Lessons of Forgiveness

I have written before about the importance of forgiveness in one’s life in order to move forward. For several weeks I had the privilege of listening to Rev. Charles Imhoff during the Sunday morning services at the Lancaster Campground.

The following are points Rev. Imhoff shared as a summary of his talks. Seven points to consider when you are forgiving. As you read them please contemplate who needs forgiven. Forgive those who did it. Forgive those who did nothing. Forgive yourself.

These points are lessons learned from my Christian faith. I make no apologies to anyone for sharing my faith through this writing and so do not ask forgiveness of the reader in that regard. However, even if you are not of the Christian faith, these lessons work.

1. Don’t tell anyone! That means you don’t go around telling everyone. You don’t brag about it. You just do it. That also applies to forgiving yourself. Rick Warren has said, “Every time you hold your tongue when attacked or misrepresented, your spiritual power grows. Humility gives you authority.” Forgive them, but keep that to yourself.

2. Don’t let them be afraid of you! What does this mean? It means that if you have forgiven them, you welcome them back without condition. You do not make them afraid or cautious to talk to you; you simply welcome them and let them know how happy you are to be with them. That’s what Jesus taught us through the parable of the prodigal son.

3. Don’t make them feel guilty. Well, isn’t that a tough one? You forgive them, but now you’re told you can’t make them feel guilty. Then you say, “Where’s the fun in that?” People who like to make other’s feel guilty truly do not experience the power of full forgiveness.

Imparting guilt is as much a wrong as what the person who wronged you did. I know what you thinking… “but what about the person who kills someone or severely hurts someone on purpose?” Remember that arguing from extremes is the weakest kind of argument. We are talking about regular folks and situations that would likely exist within our daily lives. And, we also know of those who have had severe emotional and physical attacks who have learned to forgive in this manner. It is possible.

4. When forgiving someone it is important to let them “save face.” Protect their self-esteem. Forgiveness does not involve humiliating them privately or publicly. What good does it do for you to forgive someone only if you humiliate them in the process? And, think about this….part of not humiliating is also forgetting.

You say what? Now I have to help them save face and also forget about it? Yes! Christ teaches us that when we are forgiven, He also forgets. That’s an amazing thing to contemplate. I’ll bet you have said, “Oh, I forgive him. But, I’ll never forget.” I have too, and I guess I still do at times. Forgetting is tough, but we have to try in order to fully realize the power of forgiveness.

5. Protect them from the darkest secrets! Maybe you are the one who needs forgiveness. There is no doubt about the fact that at some point in time we all do things that are wrong. This is when self-forgiveness really comes into play. God really does want to forgive us and because he desires that, He also desires for you to forgive yourself. It eliminates the negative thought patterns that can so often drag us down. He wants you to confess what you have done to Him, but you don’t have to air out all your dirty laundry to your family, friends and neighbors. Realize your faults, but don’t dwell on them. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t dwell on them. Remember not to argue this point from extremes.

6. Total Forgiveness is a “life sentence.” You may have to forgive them again and again. You may have to forgive yourself again and again. Ok, now you’re making it tough on me! You mean I have to forgive them multiple times? Yes! Because it may just creep back into your life, or something similar may happen. But, we are taught to forgive many times over, because we are forgiven endlessly. If it is done for us, we have to do it for others too.

7. You bless them! OUCH! This one is the toughest point. Now that you have forgiven unconditionally, you expect me to bless them? If you can do this final step, you will have advanced to the highest state of forgiveness possible. As humans we have a hard time with this one. But, try it. If someone or some people have wronged you, bless them. If there are people who witnessed others hurting you but did nothing, bless them. Bless them continuously until you absolutely believe in what you are doing. Yes, this is the toughest of all the points of forgiveness, but it is the most powerful and liberating. Remember what Jesus said on the cross? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”