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Forgiveness Beyond Belief

Most of us have probably seen the news story about the police officer in Dallas who was found guilty of murder and the victim's brother's forgiveness of that officer. In case you missed it, here's the link. A powerful and emotional story of a man of faith who chose to forgive in spite of his pain. He even asked to hug the officer and comfort her at a time of incredible grief. Most of us can't imagine offering forgiveness when we're filled with grief, sadness, and anger. What enabled him to offer up forgiveness? His faith played a large part in his decision and as he witnessed her pain through this process he showed tremendous compassion and empathy for her. His choice to forgive shows us that it can be done even under horrific circumstances. So many of us hang on to even our petty grievances or hurts because of stubbornness, pride, or insecurity. We may hold a grudge to remain in control, punish others, and protect ourselves from future pain, but in reality we only hurt ourselves. When we choose not to forgive we allow that emotional pain to fester inside of us.

Maybe we grew up with a family of grudge holders and learned from the best how to cut others out of our lives. We may believe that severing ties with a friend or family member will make them realize their mistakes, but instead it only contributes to the divide and feeds the anger and hurt. An inability to forgive causes physical and psychological problems that can eat at your soul. When Jesus commands us as his followers to forgive and let go of the pain, he is freeing us to develop and maintain healthier relationships. If we have truly forgiven someone (and I'm not suggesting this is an easy task), we can interact and engage with that person without being consumed with negative emotions. A misconception is that forgiveness is only possible when the other person acknowledges wrongdoing and apologizes. Of course that would make it easier to forgive, but sometimes people don't know what they've done wrong or struggle themselves with forgiveness. There is tremendous power in forgiveness and we are all capable of it; the choice is ours.

As I watched the video of the victim's brother offering forgiveness it brought tears to my eyes. His apparent heartfelt and genuine choice is so unusual in our often divided and disillusioned society that it caused a flurry of media. It begs the question, how do we learn how to forgive? For starters, remember that forgiving others is a choice and a process that usually doesn't happen overnight. We can offer forgiveness through an email or letter by sharing our feelings with the person who hurt us. Or we can decide to talk on the phone or in-person directly. In the best scenario, the person who receives the forgiveness can acknowledge their part in the conflict and offer an apology, however remember, even if there is no apology it is worthwhile. It's not about being right or wrong but about letting go of the pain and choosing not to allow it to consume us. We can more easily treat others with respect and kindness when we let go of unresolved conflict and hurt. I've heard that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Choose forgiveness and choose a healthier, happier life.

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Thank you for your post. I understand and agree. The part that trips me up however, is how to manage a relationship where a parent or sibling won't say "I'm sorry," continues passive/aggressive behaviors, and sometimes just outright meanness, yet expects and wants a healthy relationship with you. Forgiveness can happen, but what does one do with the relationship?

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