Forgiveness

I think forgiveness is one of the more difficult demands asked of us as Christians. I ran across a great resource by Dean Del Sesto (2013) called Shift your thinking; 200 ways to improve your life. In it, I came across some advice he shared so eloquently about forgiveness.

There will be countless times we need forgiveness and ask for it, and equally as many times we need to, but don't. Then there will be times when we are asked to forgive others--sometimes we'll do it, and other times we, honestly, won't. Dean Del Sesto states, "...A good starting point would be to note the word give in forgiveness. It implies that in order to forgive someone, we must take something away from ourselves; things like bitterness, resentment, hostility, and perhaps the idea of using the offense as a weapon" (p. 57). He goes on to say, "The grander opportunity rests in giving up offenses completely to wind up free from their bondage on our heart, mind, and spirit. The stress and anxiety of holding on to unforgiveness is nowhere as taxing as the effort it takes to forgive" (p. 57).

Almost nine years ago, our son was the victim of some pretty severe harassment (bullying) as a freshman in high school. By the time we found out, it had gone on for months and escalated into him being left stranded by the carpool, his property damaged and stolen, and his car "keyed", not to mention him feeling ostracized and very alone. A really difficult part of the situation was that one of the offenders lived three houses down from us in our neighborhood, a kid he helped acclimate when that boy was new to the area and the school . We did our best to work through the pain and suffering with all involved, yet really the parents felt, "They couldn't control what their son did." Being a lifelong educator, I was furious with this response, and know that young men in high school need more direction and guidance, not less. Nevertheless, it ended our adult friendship and placed us in numerous, painful positions as our children were in many of the same school activities--even playing on the same HS team together. 

It is one thing to have to see and feel that betrayal there, and another to recall it every single time I pulled in and out of our neighborhood. I carried this burden and felt deeply panged by their unsympathetic attitude and behaviors for weeks, months, and years. Until I realized that I could control my pain by surrendering my anger to forgiveness. I made myself repeat this mantra every single time I drove by their house for months...I forgive you, and I wish you no ill will. Miraculously, I began to feel less anger, frustration, and angst toward them. In fact, I began to half-heartedly wave at them if they were outside. 

Now, it's not easy. I will not forget the insensitiveness nor the way it changed our son, but I have forgiven them. We both still live on the same street. I even initiated the conversation during a neighborhood barbeque, this past summer. You see, forgiveness changes us. It doesn't lessen the offense, nor our repudiation of them as parents within the situation, but it does allow us to move forward. So...give up the servitude of bitterness through forgiveness.

Tammy Heflebower

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