A valuable life lesson.
“I felt something very heavy lifted off my chest” my mum told me. Growing up, like many families, we had a rough patch that almost tore our family apart. At the center of the pain of the family disputes was a family-friend we greatly honored. The lies, insults, and confusion they had brought to our family were directed at my mother. It was so bad that most of our extended family distanced themselves from us. I vividly remember one morning when things turned from bad to worse, my parent’s argument spilled out of the safety net they had created for us not to be exposed to what was going on. Being a little older than my younger brother, I thought that our family would fall victim of divorce. I was scared!
But at that tipping-point, when any rational person would have thought it was the end of our family, my mum did the unexpected. Instead of blaming anyone for the predicament we were in, she became very intentional about praying, protecting us, and seeking to forgive anyone that was involved in bringing us pain, including the family friend who was the epicenter of it all. Going through the family conflict, and now back, I learned two important lessons on forgiveness. First, I learned that forgiveness is possible despite how bad the hurt and failure was. Second, forgiveness can heal the deepest wounds of being wronged, especially by those who you least expected to hurt you. But before I share with you how forgiveness lightens our life, especially in light of our past hurts, failures, and disappointments, let’s look at five misconceptions about forgiveness that keep most people from benefiting from forgiveness.
- Forgiveness requires an apology. “I will not forgive them until they come to me and apologize.” This kind of self-talk has kept many captive to their negative experiences. Forgiveness doesn’t not require an apology. Often, when people wrong you, the last thing they want to do is face you. This means they will unlikely come to you and say sorry. And if they do come, their forgiveness might not be adequate for what they did. So anytime you wait for an apology, it might take forever to come, and if it ever comes, it might not be what you expected. Therefore, never wait for an apology, forgive first.
- When you forgive, you benefit your offender. Forgiveness is first and foremost important for you. The ultimate benefit for forgiveness is healing and you are the first recipient of this benefit. Your offender is a secondhand beneficiary of what forgiveness does for you.
- You must recover from a hurt before you forgive. While this looks like the order of events when it comes to forgiveness, it’s not exactly accurate. Forgiveness is the first step to heal and recover from a hurt. Avoiding seeing someone or ignoring a pain someone caused you would be like addressing the symptoms of a disease, but forgiving is the surgery that leads to healing, it addresses the root cause of the pain.
- If you forgive the offense will be repeated. This misconception is born out of fear of being hurt again. But whenever forgiveness happens, and especially if the offender is aware of it, its power transforms their attitude towards a very positive one.
- Forgiveness means you shouldn’t or can’t address the hurt with your offender. One way to look at forgiveness is looking at it as a door, a door that brings healing and reconciliation. It’s only when you go through the door of forgiveness that you are able to address the issue that caused you hurt in a wholesome way. Without forgiveness, bitterness and resentment will prevent you from facing the issues clearly.
It’s only when we don’t fall for the above misconceptions about forgiveness, that we are able to fully benefit from the power of forgiveness and its ability to lighten our journey through life. Forgiveness enables us to travel light in life in the following three ways:
I. Refreshes your perspective on failure and mistakes
The heaviest load in life is the load of failure and mistakes. While failure and mistakes are inevitable, learning from them is not a guarantee. Learning from a failure or mistake requires a different perspective than what leads to failure or mistake. Forgiveness is what refreshes your perspective on failure and mistakes, thereby allowing you to learn from them. Whether it is a failure you experienced or a wrong done to you by somebody else, forgiving yourself or the other person, enables you to acknowledge what has happened and hit the refresh button on your outlook.
The moment your perspective is refreshed, and you begin looking at your failures and mistakes from a better vantage, you begin to experience the next power of forgiveness, which is the release from past negative experiences.
II. Release your mind from negative experiences
Going back to my family’s story, mum would have allowed the negative experience to hold her back, but she chose forgiveness. My mum tells me how when she decided to completely and unconditionally forgive the family friend who was at the center of all the controversies, she decided to approach her and tell her that she had forgiven her. That decision, according to my mum, set her free from the negative past experiences. She stopped feeling bad or hurt whenever she would see her. All the negative emotions were wiped-out by the simple act of forgiveness. Witnessing firsthand the healing that took place and the peace of mind that followed, taught me that it is very important to use forgiveness to release my mind for any past negative experiences. And it’s only when our minds are free from past negative experiences that we are able to have the energy of being in charge of the future.
III. Revamp your energy to take control of the future
The late radio host Bernard Meltzer of the call-in show, “What’s Your Problem?” is quoted saying, “When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” Often, the pain caused by others, especially those closest to us, might seem to be too much to leave behind. But when we forgive, there is a magical, almost mystical thing that happens in our hearts that gives us energy to turn from the past and face the future. Through forgiveness, we are empowered to have control of the future. Without forgiveness we become powerless to conquer the past. When it came to my mum, twenty years after the family conflict, she became the cornerstone of the strength of the family because she forgave.
I shared this intimate story about my family to show you one thing, forgiveness is a powerful force that can heal. Joyce Meyer, an American Christian author, speaker and president of Joyce Meyer Ministries said, “Forgiveness is not a feeling – it’s a decision we make because we want to do what’s right before God.” I saw my mum make the tough decision to forgive, and I believe that you have the power to forgive anyone in your life who has caused you pain. Joyce Meyer added, “It’s a quality decision that won’t be easy and it may take time to get through the process, depending on the severity of the offense.” To add to the wisdom of Joyce, I would say, as you go through the process, make sure you don’t get hindered by the misconceptions we covered above. Remember that with God’s help you can forgive anyone.
I have titled this blog series “The art of traveling” because I have observed that those who live a life that is impactful and significant, they do it in an artistic way. They are intentional about a few major things that most people don’t really pay attention to. One of them is forgiveness. They learn to forgive themselves from their failures and others for the pains they cause them. The next thing they are intentional about is their expectations. Next week we will look at managing our expectations in light of traveling light.