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Forgiving Is For Living

Updated on December 3, 2011

Thinking of forgiving?

The need to forgive places its heaviest burden on the person who has yet  to forgive another person or group of people
The need to forgive places its heaviest burden on the person who has yet to forgive another person or group of people | Source

Who benefits when someone truly forgives, and the forgiveness is accepted?

A youth was cruelly assaulted with a cat-o'-nine-tails by his drunken father and woke in a pool of his own blood. He did what anyone might do, he left home and for years upheld his pledge to himself, to never speak to his father again.

As a grown man, there remained scars on his back which were deep enough that you could put the blade of your hand into them. If he didn't actually hate his father for what his father had done, his hostile feelings toward his father nonetheless ran deep and strong.

Despite significant success in the rest of his life, he reached his middle adult years in deteriorating health which doctors and all their tests did not satisfactorily diagnose. He was dying.

A friend he respected was called to his bedside for a last goodbye, and the result of their meeting was a return to vibrant health, and a return to his former professional productivity, in fact to leading in his Fortune 500 company's national sales.

What happened to turn things around? Forgiveness happened.

The friend he respected had guessed at his undiagnosed illness, had guessed at what was literally "eating" this man alive, and had asked him if there was anyone he needed to forgive.

The sick man, whose wife was in the other room preparing his burial clothes, showed his visitor his scars and recounted his lifelong hurt and resentment of his father. By inspiration his respected friend asked, "Do you know where your father is now?" Then told the sick man to verify a current address for his father and go to meet the father several states away and forgive him. He was not to go there to elicit his father's apology.

Incredulous, but willing to try anything within his own ability to restore his health, the man and his wife drove to the father's address. The man approached the door with good intent, knocked, and (after introducing himself as the man's son) was greeted gruffly with, "Well, what do YOU want!" He told his father that he had simply come with love to honestly forgive him. The old man's stern facade crumbled and they embraced in a sincere, mutual embrace that put their mutual bitterness behind them in the days that followed.

Truly, forgiving is for living.

Who pays the price for such bitterness and its consequences? In that particular case, both the father and the son (and, in all probability everyone around them.)

Forgiving others is so central to deep religious beliefs, that it is in The Lord's Prayer as taught to his disciples by Jesus. In another teaching moment, Christ taught that those who cannot forgive, will not be forgiven. Christians easily recall that Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother's sins against Peter "seventy times seven" times.

In the teachings of the Buddha forgiveness is not expressed only in one's need to somehow deal with the presumed perpetrator, but rather the need to deal with oneself to free oneself from the feelings within, which are an obstacle to progress and the ultimate goal of personal perfection.

In the Muslim teachings the Muslim transgressor transgresses out of ignorance of the will of God and is to be forgiven and pitied for their ignorance and imperfection.

How do you get forgiven? How do the offended and the offender benefit? Are there events and circumstances which are never forgivable? Is the most difficult forgiveness the forgiveness you struggle to give yourself? Do you find it easier to forgive your own children than to forgive the neighbor's children?

Americans are notable for their forgiveness of former enemies such as Japan and Germany, while finding it difficult to forgive an undefeated Castro's Cuba. Understanding that difference is something well-explored, but as yet unresolved. Alcoholics Anonymous finds a place for forgiveness in that program.

Religions, as mentioned before, place importance on forgiveness. It is considered essential in repentance, the need for forgiveness is central in the confessional, and, if failing to forgive is a free ticket to hell, forgiving is indeed a key to living. Keeping track of the 490 times to forgive his brother probably did not bother Peter, he seemed to understand after Christ apparently forgave him three times, or more.

Some of us seem to think that "God is not big enough to forgive me." And, even accepting forgiveness is not always as immediate and as complete as it was in lives of the cruel, drunken father and his abused son.

If the person seeking to forgive another is rebuffed, he is likely to find it more difficult to forgive someone else in the future, and especially difficult to complete the forgiveness he had attempted.

That suggests the following question: when is forgiveness complete?

We might feel we have truly forgiven someone, but does the memory of the original event persist, and even bother the forgiver and the forgiven? When indeed is the forgiveness complete?

Can friendship prevail in the face of something that calls for forgiveness? Much of marriage counseling is centered on forgiveness. Forgiveness in the work place is seemingly fraught with its own unusual difficulties.

I wish I could suggest an infallible plan for forgiving and accepting forgiveness, but in all likelihood it has to be uniquely individual in order to be sincere.

Is there someone you and I need to forgive? Let's just do it....whatever it takes.

© This work is licensed under a Creative Comments Attribution-No Derivs 3.0 United States License

And what about asking for forgiveness?

How likely is forgiveness to be a part of the week ahead?

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    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 6 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Very true Au fait. Thanks for the extended comment.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 6 years ago from North Texas

      I have long said that forgiveness benefits the forgiver far more than the forgiven. Often one holds a grudge against someone who never gives a thought to the grudge holder. While the grudge holder seethes and holds on to their anger, the person they believe wronged then goes blithely about their life without so much as a thought for the grudge holder. Let go of the grudge and the anger. It only lowers your immune system's ability to work for your good. Forget the past. It's set in stone and will not change. Do not let the past taint the future.

      Excellent hug, voted UP and useful. Thanks for SHARING!

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 6 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      All good comments, but I hasten to add that we can, and will be forgiven as long as any needed repentance and restoration (undoing) is also attended to when needed.

    • profile image

      PenMePretty 6 years ago from Franklin


    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      Forgiveness is extremely important for all concerned but most importantly for the forgiver. Jesus forgives all of our sins, no questions asked. Should we not be willing to do the same for our fellow man.

    • profile image

      PenMePretty 6 years ago from Franklin

      Voted up and useful. Really great article. I will forgive you. Will you forgive me? Hope to answer your e-mail soon. :-) We wouldn't know to forgive if we weren't taught.

      Jesus won't ask us to do anything impossible. You are right: "Forgiving is living."

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 6 years ago from Jamaica

      If you want to be forgiven, you have to forgive and forget first.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 6 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Kat and Pat, good comments. Thanks.

    • YogaKat profile image

      YogaKat 6 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

      Forgiveness frees you from your negative mind set. We can't be reminded of that often enough. Thanks for reminding me.