Forgive and Forget
Today, America has gotten good at holding the bad. We can hold grudges like death’s hold on a soul crossed over to the other side. We refuse to pardon the reprobate, opting instead to plot against that co-worker, that student, that backstabbing girlfriend, and in the process wallowing in possibly the greatest vice of them all: unforgiveness. The only way we can cure this blight is to forgive.
I comprehended (and occasionally heeded) everything my parents told me about how to act toward others. My parents, being Christians, tried to raise me according to the Bible. Their most important lesson impressed on me was forgiveness. I heard countless stories about how one man my father knew would not forgive a man who had paralyzed him for life. “Why would you hurt me like this?’ the man had cried. The criminal scoffed and said, ‘I didn’t hurt you. The world is just hurting back.’ He proceeded to run off with the money. After the convict was caught, convicted, and released almost twenty years later, he found God and turned his life around. The former criminal found the rich man he had robbed and plead his forgiveness. Keeping to his grudge for twenty years, the rich man contemptuously said, ‘I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction if it killed me.’ Six months later, the converted man developed cancer, and he had only three months to live. The rich man finally took pity on the man, but the criminal had gien up the fight. Unable to forgive the dead man, the rich one lived in guilt for the rest of his life. Now, Hope, who was better off? The dead man or the rich man?” Ninety percent of the time, I would pick the dead man, not because I understood, but because it was the right answer. It wasn’t until I was faced with unforgiveness that I could truly say the correct answer.
When I was in the seventh grade, I harbored unforgiveness toward the bully who had beat up my younger brother and I for our meager amount of money that we used to buy something to eat after school. I remember the vivid sense of hatred as I stood there with a bloody nose for the bully, not for laying a hand on me, but for striking my brother. Instinctively, I had decided not to let go of my feeling of hatred. This simple action of holding a grudge would follow me, nag at me, and haunt me until I could just let it go.
A few weeks later, the same bully came up to me. I was ready to rip his head off…until he apologized. He proceeded to tell me that he had a little brother as well, and another bully threatened to beat up his little brother until he paid back the money he borrowed to buy some food at his home. I was staggered; not just at the situation, but at what I was becoming. Had I not been jolted by the boy’s story, I would have gone on to become my worst fear: the bully. He reached inside his pocket, and in his clenched fist was the money he had stolen from me. I looked at the money in his hand and back to his wide eyes. I took the money and placed the bills in his shirt pocket, and in that small action, I forgave him.
A man once asked Jesus, “How many times should we forgive a man who has wronged us? Is it seven times?” The man was looking for a loophole so that he could hate the man and hold a grudge against him after he had filled his “Forgiveness Quota”. Jesus replied, “No, you should forgive a man up to seventy-seven times seven.” Even though it is an exact number, it’s telling us not to dole out our forgiveness like a strict taskmaster, but to instead forgive like it is you freely with an open hand. Learn to forgive. Try to forget. And you will be forgiven.