Greatness, Finale: The Triumph of Forgiveness

Like a diamond, the attribute of greatness has so many faces its definition remains elusive. Thus far I have traced greatness along the lines of tenacity. I could go on to look at heroes who cope with severe disabilities or who have scaled Everest and run ultras that are four times the distance of a marathon. But I bring this series home with what I consider the most herculean of feats, to reach into the depths of one’s spirit in the costly act of forgiveness.

When someone injures us; mind, body, or spirit, it incites demand for justice. Parent, friend, or stranger has inflicted pain and must requite the wrong with contrition, if not suffering. The question that remains is what happens to the debt that goes unremitted. Someone must pay that debt and where the perpetrator has no plans to, the victim always absorbs the cost in one of two ways: with anger or with grace that clears the debt from the offender’s account. The acrimony that weighs on the unforgiving heart becomes an emotional cancer that often manifests itself physically. The liver literally stores the poison of grief and resentment. Understandably, freeing others of their debt depollutes our spirit and body. But life isn’t a treatise. You can understand the harm nursing grievance means to your emotional and physical well-being but if you’ve been abused, abandoned, attacked, or lost a loved one to a senseless transgression, you’re going to want blood.

Why is forgiveness so hard? To pay evil with grace is hardly possible. I wish it were as doable, as conquerable, as daily hours of exercise. Indignation is the compelling logic of right and wrong, and speaks to our sense of entitlement. The anger also answers the feeling of helplessness with the delusion of strength.

Corrie Ten Boon with her sister and father endured unspeakable atrocities in a concentration camp for having hid Jews in occupied Holland. Corrie, the only one in her family to survive, went on to preach God’s forgiveness all over the world. Here is a part of her story:

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones..the huge room with its harsh overhead lights…the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand.

‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there. But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’ And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

Since the end of the war I’d had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.”

I can just hear the cynicism about convicts alleging conversion. That is besides the point at the moment: it is excruciatingly difficult even for Christians. We assent to, oh embrace, the God who sacrificed the Innocent to acquit a guilty race. Jesus made amends through payment of punishment. Atonement. He took every stain of my being and the worst I will ever think or do, and removed them from me as far as East is from West in an act entirely unjust to God Himself. In this post, I offer a glimpse of a long, dark season in which I was incapacitated. I will appreciate your reading The Question of Human Suffering before you debate God with me, and do it under that post while not expecting me to solve age-old mysteries. I share how it was Relentless Goodness that stripped me of all proud claims. But the insistence on self returns. It is the beauty of undeserved kindness, not the threat of retribution, that lifts us onto the higher ground of humility and compassion. Deep in conversation with the theologian Ravi Zacharias on a train, a woman asked him what Christianity offers that other faiths don’t. “Forgiveness,” he answered, meeting contemplation.

Full, deep forgiveness is an achievement of consummate greatness, a triumph worthier than Olympic gold because we are not actualizing or fulfilling the self but denying it. The human heart is the bloodiest, fiercest of battlegrounds; the place of pardon where we most profoundly attain the nobility of our humanity. For, I would add, it images divine glory. To answer insensitivity, violence, or hate with love calls for a power greater than our flesh can marshal.

There are a lot of bloggers writing their pain away. Every one of us has had someone to forgive. There are many bitter Christians, and on my worst days you can easily count me among them. But the Cross offers the why and the how we can move toward grace, makes the transformation possible. For a widened perspective of how people try to heal from unjust wounds, I would like to hear especially from those who do not share my worldview. Where do you get the power to release him, her who did that to you? Do you feel you can even try? Under the smile are you heavy with dirt spit by tires that went screeching into the sunset? Or have you gotten up, refused to call yourself roadkill? Is coping enough for you? Are you walking, or running? Laden with burdens buried in pockets or are you free of them? If so, how?

154 thoughts on “Greatness, Finale: The Triumph of Forgiveness

  1. You forgive and move on not because it absolves the offender but because it keeps from poisoning and crippling your own spirit. We are asked scripturally to forgive because we have been forgiven. It’s simply like letting go of a hot potato in your hand. The only one who’ll be hurt by holding onto it is you. Blessings, Natalie

    • Just love this. Esp the owning. And I appreciate your pointing out the obvious – that we will all continue to need forgiveness ourselves. So pleased you left this gem of wisdom here. Thank you.

  2. “To answer insensitivity, violence, or hate with love calls for a power greater than our flesh can marshal.”

    The suffering I endured had no name, and was not clearly an affliction from another and yet, it nearly took me down. I had to come to see that suffering is the human condition that we feel when we limit the sense of ourselves to unique beings, which we are not.

    My suffering seemed to ask, what does it want from me? The answer lies in knowing that in suffering we are all united with each other. The notion that others are free from suffering comes from my limited sense of myself, a failure to genuinely look into the eyes and heart of another.

    In her later years, my mother wrote a book about her life. In it she told stories of seemingly mundane things that she experienced, but they were filled with her joys and sorrows, but never a complaint or a blame. Her stories are an example of an opportunity to see. Her example broadens my sense of myself, and to feel her joys and sorrows and know how common is the human experience allows me to see that in others.

    In turn, I do wish to pass on my experience of healing. Even if there are no takers, to engage in the conversation is to no longer be absent.

