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Forgiveness: the Key to Wholeness

I’m a Christian but just realized the two books that helped me most were not Christian books. One was Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and the other is Forgiving the Unforgivable. I worked with inmates, at-risk youth, and others whose lives were not going well. What did they have in common? Two things: They could not admit they were wrong about anything and they had no concept of forgiveness.

I honestly think most of our hang-ups are related to forgiveness. We either need it for things we have done wrong, or we need to extend it for wrongs done to us. Deep down, we harbor either guilt or resentment. If we refuse to face these honestly, we cannot be whole. If we refuse to own our wrong doings, we are apt to deny, minimize or rationalize. “It wasn’t me, it never happened, everybody does it, I did it but it was somebody else’s fault (society, The Man, my parents.)

No one grows to adulthood without wounds. No one. You can collect those and brood or you can release them and be free. Forgiveness is not forgetting. They owe you. Forgiveness is cancelling the debt. You are the one keeping the account books, you are the one with the power to cancel the debt. Or keep it on the books-your choice-and open the books and review the debt and be miserable. Wouldn’t you rather be free of that accounting? Because you’ll never get paid and it’s eating at you. Love and hate have this in common-they both bind you to a person. How about setting yourself free?

“You don’t know what they did!” True. People do terrible things to other people. But wouldn’t you rather be free? Resentment is bad for your health, for your relationships, and bad for you. But how can you do it? First, be honest about the wound. Don’t make excuses for the perp.They wounded you and it hurt-they owe you. Describe it out loud. Then say “I choose to cancel the debt.” I CHOOSE.”

It will come back to you, it’s become a habit. Every time it comes back, say, “I choose to cancel that debt.” Eventually it will fade away. The wound will heal. You won’t forget how you got that scar, but it will no longer be raw and painful.

Forgiveness is not something you do for the perp. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself.