When Everthing Around You Says Shoot!
Like you possibly, in years past, my many efforts to forgive have left me submerged in frustration, failure, and, too often, I’ve been weighed down by more of the same, resentment. Last night I heard a fella on the radio named Chip say that there are three stages to forgiveness: the choice, the process and the ending. According to Chip’s definition, at any given moment we can think of various areas in life where we’re in one of those three different stages. (we'll touch on those three later).
I can’t think of a more deadly weapon in people's lives than not forgiving. “More destruction has been done from unforgiveness than all the wrongdoing that created the conditions for it” (a). I like to think that the act that creates the need for forgiveness is the bomb. And unforgiveness is the desolating aftermath. Forgiveness, on the other hand, I believe, is no weapon at all. Rather, it’s an act (albeit an “achingly difficult, unnatural [one]”) of unloading all weapons (b). A ceasefire of sorts.
After 39 years posted on this planet, I’ve finally realized that if I wait for the waves of forgiveness to wash over me like say happiness, excitement or grief can, I will certainly die having not enjoyed so many and so much blessing in life. June Hunt, author of How to Forgive...When You Don’t Feel Like It, says “forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a decision, an act of the will.” Brings me back to my deciding days of breaking free from alcoholism or cigarette smoking...an act (many acts) of the will, to be sure. A big, juicy steak of decision wrapped by God himself marinated with the sauce of support, understanding. and hope from others. A decision born out of dissatisfaction, followed through on with action.
When you choose not to forgive, you load the gun of resentment, point it at your supposed assailant, and instead of shooting them, you drop the gun and shoot yourself square in the foot. Alternatively, when you choose to forgive, with one hand you grab the gun out of the other and throw it into the fire of change. (Please don't picture it exploding here).
Freedom requires an unloading of the backfiring gun of resentment. It demands the radical. June says “forgiveness is dropping stones when the world says to throw them” (c). We have been forgiven; therefore, we forgive. Simple enough equation, a different story altogether when it comes to its execution. Forgiveness is turning the bomber plane armed with bombs of anger and scud missiles of resentment, and heading back for the base. A disarming of all weapons; it’s packing your bags and going home to take a nap instead when the world and your circumstances are shouting at you that “you have every right to attack!”
Mahatma Gandhi says “the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Couldn’t agree more. However, there are some grievances that are simply too harsh, too cruel, too difficult to forgive...regardless of strength. As a therapist, this I know. Contrary to popular belief, I’m certain, however, I tend to see this (wrongs too difficult to forgive) as evidence of God’s grace and mercy to a world strung-out on revenge. As the cursed ground (Genesis 3:17) motivates us to look up, God allowing harshness that is beyond our capacity to handle (forgive) on this earth is (all other things being equal) like God setting trotlines in the clouds that ensure we keep biting on the bait of His power. The only source strong enough to shoulder such crushing circumstances.
So next time someone wrongs you, ask yourself will harboring resentment do more harm than good? I’m certain shooting people will get things done (my grandfather shot my grandmother in front of their children). He surely accomplished something. But the aftermath of having dealt with whatever grievance he felt it necessary to deal with, has left a tsunami of pain that has torn through the generations. The lesson: count the true cost of loading the gun before reaching for the bullets (Luke 14:28).
(While the author is a licensed professional counselor, this is not an attempt to provide therapy or any other form of professional treatment, not even a bit. The writings are merely the author’s experiences on overcoming anxiety, depression, and on life and therapy in general. And in no way are they an effort to provide counseling or any other professional services. If you need professional help, by golly, seek it out...you and your family deserve it!)
Sittser, p. 136.
Sittser, p. 84.
Hunt, P. 35