    Debra

    • Debra,

      “The notion that others are free from suffering comes from my limited sense of myself, a failure to genuinely look into the eyes and heart of another.” I love how you put this. And it isn’t something you worded just so. It is a truth you threaded out of pain and confusion. A beautiful picture of compassion on the common ground of humanity. Selfishness and self-involvement lie at the heart of virtually all ills, social in particular. When we are not well in any way (physically, emotionally, spiritually…and they rise and fall together), it is a sign we are consumed with our own voice, our own needs. That is why it is difficult living with, caring for someone who is ill. Health is balance, right? All to say that a healthy relationship is one where the parties can mutually see outside themself.

      I appreciate how your thoughts took you to your mother and that you shared a glimpse of her with us. You bring this to mind, esp about the generations before us that did not think to complain:

      https://holisticwayfarer.com/2013/05/12/the-invisible-woman-who-whipped-her-son/

      I look fwd to my revisit this wk.
      Xxxxxxx
      Diana

  3. If I was in the same situation as Corrie Ten Boon, I could also find it in my heart to forgive the Ravensbruck guard, as we are all fallible creatures. However, if society refused to punish him appropriately I would kill him myself. I don’t believe there is any incompatibility between forgiveness and punishment. I would draw my strength from thinking of the victims and what they suffered. I would feed my righteousness from the fact that I was the aggrieved party from who he had stolen my loved ones in the most heinous way. I would fulfill my social obligation by making my act one of deterrence. I would use my forgiveness to douse any residual flames of anger in my soul. In short, I would be at peace with myself. But that is just me.

    • Though it’s not the most appropriate context for it, I’m tempted to smile, MG. For the efficient, rich thoughts you were able to mine knowing who you are. You bring up some excellent points that are expandable. Very interesting that the God of the Bible goes as far to acquit His people legally so that we stand justified in His sight. But one of the things that rile Him most is injustice. I would pursue justice in the criminal system if anyone committed a crime against my family.

      You bring up peace, one concept that can sum up my post. The point is peace and in the outworking, we find it only in forgiveness – whether we are the aggrieved or the one needing it.

    • With all due respect for I struggle with similar thoughts, the biggest thing I got from your comment was a good rationalization for vengeance, yet Jesus says in Mat.5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. I am not saying that we should allow predators to roam around and continue their victimization, yet historically, even here in the United States there have been those that have escaped secular justice through various different means, and there have been times when the innocent have been killed to satisfy the overwhelming demand that something be done. I pray that if I must judge my brother that my judgement be righteous and of God, not to my limited idea of justice, and that I do not become a tool of the evil one. The reason I replied to your comment is because you expressed something that speaks to my own heart, the struggle I have with a desire to be the knight in shining armor, justly and rightfully dispensing justice for the oppressed victims, yet the example that my Lord Jesus Christ shows me is that such a desire may be just as wrong as the selfish predator. It is hard to forgive the bully, especially when society has wrongfully rationalized his actions, yet if I don’t forgive I only condemn myself and separate myself from God. I can not allow that forgiveness to be conditional for I just might be unaware of all the conditions, and I would be denying God’s grace to myself and others. There is a vast amount of responsibility in judging the actions of others, and that responsibility must not be contaminated with emotional desire.

      • Jrj1701, the ex-guard deserves to lose precisely the right of which he has deprived my family i.e. the right to have his life preserved from the violence of another person. He therefore deserves to be killed in return. More precisely, the victims – or, in this case, myself as their surrogate, should have the right to kill the murderer in return. In the normal run of things I delegate this right to society, but in the example I gave, society has for some reason or another, failed to punish the ex-guard, so the right reverts back to myself. Finally, we are never aware of “all the conditions” but if we had to wait until we were we would never take any action against anyone for whatever reason.

      • Unfortunately no modern legal system gives that right to the victim. The victim must be satisfied with the rulings of the court and if the victim takes the law into his own hands he will face criminal charges. I believe that as a Christian I should not wish the death of another and that by harboring such thoughts that I am denying the true justice of God and am placing myself above God. Yet I am honest enough with myself to know that I would find it hard to forgive on my own, thankfully there is God’s mercy, and that mercy is what I must seek in the battle of denying myself, taking up my cross and following Jesus, me delivering vengeance can not be in that equation for it does not deny myself. Forgiveness is in that equation for it allows God’s mercy into my hardened heart. It is a real struggle and never easy, yet the reward is eternal if I overcome.

      • Of course I will face criminal charges but since when have Christians objected to someone following their own conscience and beliefs because it violated man’s law? You may say with Aquinas that I was right to follow my conscience but that I applied the wrong general principle to the situation in hand. That is your prerogative and so we would disagree. As for me, my conscience would be clear knowing that I have followed the same consistent moral code all my life.

  4. To forgive is within one’s God given personality.. in my lifetime, I have come to realize; I am not the Christ.. it is not for me to judge. However.. it’s the human memory that is the difficulty. To forgive is within everyone.. but to forget…….

    • I hear you. But we don’t want to take God for granted. And He Himself has said that He will “remember [y]our sins no more.” Take someone with a stinking good memory, like me, and you have some serious challenges. But I am reminded that my God’s memory is keener than any, and He chooses not to hold me up against it.

