us to love, care, and be in relationship with others. Forgiveness is a way of showing that while we do have faults and make mistakes as part of our human nature, the relationships that are also part of our lives are more important to us than our failures.
We return to relationships, to people, to jobs that don’t satisfy us because we’re so desperate for those relationships. And sometimes that’s the right thing to do because there is a lot of potential there, if only we could all learn to work together better. Other times it is better for us to move on and dragging things out doesn’t help. The longer you stay in the bad relationships the more you hurt yourself and the other person or people involved. Instead you need to forgive each other for staying and release each other to the better things life has for you apart and commit to relationships that are good for all people involved.
“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” William Shakespeare
We talk a lot about starting over in our day to day lives. We talk about how nice it would be if we had a clean slate or if we could start over or if we could undo our mistakes. Have you ever thought about why that is? Have you really thought about why we crave clean starts? I think part of it has to do with that shiny new toy syndrome, where we want things just because they’re shiny and new. It’s not really about whether that thing is good or not, we just want it because it looks newer or better than what we have.
Our lives are like this too, we flit from one thing to another because we hope that it will be better than what we have. Sometimes we’re right and it will be better, other times it’s only better for a little bit, and sometimes if we had just stuck with it for a bit what we had would have been pretty spectacular.
The truth is however that the shiny new stuff can’t fix the bad stuff from the past. It can’t erase it or remove it, it’s still going to be there. The good news is that there are a couple of things that can help us stay more focused in the present and help us make better decisions about what stays and what goes.
1-having less stuff. Whether we’re talking hoarders or just your average American family, we’ve all got a lot of stuff. The more stuff you have the more stuff you have to take care of and the more likely you’ll think about getting more. Work with an organizer to declutter and free up space in your home and life.
2-forgive more. The less we hold onto the less tainted other areas of our lives will be. Forgiveness gives you the opportunity to have a fresh start without the complications of truly starting over. If you’ve struggled to forgive or let go you can work with a coach on forgiving, improving your relationships and loving yourself more.
Neither decluttering or forgiveness is a perfect solution, both require work, time and effort to let them be the truly healing aspects in our lives. The first step, as always is admitting that you need help. Start with that this week and look into people you can work with to find freedom again in your life.
“Forgiving is rediscovering the shining path of peace that at first you thought others took away when they betrayed you.” Dodinsky
On Sunday the Christian world celebrated Easter. For those of you a little late to the party it’s the day we remember that Jesus came back to life from the grave after being crucified to die for our sins so we could have eternal life (that’s the abbreviated cliff notes version). I don’t read any of the ancient languages, but just about every translation I’ve read of Luke 24 says something about the angel at the tomb telling the women that Jesus is risen. The women were probably like “Risen? What does that mean?” For us years later it’s come to mean hope and the fulfillment of a promise, but to them it was probably quite confusing.
Think about it: you’re expecting to say prayers and pay respects at a tomb, where dead people are, and you’re told that someone is risen. Not that they’re not really dead, not that they’re alive, but that they’re risen. It certainly implies that they really were dead and now they’re not. We all know that that’s not how life usually works. When people die that’s it. There’s no returning to your life. Even with the concept of reincarnation you’re not technically coming back, you get a new life.
So what happened that Easter morning paved the way for something new and different, which is exactly what we needed. Revelation 21:5 says “Look, I am making everything new!” When Jesus rose that Easter morning He not only did something so out of the ordinary, He shared that what He had done could mean something new and different for us too. Jesus gave each of us a choice: the choice of a fresh future. We could let go of our pasts, let go of the stuff that held us back and walk into the amazing future God has for us.
Remember I mentioned that “risen” has come to mean hope and a fulfilled promise earlier? That hope, meant for each of us, means that the promise of incredible potential that we were born with still has a chance to come true, despite the mistakes we may have made in the past. Having just celebrated another Easter I invite you to choose this year to let go of your past and step into the future of promise and hope that Jesus has created.
This is the weekend that many in religious circles spend honoring Jesus’ death and resurrection. The concept of doing what He did amazes me. I know we look at people who sacrificed throughout history like Joan of Arc or Mother Teresa and think we could do the same, but could we really? Could we really be as strong as Jesus was to go to the cross and die? The reality though is that He didn’t go out of strength but out of love. What was a horrible act turned into something so much bigger and better. Even on the cross He was doing what He loved best, sharing hope and bringing people to God.
No matter the challenges that come your way if you’re doing what you love and are with people you love you can succeed and come out from the challenge a better, stronger person.
Open just about any newspaper or magazine and you’ll see some of the things going on around the world that can destroy the lives we’ve built and people we’ve worked hard to become. There are an unfortunate number of people around the world who would love to see more miserable people. But there are also a good number of people who thrive when working through and conquering challenges that make others squirm. They’re no better than those who squirm, they’ve just got a different attitude towards the curve balls life throws them.
We’re each challenged to make the choice of whether we’re going to work towards destruction, let things go or work for a better future. Once we’ve made that decision we have to decide if we’re going to support the decision we made with a positive attitude and action, or if we’re going to moan and groan and drag our feet. Ironically, the sooner we get going, the sooner we’ll either make the mistake and be able to make changes or succeed as desired. Holding back doesn’t do anyone any good.
With thoughts towards the remembrances of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I encourage you to take bold steps forward this week, bravely facing whatever comes your way.
“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.” Leonardo da Vinci
This month we’ve been talking about forgiveness. When forgiveness is brought up most people think about forgiving each other. While forgiveness is something that can restore a relationship when both sides participate, forgiveness can also free you personally from things you’ve held onto.
Personally, I know that I have stuff in my life that I need to forgive myself for. After all, we’re usually our harshest critics. We usually demand much more from ourselves than others do, and with that high standard comes lots of opportunities to fall. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a really good thing that we hold ourselves to a standard; it means that we still have hope as people. It also gives us a chance to really do something with our lives and have big opportunities for success. Yes with those big opportunities for success do come with big opportunities to fail, but failure and success are both important parts of life, not things that should be avoided.
When we fail, often we’re the first person we need to forgive. We can’t begin the healing process with anyone we’ve hurt without first having taken a look at ourselves and our responsibility and begun to forgive ourselves for our role in what happened. Living as damaged people increases the likelihood that we’ll hurt others because we sometimes strike out because we feel hurt and lost.
Don’t wait for someone to forgive you, start forgiving yourself as soon as you realize that you’ve messed up and feel guilty. Holding onto that guilt only makes things worse for you, and holds you back from resolving the situation.
“It is very east to forgive others their mistakes; it takes more grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed your own.” Jessamyn West