If you have ever been wronged or hurt by someone, you would know that it is difficult to truly forgive someone. It is so easy to say “I forgive you,” but if you’re honest with yourself, you would have to agree that forgiving someone is easier said than done. Forgiveness has to come from the heart therefore, true forgiveness cannot be expressed with words.
My youngest son was murdered in 2004. He was 26 years old. The perpetrator was never found. I thought long and hard about whether or not I could forgive the person or persons responsible for his death. I dreamed of facing my son’s murderer, literally. In the dream, I came face to face with a man who told me that he was the person who killed my son, but I couldn’t see his face. The dream was so vivid, that when I awakened, I thought it was real. In the dream, my son’s murderer asked me to forgive him. “You really should forgive me,” he said, “I could not forgive myself if you were to die from the poison that I drank.”
What It Means to Forgive
People say forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release any feelings of resentment or vengeance you may have toward someone who has harmed you, regardless of whether they deserve your forgiveness. Did my son’s killer deserve to be forgiven? No. Although I knew I should forgive him in my heart, I just couldn’t. My pain was too great to even think about it. Every day I came home from work, all I could do was cry. Imagine that, a 52-year-old man, crying like a baby. I had the same dream three nights in a row. That dream and those words haunted me for about a week. I was devastated from the death of my son—that someone had taken him from me—that my hurt was slowly turning into anger.
I am a Christian. My parents taught me the importance of forgiveness. But it is easy to become angry and vengeful against someone who has wronged you. And although I knew I should forgive, I could not bring myself to forgive the person or persons responsible for my son’s death. The Bible says God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish. But I was hurt, and I couldn’t understand how God could love the person who took my son from me.
Let Go of the Pain
However painful, you must let go of your pain. Although it is difficult to relive, I thought it necessary to tell my story, as it may help someone get past the pain of being wronged. Had I not known God and the love of Christ, I don’t think I could have gotten past the awful pain of losing my son. Before you can forgive, you must first deal with the pain of being wronged.
After a week of uncontrollable crying and unending prayer, I thought I was about to die. On the eighth day, while taking a shower, in my spirit, I heard God say to me, “Remember your promise.” I remembered that twenty-six years prior when my son was born, I held him up toward heaven and dedicated him to God. “This life,” I said, “I give to You.” Suddenly I realized I had to let go of my son, as he was now in God’s hands. I didn’t know how to let go. All I could say was, “O, God, help me!”
Suddenly, a peaceful feeling overshadowed me. It was a feeling that I had never felt. Then I heard in my spirit, “Go to the cemetery and write the boy’s name on a piece of paper; fold the paper and leave his name on the grave and walk away.” I immediately came out of the shower and said to my wife, “Come with me. I must go to the cemetery. There is something that I must do.” I went to the cemetery and wrote on a plain sheet of typing paper, “Jamil.” I folded the paper, placed it on the grave, said my goodbyes, and walked away. I have not shed a tear for him since.
Benefits of Forgiving
There are benefits to forgiving. When you forgive, it helps you move forward with your life. It begins your healing process. It removes the anger and malice from your heart. You're no longer giving someone else authority over you. When you forgive, it positively impacts your emotional health, well-being, and empathy for others. It lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety, you sleep better, and improves your self-esteem. The hurt of the offense might always be with you, but when you forgive, it lessens the pain and help free you from the control of the person who harmed you.
Forgive Because You Are Forgiven
In today’s money, one denarius is the equivalent of one day’s work. One talent is equal to 6,000 denarii or 6,000 days’ wages. Assuming that one day’s wage is $100, it would take an ordinary laborer about 16 years to earn one talent, equal to $600,000. The servant in this parable owed his Master 10,000 talents; it would take him 160 years to pay his debt of 10,000 talents. And although this servant owed a debt that he could never repay, his Master showed him compassion and was merciful toward him, forgiving his debt.
To forgive is a choice. There’s an old cliché, “what goes around comes around.” It’s another way to say, “you reap what you sow.” The unforgiving servant had every opportunity to show mercy and compassion to his fellow servant, but he chose to be selfish. He forgot about the mercy shown toward him for a much greater offense.
God forgave us of a debt that we could never pay. Christ paid our debt in full at the cross. Hence, the kingdom of heaven operates on the principle of forgiveness. It is God’s will that we live our lives based on this principle. Because Jesus paid a debt that we could never pay, He expects that we forgive others as He forgave us. Do not be like the ungrateful servant. After his master forgave him, he refused to forgive his fellow servant.
Don’t hold someone captive to your selfish pride. Before you harden your heart against someone, think back over your life and remember the many times that God forgave you when you didn’t deserve it.
Your Debt Has Been Paid
Imagine a man being beaten beyond recognition until his flesh is rent from his body. Having handfuls of hair snatched from his face and repeatedly punched in his face. For several years he had been telling people he was a king, so they made a crown of 6-inch thorns and shoved them into his head. They continually struck him on his head and spat on him as they made sport of him. In front of crowds of people, they stripped him of his robe, put a fabulous garment on him, and mocked him as a king (John 19:1-16). As if this cruel torture was not enough, they put a cross on his back and led him up a hill where they would nail his hands and feet to the cross and hoist it high for all to see. It must have been a horrible ordeal for this man.
The same people he healed of disease shouted, “Crucify him!” This man was Jesus. He took all of this cruelty for you and me. You might be wondering, “Why did he do it?” Jesus endured this torture because he understood the true meaning of forgiveness. Even as he hung on the cross, he called out to God and asked that He forgive those who had done this to him (Luke 23:34). Jesus gave up his life, yet in love, forgave those who punished him. The lesson he taught is simple: Forgive because God has forgiven you.
Perhaps you were hurt by a spouse, or maybe a close friend betrayed you. Don’t hold someone captive to your selfish pride. Before you harden your heart against someone, think back over your life and remember the many times that God forgave you when you didn’t deserve it. Remember, forgive because God has forgiven you.