Ahh forgiveness – such a sweet word-especially if I’m the one being forgiven. Sometimes it seems a little less pleasant when it’s up to me to extend it. Maybe we think that the offender doesn’t really deserve it. “They aren’t sorry, and they haven’t asked for forgiveness, so I’m not forgiving them”! Ever heard that – or maybe even said it yourself. I’m ashamed to confess that I have.
However, as I’ve grown, shall we say “wiser”, I’ve come to realize that forgiveness isn’t really for the other person. It’s for me. Do you know there are studies that show that when we don’t forgive, and let bitterness and anger reign in our life it seriously affects our physical and emotional health? And of course if I don’t forgive, it will certainly affect my spiritual health. “Yes, if you forgive others for their sins, your Father in Heaven will also forgive you of your sins. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father in Heaven will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Do you know who Mary Foley is? Well, I didn’t either until recently, but she is a remarkably strong lady. In 2005 Mary’s daughter Charlotte was murdered, and because of Mary’s faith, she found the power to forgive the murderer. Mary’s story is part of the Forgiveness Project. According to their Web-site “The Forgiveness Project is an award-winning, secular organisation that collects and shares real stories of forgiveness to build understanding, encourage reflection and enable people to reconcile with the pain and move forward from the trauma in their own lives”. It’s filled with stories of folks who’ve suffered truly horrible experiences.
Here’s why I know Mary is a strong woman of faith. Mary relates the following:
“Two weeks after Charlotte’s death – during which time I prayed and held onto my faith, receiving comfort and support from Christ and from my husband – God gave me the strength and grace to forgive. I didn’t say anything to my family at that time because I felt they may not have understood. When I eventually told my husband, he said, ‘I’m going to get there too one day’. But for myself I knew that if I didn’t forgive, anger and bitterness would turn me into a person Charlotte would not have liked. A person that none of my family or friends would have liked, for that matter.
At first forgiveness was about freeing me, because without forgiveness I felt I would have ended up a prisoner”. I would encourage you to read more of Mary’s beautiful story of forgiveness.
I know I can learn something from Mary Foley’s act of forgiveness. She relied heavily on her faith and she prayed. Forgiveness isn’t going to just happen. It’s a decision we make. It’s not always going to be easy, but with prayer and the power of Christ on our side we can do it. And notice her husband told her he would “get there one day too”. Forgiving is a process – some get there quicker than others but we must all get there. Another thing that amazed me about this story is that after it was all said and done, Mary actually expressed concern for her daughter’s killer. She looked at the murderer and saw what we all should see in those who wrong us. Someone who is broken and hurting in a world weighed down with sin.
And of course lastly, I have to forgive because Jesus wants me to forgive others as he has so graciously forgiven me. And He keeps on forgiving me no matter how many times I mess up! Let me do the same for others.
“Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32 (NCV)