As a staff nurse I saw so many people – in and out of hospital – who are not content: they dwell on past hurts or their own failings, and often blame others for the lack of richness in their lives. I spent time doing a literature search of Forgiveness Therapy.
I wrote this article a few years ago when I was still working as a staff nurse on a busy acute admissions ward at our local mental health unit on the edge of the New Forest, Hampshire, UK
There’s healing power in having an attitude of thankfulness and a forgiving spirit. They can enrich our lives and bring inner peace.
It’s good to count our blessings; all those good things in our lives — both big and small. Bob Gass listed some in a recent Word for Today.
‘The alarm rings and we groan that it’s time to get up. Be thankful. We can hear; some are deaf. We shut our eyes to the morning light. Be thankful; some are blind. It’s an effort to get up; we feel stiff and tired. Be thankful; some are bed-ridden. Our jobs may be boring and our efforts unappreciated. Be thankful; some are unemployed.’ (my paraphrase)
You may not be blind, deaf, bed-ridden and unemployed — but you get the picture. We can all think of someone worse off than ourselves and be thankful for what we do have.
My Pastor, Tim, spoke about thankfulness recently. He told us about a married person whose spouse was only 80% perfect. So they had an affair with someone who could supply the other 20%. Too late they realised that they had settled for 20% instead of the 80% they had had. What a sad place to be in.
Be thankful, and be forgiving.
Doctors were asked which emotions cause the most physical illness. They named anger and unforgiveness. Over time, these emotions release deadly toxins into our bodies.
But forgiveness is difficult and many say that they cannot forgive – they can’t forgive because they don’t understand what forgiveness is, and what it is not.
Firstly, forgiveness is not forgetting. The expression ‘forgive and forget’ causes many to say, ‘I can’t forgive because I can’t forget’. Forgiveness involves not going over past hurts in our minds, not keeping on telling other people about how we have been wronged in the past. Forgiveness is not forgetting, it is choosing not to remember, choosing not to go on reminding ourselves of past hurts.
Secondly, forgiveness is not saying that it doesn’t matter. It does matter. Why else would we still be hurting after all these years? Forgiveness involves acknowledging the hurt, choosing to forgive and then moving on.
Forgiveness is an act of will, not a feeling. Forgiveness is choosing not to seek revenge. Some would say that forgiveness is not fair; it’s letting those who have wronged us off the hook. Some would say of those who have hurt them that hanging is too good for them.
Christians should know that they can leave it to God to repay: always remembering that Jesus paid the price, the price for all our sins – mine, yours and our enemies’ – when He, the truly innocent one, hung in agony on that cross.
Let us learn how to choose to forgive, as Jesus did on the cross, so that we can put the past behind us and allow the power of forgiveness to unlock our future. We don’t have to be a Christian to do this, but we have more reasons to forgive if we are.
But Christians don’t have the monopoly on forgiveness – we can all forgive, let go of the past and unlock our future.
It is never too late to choose to be free: free from the chains of resentment and bitterness over past hurts, and free to move on into all that the future holds for us.
Bob Gass writes ‘Word for Today’ and frequently encourages us to be thankful and to forgive. He also writes on other issues which are key to our mental health and well-being.
Word for Today’ is available at: www.ucb.co.uk