I read something the other day that had more than a small impact on me.
It said simply,resentment is the assassin of the soul.
I didn’t agree initially. I reasoned that every single one of us has people we have a hard time forgiving. And most of us have enemies, or at least people we view as threats. I think we have all heard the scriptures about loving your enemies and turning the other cheek, but when it comes down to living this way, it just seems…impossible.
To be honest, I have glossed over these verses for years.
It never occurred to me that forgiveness is not just for the person who has committed the wrong.
I read this on an airplane (Why is it I have my clearest thoughts on planes? Does this happen to you too?), and the flight was long so I had plenty of time to contemplate it. Is resentment destroying me from the inside out? Is my anger towards others–my feelings of being cheated or ripped off–dictating my decisions, feeding on my heart? Had I been damaged by something so subtly throughout my days that I had not even been slightly aware of it?
I decided to begin taking an inventory. I started thinking about people who had wronged me over the years. I started focusing on events, replaying them in my mind. I reflected on how I felt about these events and people and relationships. And something strange began to happen.
I began to realize that although I donâ€™t walk around screaming in anger at strangers (well, at least when it isnâ€™t planned for the sake of a show onstage), I am harboring much more bitterness than I realized. There are many people I have not forgiven for what they have done to me. And I have made many a decision out of anger, out of wounded-ness, than I previously had been willing to admit to myself. I pictured the people who had wronged me and the resentment swelled, fresh.
In fact, I realized that this parasite had, in fact, been living in me. And it had been thriving.
But this was just the tip of the iceberg. It turned out I had been carrying weight of titanic proportions.
I started then to think about all the people I had wronged over the years. The list was long. Longer than I would be willing to admit in casual conversation. I began making a list of events and people again. And many of them were people I hadnâ€™t seen in years. It was scary. And I began to feel sick at the thought that there were people out there who just might, when they recall me, have a fresh surge of strong negative emotion as well.
I was feeling very sick.
But maybe that was the answer…
To be honest, since I became I believer I have never really understood forgiveness. I have never really known how to do it or how to receive it. Maybe you are like me and you have a hard time with this concept as well. Oh, I say I forgive people when they ask for it. and I say I forgive myself when I make mistakes. And I say I have received forgiveness from God many times. But when I say those things there has been little heart behind it, little emotion. Itâ€™s like I am just reciting scripted lines.
Then it hit me.
I feel sick because I am sick.
I feel sick because I am sick.
I am carrying around with me a disease. A real, true, living spiritual disease. And every time I act out in selfishness against someone else I am manifesting this disease. We refuse to accept this most of the time. It isnâ€™t until we realize there are people out there who are angry with us for what we have done to them that we begin to realize who we really are. There is something sobering about realizing you have transacted sin. That you have altered someone elseâ€™s life through your actions in a negative way. And all you want in the whole world is to know that person forgives you.
I have a disease, an addiction. It is sin. Selfishness. The opposite of love. And I need forgiveness to live, to move forward, to not rot away inside little by little.
I thought about my sickness more. I began a new, slow journey with my creator. A trip to the center of my being, to get to the core of who I am, so that heaven can have its way with me. And in order for Him to have his way with me I had to let him into the deepest places. And my core is ugly.
I thought further. I realized that I am not the only one who is sick. In fact, every person who had ever wronged me was sick too. Maybe they werenâ€™t totally aware of it. Maybe they were completely unaware. But every act of evil perpetrated against me was an acting out of sickness.
And I began to understand forgiveness, for the first time.
When someone hurts us, we want to blame them, we want to hold onto what they have done to us. We want to make them pay. But ultimately, they are just acting out the wounds that they have been inflicted with, just like we do. They are acting out their pain, their disease. Their genetic predisposition toward selfishness, triggered by other people harming them.
When you see that the playing field is even, it makes it a lot easier to forgive others. And a lot easier to ask and receive forgiveness ourselves. Only then will we stop acting out of our disease and begin acting out of love. And when you realize you, yourself have guilt over the things you have done, the need for forgiveness takes on a whole new meaning.
I need forgiveness to truly live.
Try this exercise when you have some time alone. See what you uncover. I am not promising everything will be perfect immediately, but you will feel the weight lift, little by little.