Beliefnet

Let me share the happy ending to the story of Susan, who spent years imprisoned by resentment of the terrible hurt inflicted by her husband. One day a friend told Susan about the success that her ex was having in his life. Before, when she had learned something positive about Brendan, it had made her angry. This time Susan first had a burst of anger, then she had a sudden flash of understanding. She realized that she was the only one affected by her continuing grudge. Brendan had moved on with his life and was happy.

Susan asked herself, "Do I want to live the rest of my life living as an unhappy victim?" Her first thought was that she was hurt so deeply that she couldn't forgive. But then she realized she was really saying, "I won't forgive." Instantly she recalled the many times she had instructed children in Sunday school that Jesus had taught his disciples that whenever they prayed to ask for help, they should forgive as they had been forgiven. Susan remembers making a conscious decision to release herself from her grudge and the negative behaviors that had resulted from her unforgiving spirit.

Susan told me, "It wasn't just forgiving Brendan. My greatest reward was learning to forgive myself."

Susan prayed for courage, then began to do things with friends for the first time in years. She was pleasantly surprised to learn that when she stopped complaining about Brendan, her old friends were willing to be with her again. Susan timidly started going to church. She was afraid that church members who knew about her divorce would be judgmental and reject her. Instead a group of single women invited her to go out for lunch after church with them each week and Susan made new friends.

To release a grudge and choose forgiveness may not be easy-if your child has been killed by a drunk driver, your daughter has been brutally raped, or your spouse has been unfaithful-it can be the hardest thing in the world. But it is imperative that you try-otherwise you are just re-injuring yourself. With really deep hurts, it is important to find the help of God. The good news is that you need not face this alone. Ask your pastor or the leader of your house of worship for guidance and support.

Philip Yancey, in his book "What's So Amazing About Grace?" points out that we are forgiven by God's grace. Then we are called to break the chain of ungrace, the chain of blame and pain. He writes, "Somehow we need to get beneath the: He needs to learn a lesson; I don't want to encourage irresponsible behavior; I'll let her stew for a while; It's just not right; I was the wronged party-it's not up to me to make the first move. How can I forgive if he's not even sorry. Accept God's grace, and pray that God will give you the grace to let go of your grudge."

Jon, the young man who is still angry with his parents because of the election, hopes that his forgiveness may lead his parents to change; but they may never change. As Lewis Smedes writes in "Shame and Grace," "The first and often the only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgiving. When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us."

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