In a world full of hate and selfishness, I felt it appropriate to revisit the power of forgiveness. God’s perfect love is on display when we choose to forgive–and let’s face it, true love is what this world is severely lacking. We have to remember that even those whom we do not agree with or whose actions are totally despicable deserve a chance to be forgiven and loved.
And because it is SOOOOOO hard to forgive actions that are seemingly unforgivable, God’s power and love are even more apparent and more powerful when we use it. For it is NOT our own actions that allow us to forgive, but God’s love and it’s power within us.
Therefore, these thoughts are based off something I learned from my husband about the power of forgiveness. I have to tread lightly because my husband’s story is his to tell, but I want to share a bit in order to relay the impact it has had on me.
Most people can probably relate to how I grew up because I know many of you reside in that very place– that’s right, suburbia US of A! My parents have never been divorced, we had a pretty normal family life (you know, sisters at each other’s throats, working parents, a functioning dysfunctional environment, arguing, but always lots of love and fun). I was loved, cared for, directed, properly disciplined, guided to college, probably spoiled. I wanted for nothing.
My husband, on the other hand, was back and forth between mom and dad constantly, switched schools every year (sometimes even mid-year), had zero guidance, no direction, no discipline, was absolutely loved, but not always cared for, left high school at 16 and got his GED, and was only able to attend one semester of college.
When I met John, he was close to everyone in his family. When I say everyone, that means immediate family, extended family, distant family, friends that are like family… literally everyone. His capacity for love astounded me, and still blows my mind to this day. Until I got to know John more, I didn’t fully understand this love and the depths from which it came. As we grew closer, I began to learn about his childhood–dark situations, scary events, horrible things that I couldn’t imagine ANY child being put through.
It made me hurt and angry for him, and I couldn’t understand the seemingly normal demeanor he exuded to his family after learning what I had. But as we talked and I questioned and wondered, he just kept saying “God raised me.” I didn’t understand how someone could go through what he went through and still love so deeply without any grudges or qualms about it.
Through my husband, God was teaching me another powerful level of His love and forgiveness. My eyes were being opened, my heart was stretched. When I would question John about how he could act as though nothing happened, he would just ask me what GOOD the opposite would do. My feisty side would kick in and I would want those that hurt him to be made aware of what they did and how wrong it was and PAY THEM BACK! But, that’s not God, that’s not Love, that’s not… necessary.
John had forgiven his parents and those that hurt him or wronged him. He had forgiven them entirely, no strings attached. He didn’t need to get back at them, or tell them what they did was wrong, or never speak to them again, or never let his kids come near them. He didn’t need to do any of that–even though they certainly deserved it. All he had to do was forgive… and love. It blew my sassy little brain and humbled me almost instantly. My “WHAAAAAT?!” turned to “WOW.”
He was right, no GOOD would have come from him trying to make them see, only more BAD, more destruction, more anger. Now, there was joy and happiness and healing going on. Our kids have no idea who their grandparents were, but they do know who they are. They feel LOVE from them, true love–and I can ask for nothing more. My husband was able to find healing and growth out of his forgiveness, rather than hate and more destruction, and our children now know real love because of it.
When acid is in a container it only hurts the vessel holding it, not anything else. The same is true with anger and resentment–it will actually hurt the one holding it more than the one it’s directed at. If you can’t forgive and let things go, the real damage is done to you, not the one you’re mad at or the one who wronged you.
My husband realized this early on, and because he was able to forgive and come from love, he is not a total psychotic mess right now. He isn’t sitting around reliving his past and replaying it and reminding his family how messed up they were. He has forgiven and he has loved and he has MOVED ON. Love wins, every time. Isn’t that what we learned from Jesus? Love is what opens people’s eyes.
Love is what softens people’s hearts and allows them to see things that anger blinds them to. When people are mad, the circle of anger just goes round and round.
But the moment you choose to handle a situation with love, you break the cycle and things begin to change. People expect anger, it’s love that shocks them. How silly, right? In this world, anger is what’s expected. Love shocks people. Love gets people to take a step back.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
So when you are stuck with anger or resentment, try handling the situation with love. Most of the time, that will be very hard to do. It will mean putting aside your PRIDE and what you WANT to do, and choosing to extend love and forgiveness when it might not be deserved. But, I promise you, when you act out of love and you choose to not let anger be the dictator, your situation will change.
Jesus loves us, and he has forgiven us for everything. His love is what wins people’s hearts. Remember: YOU are not perfect, YOU make mistakes every day, YOU are not always right… yet… YOU have been forgiven, YOU are loved. Everyone deserves that much.