  5. This seems to be an eternal question; how to forgive. I believe those of us who can forgive, find our own methods of which feels like forgiveness. For some it is a peace, for others they may completely clear their conscience and maybe for others we think we have forgiven but we really cannot. A great article with a great question.

  6. Thank you for this post. It is like I needed your words, and suddenly, there they were, providing direction I so desperately need.

    I have not yet forgiven my father for neglecting me when I was a child. I have tried to do it in person, but he is limited and will never be honestly contrite, so my forgiveness has to be within myself. I can forgive him in order to free myself of the cancerous anger and hate you speak so eloquently of, but I will never forget.

    That being said, I realize the consequences of not forgiving him: detachment from my husband and children, who are so precious to me, but from whom I withhold my feelings because my wounds inflicted by my father have not healed. If they were healed, I could be more demonstrative with my current family, not allowing my past family to disrupt our connection. It is crystal clear to me that forgiveness is the key to severing that connection in order to preserve and bolster the connection with my husband and children.

    Thank you for this post. It is priceless to me.

    Best regards,
    Elizabeth

    • Oh Elisabeth, what a difficult situation. Bitterness bears offspring – more of its own. And grace, freedom. The cruel irony: the emotional distancing you do with your own precious family is a form of the abandonment that left you undone. You bring to light a big part of the ugliness in the sins we commit against one another: the helpless reverberations down family history and the way we go on to be affected in all our other relationships. Sounds like there is much hope for you, though, while it often doesn’t feel that way; you have great self-awareness, whichout which many simply flail in the dark.

      I am grateful for what you’ve shared and the heartfelt way you did. I would LOVE any updates…in the future.

      Diana

    • Powerful connection you have made between anger at your father and freedom through forgiveness to relate differently to your own family. Also, I like how you said, “He is limited.” So often that is exactly the case. We may all be equal in value, but we are not equal in ability for anything, including loving. Thanks so much for your sharing in your reply. It added to an already challenging and inspiring post.

  7. As I started to read your post, I thought of the story of Corrie Ten Boon and her forgiveness experience. Then, all of a sudden, there it was in your post. =)
    “But the Cross offers the why and the how we can move toward grace” Our greatest need is the cross. It’s our greatest gift. My husband really has a difficult time with a lot of modern Christian worship songs because of the focus being so on the ‘self’ (God, do ….. for me) and off of the cross. There’s one song in Brazil that translated says, “The best is yet to come”. My hubby is against this mindset. He says, it’s already here.
    Thanks for a great post Diana.
    Blessings =)

  8. Hi Diana, this is a thoughtful question and post. I agree with Natalie that the best reason for forgiveness is to stop torturing ourself. As the old adage goes, pain is inevitable, suffering is optional and connected to how hard we hold onto our personal self. I don’t see this as a Christian thing. To hold onto pain is a universal habit of mind/ ego. To forgive is the higher calling of our hearts/ love/ spirit.

    • Aww, Carol. *Kicking fake dirt (carpet)*

      Seriously, I appreciate the good word. And it’s a pleasure to visit your place as well. See you there again, when I can catch my breath. I’m behind on readers to get back to. Xxxx Diana

  9. Thank YOU!! This is so very timely for me today…since I was in meditation just this afternoon asking for the Gift of Forgiveness to touch me once again. ♥ In the past I have found that THE moment I truly desire FORGIVENESS to flow through me……it genuinely does!! It defies logic…and it comes without warning. I may be in deep emotional prayer…processing very human emotions for hours, days, or months. But…the moment my entire being wishes to RELEASE the weight of blame and shame (for that experience)…Forgiveness fills my very soul!! And then…I can not even summon a bit of the anger and sadness that had filled me just moments ago. Today I am especially thankful that you’ve shared Corrie Ten Boon’s story!! I’ve been meaning to read that book…and I believe that this reminder is the answer to my prayer this afternoon. It shall assist me in putting my thoughts into perspective. Thank YOU for being the beautiful voice of Spirit today!! I am so very thankful!! ♥

    • Alania, I am so grateful you readily share your rich, profound experiences with us. A marvel:

      “the moment my entire being wishes to RELEASE the weight of blame and shame (for that experience)…Forgiveness fills my very soul!! And then…I can not even summon a bit of the anger and sadness that had filled me just moments ago.”

      This will stay with me, continue to inspire and instruct me.

      I’m excited for you! You sound like you’re about to explode LOL. For joyful relief and anticipation of all things good.

      Your light beams brightly here. Thanks dearly for the follow.

      Tty again,
      Diana

      • Ohhhhh Diana…sister souls we are!!! ♥ Thank YOU for finding me this evening. Your own luminous LIGHT has inspired me deeply!! I am in love with your writing style…your passionate verbiage…and your sweet sweet spirit!! Blessings to you dear sister!! You are BEAUTIFUL!!!

  10. Magnificent post, Diana. The only thought I would add is that sometimes one can forgive intellectually, in that we rationally acknowledge this must be done, yet we cannot do so emotionally, or at least this takes much longer to achieve.

    Perhaps our limitations in our ability to emotionally forgive and love our enemies are a measure of our own vulnerabilities to be hurt, and hence also a measure of our own inner imperfections.

