The Gift of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a gift people give to each other—a gift that often comes with a high price tag. Jesus Christ set an awesome example of forgiveness. When He was being crucified, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”(1) Even though He was mocked, spit upon, and beaten—tortured—He did not hold anything against those who had emotionally and physically hurt Him, but loved and forgave them. By His forgiveness, Jesus was freed and so were the offenders.
By forgiving the people that hurt Him, Jesus set a perfect example for us to follow. He showed us by example that we also need to forgive. Because I and everyone else in this world are human, forgiveness is a big part of life. I need to choose to forgive others. I believe that I need to forgive because it is the Christ-like thing to do, and it brings freedom and peace.
In my family I have five younger sisters and one older brother. Our family raises sheltie dogs, but because I despise dogs, this is a source of irritation for me. My family knows the depth of my dislike for dogs, but sometimes will do things just to try to get a reaction out of me.
One day as I was looking through my sister Bethany’s pictures on her digital camera, I came to some that were of the sheltie pups we had. As I looked at them closer, I soon realized that the background was the comforter on my bed. Feelings of being disrespected washed over me. I thought we had an understanding that no dogs were allowed upstairs—especially on my bed. I was angry and frustrated. Their actions told me that they didn’t care about my opinions or my feelings.
The next several weeks found me struggling with that incident. I certainly had the right to be angry, but it left me feeling like a prisoner. I wanted my sisters to pay—by experiencing the pain I was feeling—for what they had done, but I was the one paying, because of the chains of anger around my heart. This incident put a strain on my relationships with my sisters. I tried to ignore the situation, and in some ways acted like nothing happened, but each time I saw them, the incident was vividly replayed in my mind.
Reflecting on the things my parents and pastor had taught me, I began to recall that forgiveness brings freedom. I started by giving the incident and pain to God, and telling Him about it in prayer. I told the Lord about being hurt, frustrated, and then angry. I asked God to forgive me and to help me extend forgiveness to my sisters. As I cried out to God in prayer, He gave me peace. The freedom was incredible. My heart was free of anger and frustration, and as I chose to forgive, my relationships were also restored. I could now look at my sisters and not feel great anger, nor have the incident vividly replayed in my mind. I again enjoyed being with my sisters, and doing things with them. I thanked God for the peace He gave. I again found Jesus’ example of forgiveness to be perfect and to bring real peace and freedom.
(1) Luke 23:34
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.