June 12th, 2014

Forgiving someone for hurting you mentally or physically is not easy. Forgiving someone for hurting you mentally or physically is an essential part of health and healing in mind/body/spirit.

Forgiveness is a very difficult concept to understand and accept. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray to God to forgive us as we forgive others—ouch.

An old adage my mother taught me is, “Carrying a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Think about it! My mother was wise in many ways. The person who hurt you has moved on; may not (at times) be aware of what they have done, or they really don’t think about you anymore. But, every time you visit that hurt, you are doing damage to yourself.

Let me explain—there is a mind/body connection that cannot be severed. So when you continue to think negative thoughts or carry that grudge (in your mind) your body produces a chemical called cortisol. This chemical is nasty and can cause a variety of problems.

In preparing for this post some of the research I did was to take a “forgiveness quiz” on the site of the Amish School Shooting website. As I considered each of the questions, my thought was, “it all depend.” My conclusion is that my level of forgiving depends on the circumstances. My guess is that is a basic truth for most of us. To forgive someone for cutting in front of me to get a parking space is one thing. I am annoyed for a minute and then move on. To forgive someone for harming my child (or grandchild) is something else entirely. I KNOW this is not what it is supposed to be. I KNOW that carrying that anger, no matter what the circumstance, would still be damaging to my body and my spirit. I KNOW this.

Can I live that knowledge? I truly don’t know.

Forgiving is different than forgetting. You may never forget the wrong (real or perceived), but you have the ability/the choice to forgive. It is a blessing. It is hard to do. It may take a long time. My biggest need to forgive is nearly eleven years old. It took a few years to not reflect on the event with anger over the immorality and illegality of it. I did forgive the person responsible. My forgiveness changed nothing outwardly. It still happened. It still hurt. But, it no longer has a hold on me. Shortly after this incident occurred, a very wise personal coach asked if I respected the person. My emphatic answer was, “No.” She then said something similar to my mother’s wisdom— 

“Let go, you are hurting yourself over someone you do not respect. You are not hurting this person, you are only hurting yourself.”

Amen and Amen. For five years I co-taught a class called “Managing Change and Conflict” at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Part of the last session of each course was led by Tony who came to us from the Samaritan Counseling Center. Tony showed a video of a teacher in the Bronx who had his class outside for recess and was attacked with a baseball bat by a teen strung out on drugs. The teacher lost an eye, the use of one arm, and was hospitalized for months with internal injuries. Upon leaving the hospital, he went to visit the teen in prison, much to the fear and dismay of family and friends. He forgave the teen and established a relationship with him. When the teen was released from prison, he and the teacher teamed up to speak at schools and prisons about the dangers and devastation of drugs. I saw the video about ten times and got teary each time at the power of forgiveness. I pray that I will never face a situation as traumatic as that, but if I ever have to, I pray that I would have the strength and faith to forgive.

Thinking ministry

The concept of “forgiveness” is mentioned many times in both the Hebrew (OT) and the Christian Testament (NT). Think of a passage that you can recall or visit a Bible concordance that addresses the concept of forgiveness and think and pray on how that scripture speaks to you. You will be healthier in mind/body/spirit when you can forgive.

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