    • Familiar? See my reply. =)

      “Was Alexander, who had all of Tyre put to the sword or crucified, great? Or was the humble, caring, and devoted Mother Theresa great?

      My thought, or perhaps concern, is that if we exalt works as being great, we must by definition act to encourage narcissism and thus act against a spiritual world. In terms of MMA/martial arts, in my view a necessary component of greatness is to be devoid of any desire or emotional necessity to prove ones self in conflict, even if the proving is only to ones self.” ================

      “I embrace every word you took time to share with us here. In fact, you beat me to my last post, the way I knew Id end the series even at the starting gate. After exploring the different faces of greatness, I was going to come home to the spiritual side of it. I refrain from details would not want to spoil it. =)”

  11. “Full, deep forgiveness is an achievement of consummate greatness, a triumph worthier than Olympic gold because we are not actualizing or fulfilling the self but denying it. The human heart is the bloodiest, fiercest of battlegrounds; the place of pardon where we most profoundly attain the nobility of our humanity. For, I would add, it images divine glory.”

    Your words have made me speechless and taken away my breath. I have posted your article on Facebook and am trying to email it to another. Thank you for articulating greatness.

    • You’re the second commenter to give me chills in the last minute. Thank you so very much for the beautiful feedback. Your behavioral response (FB, email, reblog) reveal something of what my words did in your heart. It really is helpful and rewarding to hear what my labor of love does out here. I absolutely appreciate the support.

      God bless you,
      Diana

  12. One of the cornerstones of my recovery, Diana, is relieving myself from the bondage of self. Or, more accurately, having the Creator relieve me of it. By not forgiving, I am holding onto something toxic and wondering why I have a sick heart. Forgiveness lightens the load on me. It’s not easy. No doubt about it, there is a certain kind of courage, if I can use that word, that comes from wrestling ego off of us and doing what is in line with Source and where / how we find freedom. My ego is the only thing stopping me from forgiving. Feeling that in some way I am justified and right takes me away from the peace that can come from the action of forgiveness. And as you mentioned, forgiveness is not an emotion. It’s an act. It’s the decision to act upon a deep desire to unshackle one self from the chains of harboured pain and resentment.

    There is a wondeful speaker who talks about the murder of his daughter. He is one of my peeps, so to speak, and he has been around recovery for some time, and taken on the world of the spirit as his new plane…as many of us do. He knew the power of forgiveness and had seen what it had done to others and himself. But when he got a call that his youngest was murdered, he talks about this power, and his experiences with it from the past. He said that when he hung up that phone, he had already forgiven the murderer (who was his ex-son in law). Doesn’t mean that we aren’t finding homes in the stables of anger, sadness, etc. but we are not tethered there. We still have to navigate through all that. And for me, forgiveness is something that was very powerful once i started to practice it.

    The most difficult person I had to forgive was myself. I had a spiritual experience in which I pulled my bike to the side of the road, sat on a park bench and just wept. I heard a voice within telling me that I was forgiven. I feel that there was a part of me talking to me, but also that of the Creator. I finally let go of all the torturous thoughts and gripping emotions that I held against myself I felt cleansed. And it was in that experience that i was able to forgive others. It is still challenging at times, but it pays big dividends.

    Thank you for this…just wonderful work as usual.

    Blessings,
    Paul

    • Paul, I’m getting chills. Of course I am deeply grateful and honored you share your transformative story with my readers and the world on my board. Just one (of several) reasons your testimony is powerful is the sTrUggLe it was for you to come out the other end, see light. I spoke of denial of self but it is really death to self. “If any man would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me….”

      I love it: takes a certain kind of courage. Because to hold the hateful grudge is easier. It feels as good as it feels and is bad for us. Would I rather be right or happy? I am not very good at this, in the flesh. Esp given the nature of my temperament.

      It’s one thing for us to be starry-eyed, enjoying the affections of our lover when all is dreamy. But the appreciation and love for that sweetheart will overshadow all else if we were to taste the sweet relief of forgiveness from adultery, to have our shame erased.

      Thanks again for your precious time and for continuing to help make A Holistic Journey what it has been blossoming into apart from my efforts.

      Diana

  13. Great insights, Diana! I definitely see the power of forgiveness and everyone involved- although I do think sometimes it can take time and that process must also be honored. Also think self-forgiveness is very important.. albeit challenging at times… but I do feel when I’m still holding on to something sometimes, It’s really me I need to forgive.

