There is a serious sickness that’s poisoning our marriages, our families, our selves. It’s called unforgiveness.
Why is it so volatile? Because it’s the repository of all sorts of strong, negative emotions. Hurt. Anger. Bitterness. Revenge. Hatred.
Yet for some reason we’ve come to comfort ourselves with letting it into our lives, like some kind of non-paying houseguest. The role models of the world – the actors and politicians and businessmen and pop stars – they all seem to deal with it just fine. Heck, some even revel in their resentment half the time, teaching a whole new generation to stay firmly focused on the only thing that they say matters in this world: you.
But it’s not true.
Comfy, Chewy Centers
You are not the most important part of your relationships. Your all-consuming comfort? Your central happiness at all costs? Your obsessive longing for supreme satisfaction with all things, at all times? Not the primary plot point of your life’s story. At least, not if you want to live a life worth living.
Life is about people. Other people. It’s about engaging in and maintaining relationships. Period. Whether it’s your parents, your in-laws, your brothers or sisters, your friends or strangers, your employer or employees or your children or your spouse, the degree of your success in life is going to largely be gauged by how well you learn to play nicely with others.
And that means forgiving.
Forgiveness vs. The Future
Your ability to forgive is the key to your happiness in life. Forgiving when it’s deserved. Forgiving when it’s not. Forgiving when you’re hurt through a misunderstanding, or when it was done with sheer malice in mind. Forgiving when you’ve been beaten down physically, emotionally or mentally. Forgiving when you’ve been forgotten, or ignored, or insulted. No matter what anyone does to you in this life to upset or hurt you, the only way you’re going to heal… is to forgive.
Because when you choose not to forgive? You’re poisoning yourself. It’s a slow death, to be sure. Almost imperceptible. But it’s there, the aching wound inside you, and it will continue to fester just underneath your skin. You may think you’ve risen above or moved beyond the pain, but unless you actively extend an olive branch of peace? You’re only kidding yourself.
Here’s the kicker: Whatever you decide to do with your bitterness today will determine your happiness tomorrow. Your choice to nurture your unforgiveness will establish a habit in your life, so the next time someone offends you? Hurts you? Wounds you deeply? You’ll already know what to do, because it’ll come naturally to you.
You’ll choose not to forgive.
But the same is true if you choose to go down the wiser, more difficult road of forgiveness. The more you forgive those who offend you? The easier it becomes. Whether you’re forgiving a minor offense or the Mother of All Offenses, your deliberate decision to forgive the people in your life will have a dramatic and lasting impact on your life in the future.
Your comfort. Your happiness. Your satisfaction with all things.
The Now and Laters of Life
Walking through the temporary pain and discomfort now leads to lasting comfort later. Giving up your personal need for justification and retribution today will directly affect your personal peace tomorrow.
The seeds you’re planting deep in your heart today, regardless of whether they’re sour or sweet, will eventually explode into a harvest in your life. Roses or thorns, the choice can only be made by you.
What astounds me is the number of couples who think they can pursue a close, intimate relationship with God while they actively resent their spouses inside. It just doesn’t work that way. It can’t. Mark 11:25 makes this perfectly clear.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Catch that? Did you fully grasp what that’s saying? Your willful decision to not forgive is the same as a willful decision to sin. Jesus Himself explained that your hating your brother is the same as murdering him. Murdering him. So why in the world do you think a holy God is going to listen to and honor your heartfelt prayers when your heart is so full of hate?
Forgiveness Is A Choice
So let me underscore this message once again, because I think it’s the key to every relationship you’ve had, are currently in or will ever have in the future:
People are going to hurt you. Accidentally. Blatantly. Badly. Often.
Your choice to give in to bitterness will be immediately gratifying, and will have lasting, miserable results.
Your choice to forgive (even when forgiveness is undeserved) will have eternal, satisfying rewards.
You are the only one who can make this choice.
And it is a choice. Not a feeling or a notion or emotion.