It's Better to Forgive

I drafted this article for Baddow Life newspaper, which is distributed free by the three churches in this parish to the over 6,000 homes in the area. Thus the intended readership is non-Christians as well as Christians. This is intended to be part of a set of articles on forgiveness. If it is published it will not be in quite this form.

A woman I knew argued with her husband regularly and kept bringing up how he messed up some travel arrangements on their honeymoon – which was more than 40 years ago! She looked at everything he did in the light of that incident, and because of that she could never find peace or happiness in her marriage. She thought she was punishing her husband, but in fact she and her children were far more harmed by this.

This is so often what happens to people who refuse to forgive others, whether for small matters as in this case or for huge ones such as the loss of a loved one. Even after the worst of tragedies, as long as the bereaved hold on to the wrong that has been done to them, they continue to suffer the pain of loss and can never move on to rebuild their lives. Instead they find themselves in a pit of bitterness and depression. They may claim that to forgive would dishonour the memory of their loved ones, but would those loved ones really have wanted to be remembered in such misery? And if this is true after awful disasters, how much more does it apply after trivial hurts!

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” – in these words the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that we can only expect to be forgiven for what we do wrong if we forgive others.

It is of course not easy to forgive. But it is the only way to get out of that pit and move on to live a normal life. I remember how I felt some years ago when my fiancée suddenly broke off our engagement. For weeks I could think only of how to get back at her. But then a wise Christian friend reminded me that even if I could find ways to hurt her I would end up hurting myself even more. When he counselled me I ended up in tears in a public foyer. But with this help I was able to put the matter behind me, forgive and move on.

I’m happy to say that that woman in the first paragraph did eventually find a way to put the honeymoon incident behind her and forgive her husband. And so they were able to enjoy their last few years of life.

0 thoughts on “It's Better to Forgive

  1. Have to admit, Peter: I find this area difficult in relation to the Brewers and their treatment of the former SPCK booksellers and their suppliers. Can forgiveness have any real meaning without repentance, which the Brewers show no sign of? And how does forgiveness work when it’s offences against other people that are the problem?

    I don’t really give a fig about their threats against me (unless, of course, they decide at some point to try following them through) — that’s last winter’s snow melt, so to speak; so from a personal point of view, I bear them no ill will.

    What drives me in my blogging of them is a sense of outrage at what they have done and are still doing to my brothers and sisters: non-payment of wages; non-payment of bills; betrayal of a covenant and a sacred trust; blocking Dave Walker’s blogging — most especially in removing the tributes paid to Steve Jeynes from the public domain.

    I hear the Lord saying forgive; I also hear him saying stand up for orphans and widows in their distress. So I find that until the Brewers repent and show the fruits of repentance I cannot let their crimes be forgotten.

  2. Phil, thanks for this. I don’t think that forgiveness should be dependent on repentance. If I had waited for my one time fiancée to repent of the wrong she did to me (more in fact than just breaking off the engagement), then I would probably still be waiting and still mired in bitterness – she has simply cut off all contact.

    But I think it is right to distinguish between personal matters and matters of public injustice. I would say that it is not for you to forgive wrongs against others, even against the dead (Steve Jeynes). And at times it is right to pursue such issues, as long as this is motivated by the desire for justice and not by anger or vengeance. You are probably right to pursue a case like this, not until repentance but until justice has been restored i.e. appropriate compensation has been awarded.

  3. Thanks Peter. I guess you’re right about repentance: whatever is going on in the Brewer’s hearts and minds is none of my business (although from a fellow Christian’s perspective it has to be a concern). I leave that matter, then, to the Spirit of God.

    Vengeance? Not an issue for me personally. They have but breathed threats against me. Anger, however: I think it has an essential place in the fight for justice; in fact, I think there would be something seriously wrong with my emotional balance if their behaviour didn’t anger me. It ignites me, but it is not my driving force.

    As Buzz Lightyear might say, “To justice and beyond!” — wherever and whatever that beyond may be.

  4. There are fine lines, very fine ones between truth, justice and vengeance. Gossamer threads of steel one might say. How one responds when forgiving others is down to personal circumstance. There are those in South Africa who say that it is easy for Mandela to forgive because his life has changed substantially. Not as easy for the woman who had a hand in a jar handed to her – the only remains of her son. Forgiveness is never easy.

  5. Thank you, Phil and Asingleblog. Yes, there are very fine lines. And I think there is also a very fine line between righteous anger and the sinful type, one which I rather too often find myself crossing, without realising until someone else sees it in me. Sometimes I realise that I have to back off from issues which don’t concern me directly for my own sake, so that I don’t become consumed with anger which can be very like the bitterness from long term refusal to forgive.

  6. Peter, more often than not I also cross the line between righteous anger and the sinful type. “Righteous” and “sinful” are loaded words. I prefer not to use them.

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