  14. My three top reasons for forgiving: 1) there is no way that I plan to go before God and name names. It’s the easy deal of forgive and you will be forgiven. 2) when examining a lesson in pain, the perpetrator of the wrong is merely a random person/a factor without which the lesson might not have been given. They are important, yet only in an impersonal way, why bother to remember them? 3) forgiving gives one power enough to travel to other realms if one knows how to leave 🙂

  15. A thought-provoking post. Forgiveness is healing – self-preservation, dignity, sanity & wholeness. It’s not always the easiest alternative, it is the healthiest. Forgiveness is a process of time and conscious effort. Ultimately, forgiveness is learning to honor one’s own life – it is love! I’ve learned to forgive out of a need to live – to gain a sense of worth & purpose beyond the replays of unpleasant memories (childhood abuse). The interesting thing, it’s not merely forgiving one offense – for me, it determining to live a life of forgiveness. Stuff happens every single day, I have learned the value of being mindful of how life impacts me. Additionally, one of my favorite reminders keeps me authentic as I live and have my being. “Behold He desires truth in the inner parts, and in the hidden parts He teaches me wisdom.” ~Psalm 51:6 The worth that I have found through forgiveness is worthy of my devotion, my evolution is contingent upon it. ~Storm

  16. It is not accidental that the word forgive has “give” in it and the Greek word for grace is the same word used for “gift.” Forgiveness truly is a gift, but you are right in saying there is a cost. But in the upside down logic of the Reign of God, what costs paradoxically also pays!

    • =) Bravo. I don’t recall if I shared I was an ivy league Classical languages minor. Even in the tangible, it is the gift that cost the giver great time, thought, energy, or money that is worth much.

      You beat me to it. I’ve been meaning to revisit but have been swamped this wk fielding responses as a guest writer on top of the ones coming in here. I will have my pleasure over your work when time allows. =)

      Thank you very much for the faithful support.

  17. You said: ‘The human heart is the bloodiest, fiercest of battlegrounds; the place of pardon where we most profoundly attain the nobility of our humanity. ‘ But of course you already know what you said…..still, worth repeating; nice cogent thought; not sure if that was the ‘grammar lady’ or the ‘artist,’ yet a veritable hue which clearly speaks to faith.

    Well played.

    jack

      • I think we were on the same page this week, only saying it in a different way (re: Love Your Enemies). Forgiveness can be difficult, yet it is what we are called to do. I have also read Corrie’s story many times. We cannot do this on our own – it takes the Spirit in us, transforming our hearts, helping us to be a willing vessel. You have shown here that you are.

  18. God forgives us, but there’s a connection between our freedom to accept that forgiveness and be healed and our willingness to make choices to forgive others. The “our father” or “prayer of Jesus” always makes me uncomfortable, when I am harboring grudges, however slight.

    God does have a sense of humor and “little” ways to call our bluff. I had a relationship of mutual dislike with a neighbor. To my delight, she moved away. I was an agnostic at the time, but a couple of years later had a conversion experience. So one day I was reading scripture and praying and suddenly remembered my neighbor. So I prayed, “Lord, I forgive X.” The doorbell rang and there stood X, whom I had not seen in four or five years. She was her usual rude self and after a short visit, I had to go back and admit that I obviously was fooling myself, though not God, about wanting to forgive her. It took some time, but finally God showed me what I had said and done at the beginning of my relationship with her that set us off on a downhill path. Then healing and forgiveness for both of us came.

    After years of anger toward my mother, one day I received the grace to let it go and experienced a new love for her. At that moment over 800 miles away, she experienced an emotional healing.
    The scriptures say, “What we forgive is forgiven.” I think most of the time we don’t realize that there is a spiritual power beyond our comprehension for healing the person we forgive. Even when we have not communicated that to them.

    As usual, you inspire memories, insights, and growth. And you do it with beauty and grace.
    Thank you once again.

  19. Hello Diana,

    I am extremely happy that you stopped by to read my blog and ‘like’ it, and I honestly say that, not because another person visited my blog, but because I found yours.

    This is truly an impressive representation of thoughts on forgiveness and what it truly means. Amongst the other things that forgiveness yields, I also believe that it makes you feel like a bigger person. But as you have mentioned, it is quite difficult to attain that state especially when you feel that there was no wrongdoing on your part. Your heart yearns for justice and you feel crushed when someone gets away with it, as you are left to suffer. Our minds love to transfer the blame onto others for whatever predicament that we are in; it is probably a form of self-protection that arises from animal instincts, only that this applies to our mind and not just the body.

    If you read my blog in full, you would know that I fell in love for the first time in my life last year. She was with me even as she was seeing someone else and I knew that itw as not going to last. Yet I journeyed with my thoughts and allowed myself to fully fall for her. When she said she loves the other person and cannot be with me anymore it crushed me. I felt defeated, cheated even. But it was all my fault. I allowed to pursue a line of thought, no matter how unrealistic it was and yet my mind chose to blame her sometimes. This is sheer stupidity. But like all things, the realization came in too late. I still love her and will do so until I pass on. If I can I will live with her in my thoughts and never let another person take her place; even remain celibate. But there were times I sought vengeful actions, to destroy her. But always slapped myself hard to even think of such a notion. If love is true, it should be unconditional.

    I hope you do not mind that I am drawing parallels to my suffering against some really deep and truly moving accounts to suffering that you and other commenters have mentioned here. Mine is probably one of the mildest of stories in this list. Yet, the pain is similar and significant at least to me.

    Again, thank you for opening up my world. I am following your blog now and will continue to read and comment every opportunity I get.

    God bless you.
    To happiness and peace,
    BP

    • Stunning testimony. Deeply grateful you took the time to share, BP.

      “ever let another person take her place; even remain celibate”
      Omg. You are given one life this side of heaven. Every thought and resolve and affection have repercussions. It is not fair to the woman you will end up with for you to hold onto this girl as you do in your heart. What does it mean to love? To free the other. You really need to free yourself in the process.

