Forgiving From and For One’s Heart

God shows his love for us

in that while we were yet sinners

Christ died for us.

(Romans 5:8)

“What do readers discover? Simple, basic things, such as the fact that the person who does the forgiving gets the first benefit from doing it. They may have heard that forgiving is a hard duty God lays on Christian people. Then they discover that forgiving is an opportunity for injured people to heal their own wounds. They discover that forgiving is something that happens inside the injured person’s mind, and that sometimes the person they forgive never even hears about it. That if we wait to forgive people until they say they are sorry we make ourselves hostages to the very person who wronged us to begin with. They discover that forgiving does not turn us into doormats. And that when we forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us.

In a way, forgiving makes up for what God could not give us when he made us. What he could not give us was the power to change the past; he could not invent a delete button for the bad things that happen to us. All he could give us was the power to remember them. This would be no great problem if the past had not saddled us with wrongs that people have done us, wrongs we can neither undo nor forget, wrongs that infest our memories and make us sick. Once we are wounded and wronged, the gift of memory becomes an inability to forget. And our inability to be glad about life. We all know that persistent resentment of a wrong we cannot forget is a toxin that poisons, not just one person’s memory, but the whole human system. It poisons the life of tribes, of nations, of families, of friends, as well as the lives of wounded individuals. Resentment escalates into grudge, grudge raises the ante to rage, and rage can drive people crazy. It sets brother against brother, gang against gang, and people against people. Most of all, it sets a wounded person against himself and compounds his pain. We are discovering that the only way to get over the misery of resentment for remembered wrongs is to forgive the people who did them. Only when we heal ourselves can there be a healing between us and the person that did the wounding.” (Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget, pp x-xi)