The other day I received an email from somebody who apologized to me for saying hurtful things to me. I was of course touched by the kind gesture and amazed by the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of the believers. It must have been the Spirit’s work because that incident supposedly took place more than twenty years ago. The only problem is that I have no recollection of the incident at all. I don’t even remember the context or the nature of the interaction.
I feel sorry for that person because for the past twenty years that incident had lodged in the memory, causing internal discomfort. While on my end, I felt nothing and have lived in peace because I don’t even remember it. I can only surmise that the reason I no longer have any recollection of it is because I did not take those words to heart. And if I was indeed hurt, I would have dispensed my forgiveness, then, and not harbored it in my heart these 20 years.
Now I have a better understanding as to why Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Not only is forgiving one of the natures and acts of God toward us—which we should inherit—but it is also a blessing for us—it gives us freedom. When we forgive, we are no longer bound by what someone else has done to us. We are free.
Not only are free not to hate those who hurt us, but we are also free to wish them well. In his book, Forgive & Forget, Lewis Smedes explains, “You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.” Smedes concludes, “Forgiving, then, is a new vision and a new feeling that is given to the person who forgives.” When we forgive, we see life—and those who hurt us—in a new light and with a new feeling. It’s no longer bitter, blurry or dark; it’s now clear, bright, and light.