      You give me some things to mull over for an upcoming post.
      Welcome to this special community. I am so blessed you would share in it. Amazing what words do.

      Warmly,
      Diana

      • Hello Diana,

        Precisely the point I wish to stay single and remain celibate. To say it would be unfair to the woman who will end up with me, is to put it very very mildly. I do not intend to do that.

        On the other hand, I do wish to be loved, in fact consumed by the love a woman has for me. I am not sure if that would happen and I do not have my hopes held high. For now, I wish to focus on mundane material things like work, success in everything I do etc. in the hopes that it will take my mind away from her. But then, even when I win, it seems so meaningless. I guess it is all in our own mind. Admission is very important. I am fighting it with all my might though.

        Regards,
        BP

      • BP ~

        I have yet find a wiser supplication than the classic serenity prayer. The original:

        God, give me grace to accept with serenitythe things that cannot be changed,Courage to change the thingswhich should be changed,and the Wisdom to distinguishthe one from the other.

        (nowadays it reads and the wisdom to know the difference). You can’t just exist, drowning yourself in the mundane. I well know what that’s like, burying grief in activity. You don’t heal. You have to come to the place of acceptance. She was not yours to hold onto. The fact that you long to be loved (“again”) reveals you want the genuine affections and sweetness of a meaningful relationship. She didn’t give you that. You can have something deeper and more real with someone who won’t play around.

      • Dear Diana,

        Thank you so much for this. I will try to live by this. But my feelings are complicated. I will write to you about it sometime. I unfortunately am quite aware of my shortfalls yet find it extremely hard to swallow it. I pray to God I obtain this understanding.

        But people like you make the world a better place. I sincerely pray to God that he keeps you and all your loved ones always happy.

        Love,
        BP

  20. The older I get, the less emotional baggage I want to carry with me, so at this point in life I have learned to pick my battles carefully and release those I realize I no longer want to own. I have learned that some “injustices” need to be let go of because holding on to them is simply doing me harm physically and emotionally. I value my own well-being more. It has also helped me to remember that to forgive does not mean you have to forget.

    In addition, the realitization that the “injustice” says more about the perpetrator than about me, has helped me to move on. Do I really want to “sink” to their level? Neither am I so quick now to “perceive” an injustice and attribute intention to another. I don’t really know what is going on in their head…perhaps it’s just my perception and they never intended it the way I took it.

    I trust in my belief that God (the universe) is ultimately fair so why would I waste my time plotting some type of revenge? It will be dealt with in its own time and place by God. I am happier to live peacefully by focusing on the positives in life. Sometimes, all this is not so easy to do, but I do try to give it my best shot.

    • I resonate with everything you’ve said, Shirley. I have said, “I’d rather be the victim than be in his shoes right now.” I would hate to be that person. And what you said about refraining judgmt bc we simply don’t know the whole story is a post heading your way.

      Xxxx

  21. It’s a very long time since I read Corrie Ten Boom’s story, a beautifully told one indeed, and it does illustrate so fittingly your present discourse. It’s amazing how much of our own sense of justice and injustice is internally driven and how easily we move away from knowing that we can choose to take the power and the sense of justice back not by meting it out upon the “guilty” or the offender but only by letting go of our wish (not need, truth be told) to be proven right or for those who offend us to be punished as we see fit. Barring grand intervention, we can’t be expected to *forget* wrongs, but if we *forgive* them and work to let them become separated from the anger, fear and hate that will only feed them, then there’s a hope that we don’t simply mirror the wrong.

    For it’s plain that the legal authorities and laws can fail to satisfy everyone’s sense of justice, or even sometimes to solve an ongoing injustice, but the only sure outcome of vigilantism or revenge is that the person enacting it perpetuates and expands the impact of the original evil and loses the moral high ground him/herself, no matter how expertly he/she works to rationalize the act. To say that Christ absolved anyone from responsibility to human laws is of course a huge stretch, one that ignores the ‘render unto Caesar’ teachings and those pesky Commandments with great abandon at best; yes, God is the final arbiter and judge, but we are expected to live in *human* community according to its demands until we get to that particular seat of judgement. So it’s incumbent on any of us who wish to live justly that we make the supreme effort required to genuinely forgive, and only then will we find real peace. Hard to accomplish, perhaps, at times. Easier to live with than the alternatives, always.

    Peace and joy to you, and thanks again for your thoughtful, inspiring posts.
    xo
    Kathryn

    • Kathryn,

      If there were a Hall of Fame for commenters here, it would be really hard to define bc the majority of my readers would fill it, but consider yourself a member. My goodness. I loved every bit of your insightful input.

      “(wish…not need, truth be told) to be proven right”

      “but if we *forgive* them and work to let them become separated from the anger, fear and hate that will only feed them, then there’s a hope….better than the alternative…”

      I really can’t add to your thoughts.

      Thanks a bunch. Readers like you have helped A Holistic Journey become what it is. You fit right in. How dya know?

      =)

      Diana

  22. Forgiveness is more easily said than done, and in truth, requires a type of suffering to accomplish.

    I sat in a therapist’s office yesterday and he asked me what I hoped to accomplish through my visits in the future. This was after sharing that the primary reason I was there is because my marriage of 31 years is ending.

