I'm sure you have all heard the old saying, "To err is human; to forgive, divine," by Alexander Pope. Basically, this phrase means we all make mistakes, so we should also be willing to forgive others. I believe this to be true, of course. However, in all honesty, I can admit that forgiving others is not my strong suit. I'm working on it, but I still have a long way to go.
I've been thinking about this phrase over the last few weeks. I know I am supposed to forgive others, but sometimes I forget. I know what you are thinking. Yes, I work in ministry, so I should know better. I'll let you in on a little secret: ministers are just like everybody else. We are all a work in progress. We all make mistakes. I, too, am prone to holding grudges for a little while.
Now, as to why I'm writing this post. A few months ago, I tried to help a family member out with a money problem--major red flag. Anyway, I tried to help her out, but things went wrong very quickly once greed came into play. Needless to say, I did my best to see things through, but at great personal cost. Not only did she try to rip me off, but when that didn't work, she resorted to insulting me and making slanderous comments about me and anyone who was not on her side. I got angry, very angry, angry in a way that I did not think I could get anymore, which was scary.
I felt the best course of action was to not talk to this person any longer. Our business concluded, and I felt much better not having to talk to this person. Unfortunately, you can't avoid people forever. Two weeks ago, I had to attend a family party with this person. She did not talk to anyone, and no one made any effort to talk to her. I thought this would make me feel better, but I actually felt worse, so I went ahead and talked to her. I chose to forgive and move on, and you know what, it made me feel a whole lot better. I felt free; in fact, I still feel free: free of negativity, free of the burden of holding a grudge, and free of anger.
When I work in ministry, I often have to remind people about forgiveness. We have been forgiven; therefore, we must learn to forgive others. In most cases, the major issue people have with forgiving others is that they believe they have a right to hold on to their anger, resentment, and/or hatred of the person who wronged them. The problem is that holding on to those negative feelings often does more harm to the person holding on to them than the person those feelings are directed toward. Hanging on to negativity like that will eventually take their toll on a person. If you can forgive others, then you can let go of all that negativity. In this way, you are free; free of the burden of carrying around all that negativity.
I think we tend to get too caught up in thinking that forgiveness only benefits the other person in some way. A lot of people worry that if we forgive someone who wronged us, then it's like we are saying it's okay for people to treat us that way. This is not true at all. It really does takes a bigger person to forgive. The bigger person is the one that understands that forgiving the person who wronged them is way better than having to carry around all of that negative baggage. A person who can forgive others truly experiences the divine nature of forgiveness because a person who can forgive knows what it really means to be free.