I was listening to a radio interview with Rosie Batty, the 2015 Australian of the Year. In that interview she explains that she has forgiven her ex-partner for killing their son, and she says this:
“Forgiving is not forgetting and it’s not condoning. It’s about saying what happened cannot consume me.”
This is a striking statement.
I confess that I have struggled to forgive far less. Things I dare not mention because they would make me seem ridiculously petty in the light of Rosie Batty’s act of forgiveness.
I often meet with people and hear the stories of people who have suffered great injustices. Awful acts of emotional or physical violence. Betrayal. Wrongful accusation. Actions that lead to deep hurt and are often inflicted by people who we believe should know better. People in positions and relationships of trust.
It can be difficult to even consider, let alone talk about, forgiveness in these situations.
How do you begin to forgive something or someone that has caused irreparable damage?
How do you begin to forgive someone that has taken a life or stolen innocence? How do you begin to forgive the loss of something that can’t be replaced or returned?
Whether we refuse, or feel as though we are unable, to forgive the only alternative is unforgiveness. Unforgiveness though, can cause greater pain.
By withholding forgiveness we can feel as though we have the upper hand or regain some control. However, unforgiveness leads to bitterness and vengeance and becomes a vicious cycle. Unforgiveness continues to rob the victim over and over and over again.
Jesus has a fair bit to say on the issue and most of it is radical.
He says love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for them.
Whilst suffering a horrific death on the cross, He says – “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
I kind of think they did know what they were doing. They didn’t understand who Jesus was – but you have to think they weren’t completely ignorant of the murder and execution of an innocent man. Which makes the injustice even harder to forgive.
But this is the counter-culture of the kingdom of God. And we can be fooled into thinking that this is the way of the pathetic and the powerless. We can be fooled into thinking that we are somehow justifying the act or failing to enact justice if we forgive.
But there is a far greater power in forgiveness than unforgiveness.
Forgiveness releases the betrayed as much as the betrayer.
Forgiveness places the power back in the hands of the forgiver.
Forgiveness not only prevents you from being consumed by the act or the perpetrator or the loss, it allows you to move forward into wholeness and vitality.
Forgiveness restores life.
Love forgives. And we can underestimate the profound power of forgiveness for our own and other peoples lives.
Is unforgiveness robbing your life?
Who and what do you need to forgive such that you can embrace life in all its fullness again?
I pray that you would discover the healing that comes from forgiveness – whichever side of the ledger you find yourself on.