    My response was, after thinking for a few moments,

    “I want to move ahead in this new phase of my life without bitterness or resentment- towards Terry or myself. I want to forgive.”

    Both have to happen. Sometimes I believe the reason why we don’t let others off the hook is because we haven’t forgiven ourselves. I know both must happen for healing to occur.

    Like Corrie, the best I can hope for is that God will give me the grace to extend my hand, even as my heart is breaking.

  23. As so many of your respondents have said, forgiveness is hard work. I guess it sounds like tooting my own horn, but I know my books help. “Forgiving One Page at a Time,” and “When to Forgive.” Written from my point of view as a practicing therapist they serve as guides to one’s own process. They are not “How to” books, and they don’t argue that one must forgive. What they do provide is a guide to resolving your own issues. They can be found on amazon.com. (I can’t access amazon while I’m utilizing the web to write this, so I’ll come back with another entry to provide the link.)

  24. Diana, Love and forgiveness always work better than hate and retribution! In 1986 my wife and I became pregnant , 5 years prior we lost a young son due to the problems with his early arrival being severely premature. They told us why, and explained a cerclage in the future would keep the next baby up within. It was tough but no one knew beforehand. Hard to deal with then. But in 1986, I was out of the military but my wife was still in. When she became pregnant there was a constant battle with the military, and at this base hospital, they had civilian doctors who would work there from one of the neighboring large hospitals in the area. We told them time and time again that we needed a cerclage because my wife had a weak cervix, they would test it continuously and said it was fine, but every book we read said that if it happens one time that any baby’s you would attempt to have will start to come down at the same time when they would reach a certain weight. Much assurances were given and though we kept complaining all seemed to be going fine, until the 18 week again, when the baby started coming her cervix when they called me was wide enough to see our baby top of his head. They told us the baby was going to die and I asked the doctor to leave the room and I told my wife to believe that the same God who opened up the red sea for moses is still alive and well and he would close the cervix. By time she got to the civilian hospital the cervix had close to less than the size of a quarter. So they stitched it close. Wifey stay in the hospital untll week 24, when she started to abort again and so Ian was born at 620 grams. He lived for almost 9 months and passed in May 1987 on mothers day. My wife wanted to kill Dr Massup, and I was building up a dislike for her. But I prayed about it, and gave it to God, but why? As I prayed in my mind came a vision of the two that hung on crosses beside Jesus, one taunted him and the other spoke up recognizing that Jesus was pure and had not sinned. He felt His spiritual Holiness and told the other one to stop, and asked the lord to allow him to be with him in his kingdom, repentence and belief that Jesus was who he said he was. And what was the answer to this act of contrition. The Lord replied to him, today you will be with me in heaven. That took always anything that was beginning to fester within me, the forgivness and love the Lord showed to that one who was under the sentence of worldly death, and he who lives eternally embrace him with his love during his last moments of life. So we forgave, and even though it is still hard for my wife she has moved on. I forgave and and moved on. Blood did not demand a spilling of blood, but an outpouring of mercy. Because of my nature it was much easier for me to forgive. My belief that God would always heal saddened hearts, and make a way. Take it from me it takes less energy to forgive, and blessings come with that act, then it takes to hate, for it will tear you down within. Have a wonderful week ahead my sister, and may God bless you and your family.

    • Wendell, I am robbed of words. I don’t feel qualified to reply except to let you know I remain indebted for what you shared and see the power, wisdom, and authority you speak with came at a very great cost. As a woman who has known a special grief along the lines you draw – though nowhere near the depth of trauma you and your wife experienced – I feel deeply for you and am thankful for your example of forgiveness. I’m not sure you saw this. Unless you think it will rewound your wife, maybe you would share it with her:

      https://holisticwayfarer.com/2013/07/04/bereft-poetry-reborn/

      A million thanks for blessing us. I am grateful to know you better.

      • Thanks for this series. Obviously it is a very important topic that hits lots of people where they live — and wish to live. And you have presented it with such grace.

        I do so appreciate the opportunity you’ve offered me to post the names of my forgiveness books here. People have found them helpful – even freeing. “When to Forgive” and “Forgiving One Page at a Time.” The latter is a kind of diary to guide one through making a decision about whether and how to forgive. “When to Forgive” is longer, more “bookish.” Neither tells the reader what to do. Both serve as guides to making one’s own choices within your own moral climate. They are available on amazon.com and other sources, including me.

    • I said to Rivera, one of the first to comment:

      I hear you. But we don’t want to take God for granted. And He Himself has said that He will “remember [y]our sins no more.” Take someone with a stinking good memory, like me, and you have some serious challenges. But I am reminded that my God’s memory is keener than any, and He chooses not to hold me up against it.

    • Indeed, it would be a shame to forget. To begin with, striving to forget is like striving to deny a piece of one’s experience — not a healthy thing to do. And all that had been learned in the forgiveness process would be without gain if not available when it’s called for in the future. Besides all that, if it was big enough to need forgiveness, it was too big to forget — It just won’t happen. True, we will at least sometimes remember it all. And we may remember the emotion. What is gone is the devastation that led to our forgiving.

  25. Very well said, Wayfarer! Personally, I try to call on Jesus every chance I get. He says that those who keep their minds set on Him, He will keep in perfect peace. There are definitely times when I’m so shaken up and I feel so wronged, God is the only one who can help me forgive. He’s a refuge, “a strong tower,” always willing to help, no matter what. “To err is human, but to forgive is divine.”

  26. I think that, when abused, we suffer a loss of self worth. Righteous anger, or what we think of as righteous, defends us against that sense of loss. Our only escape is pity for the diminished state of the perpetrator.

    Just the same I think, our mental health requires that we follow the cycle of anger first and then restoration of self worth and then pity and then our own healing. After all we have human minds and must deal with them.

    It is an interesting post and inspires thought. 🙂

    • Very well elaborated.

      “when abused, we suffer a loss of self worth.”
      Well, if we really lost it we might not muster up the drudgers of anger that is righteous. At least the abuse does threaten our sense of worth.

      “Our only escape is pity for the diminished state of the perpetrator. ” Wonderful, though I wouldn’t say only.

      Absolutely, we need to travel the rough way of healing. I wasn’t saying Christians are urged to forgive blindly. In Part 3 of the Race that’s on, I said:

      “Christians often give pat answers. In this discussion, some would say their identity as a child of God is the source of all assurance and self-definition. God indeed has been my deepest anchor but to say He is all that matters in contexts like ours bores me. Faith doesn’t nullify the importance of ethnicity, upbringing, or the many factors that shape us. It so happens that biologically I am a Korean daughter of God. As such I can learn from others outside my race. Thinking in platitudes doesn’t do justice to the richness of God’s designs. It is my God who gives meaning to all aspects of my life. He cares to redeem them, make them all beautiful.”

  27. I am delighted that you included Corrie Ten Boom’s story “The Hiding Place” in this beautiful post. I read that book many years ago and it touched me deeply. I always remember the story of the guard when I need to forgive the little offences that people commit from time to time. So easy to rise up in righteous indignation and much harder to say I forgive you my brother, my sister, with all my heart” Amazing how those words she willed herself to say brought the genuine healing into her heart. Christ did bring that concept of forgiveness to us! I also love the Dalai Lama who says Compassion is his faith!! Beautiful post!!

  28. very well written…and so true…forgiveness is so difficult but even more difficult to live the burden of vengeance in oneself…Corrie’s story speaks volumes about the power that lies within us…and about the self satisfaction and relief that forgiveness brings….

  29. You are dealing with an issue which is so easy and yet so hard to do. Saying “I forgive you” is a simple thing to do, but in our humanity its impossible without the transposed spirit Christianity suggests. We do feel the slights, political assassination and physical or mental harm done intensely. I carried a smouldering anger with me for years until I finally convinced myself I was hurting myself rather than those who’d harmed me by hosting anger. They didn’t care how I felt and my anger didn’t hurt them.. So I turned my anger off and let it go which in essence is forgiveness. I can remember an illustration given me when I was going through my anger spell. Someone pointed to a wound on their leg. They said see this? The wound is still visible but it doesn’t hurt any more. I thought it insensitive at the time, but it’s true.

    • Hey, thanks for sharing of your difficult but liberating journey, Ian. Honesty, am (pleasantly) surprised to hear this from you, as you seem to have it so together, seem to keep on the side of virtue more easily than the rest of us. Ok, I’ve been under it (as you could see from the posts I have not been able to put out). Add sleep deprivation to the running around like a madwoman with the fall homeschool cycle in full swing, and I need some hand-holding here: he was saying that it was time for you to quit keeping your wound hurting bc it was an old injury?

      • No he was pointing to a wound on his own leg and it was an illustration of the fact that while the pain of a wound eventually does go and only the visible wound remains, in the same way the mental wounds we suffer hurt for some time but eventually that hurt diminishes and the memories of that hurt are bearable and eventually we forget them. It was a good illustration he gave.

  30. Forgiveness is the hardest and most courageous thing to do. But it teaches us to wisen up and it clarifies the path ahead, so we will not continue in foolish acts that hurts us, but will walk in the wisdom God intended for us.

  31. One of my favorite (“fake Buddha”) quotes of all time is “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”. I believe hate is the same. However, I do not know if I would have the capacity for forgiveness if I had been in that lovely woman’s shoes.

    • I appreciate your being real. I came across that awesome quote not long ago on a blog. Powerful. How we hurt ourself! But I suspect many of us would gladly go on with the self-injury just to be able to inflict vengeance. Sigh. People.

      • True enough. But if you can’t see past the hurt within yourself, it is difficult to not lash out at the “perceived” inflictor of your pain. Takes some of us longer to learn that one than others. ;o)

      • You put your finger on the dynamite that sets off a lot of relationships. Perception. I loved a remark from a reader: when something goes wrong in a relationship, it’s often because “my perception of myself didn’t line up with her perception of me.” May not directly apply to what you had in mind but I was reminded of it. Perception is not always reality, is what you’re saying. I talk about this here: Get Over Your Bad Self

        https://holisticwayfarer.com/2014/02/03/get-over-your-bad-self-its-not-about-you/

        No obligation to respond. I appreciate your being here. =)

        Diana

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