Friday, May 23, 2014

Body, Soul, and Spirit (Forgiveness)

“How many enemies-boundless as the sky-might I destroy?
“Yet when the thought of hatred is abolished all enemies are destroyed.”

I feel forgiveness is an important and often missing piece to the puzzle of life, as well as our relationship with money. The best analogy I have is that unforgiveness is like cholesterol in clogged arteries. It blocks the flow of the Holy Spirit in Christians and poisons the life of Christian and unbeliever alike. Left untreated the pain of this problem will increase until the heart can no longer generate enough energy to overcome the constriction in the artery. Untreated the result of unforgiveness is death.

Ultimately Jesus did not tell us to forgive our enemies for our enemies’ benefit. The command to forgive our enemies is for our benefit and for our healing. Like all of us, I have had my problems in this area. Twice in my life I have suffered serious unjust damage to my career at the hands of wicked men. One of them is dead. I think I have done a pretty good job of forgiving that man, but even if I still thought vengeful thoughts about him every day, would it change his life? He is dead. I am alive.

Expressing gratitude for the gift of forgiveness I have received from God and extending love and forgiveness to my neighbor is the better way.

One of my enemies has almost faded from my mind. If I ever happen to feel the pain of unforgiveness constrict my heart, I lift him up to God. I have told God not to hold anything against this man on my account on the Day of Judgment. In my mind and in my heart, I have signed a contract in heavenly places. I believe his sins against me are forgiven now and in eternity. The rest of the problem is just how I choose to feel about what has already been accomplished.

I did better with another player in one of these unfortunate dramas. His sin was one of omission rather than commission and, as far as I know, he is a brother in Christ. I experimented with a spiritual exercise attributed to Father Gerry O’Rourke. It worked. God’s best is a face to face reconciliation but sometimes that is just impossible. In such cases you might find this a useful alternative.

Decide in your heart that you are ready to forgive the person who injured you, totally, absolutely, and unconditionally. If you are not ready, lift that person to God and restate your desire to forgive them. Tell God how much you want to let this go and put this person in his hands. It might take a very long time, but keep at it until you are ready.

Understand forgive does not mean forget. It just means you are releasing any rights you have retained to take any act of vengeance, including hateful speech, character assassination even if true, or intentionally malicious speech. It has been said, “Throw your heart over a fence and the rest of you will follow.” That is pretty much what you are trying to do in this exercise.

Once you are ready, think deeply about the entire situation. Dig deeply into your own heart and remember every injury you have suffered every pain you have felt. Write them down on a piece of paper. Write until you run out of every angry hateful thought you have concerning this person. Then write down, “and anything else that I might remember at a later time.”

Then sit down in a chair. Close your eyes and visualize that person sitting in a chair across from you. Try to make it as real and detailed as you can. Then, silently, in your mind, unload on this person. Let him know everything thing on that list with all the emotions and hurt you feel. If you can, try and imagine how that person might respond. In your mind, let them respond. When this exercise is finished, tell the person that you forgive them, totally, absolutely, and unconditionally. Tell them you release any rights to take acts of vengeance.

Then open your eyes, restate your decision and your commitment to forgive your enemy to God. Stand up, tear the piece of paper into small pieces and throw it away. Then thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water and consider the case closed.

I have seen so much energy wasted in hating or resenting those who have wronged us. In the most extreme cases, a lack of forgiveness almost guarantees that the person will never reach their goal.

Your challenge is to do good in this world. If you spend all your time resenting the success of others, how will you ever reach a position where you will have the resources necessary to be a blessing in this world? If, through God given talent and honest effort someone has experienced success, material or spiritual, rejoice in your sister’s blessings. With delight in your heart it will be easier to learn something of value that you can use to benefit yourself and others.

I am a Christian. I believe in a personal God who created the universe and who is actively involved in His creation, but these principles will work for you, no matter who you are or what you might believe. There are laws in God’s universe that impersonally apply to everyone. Gravity comes to mind. If I jump off the roof of my house I will fall to the ground. It does not matter who I am or what I believe. Likewise the first law of thermodynamics comes to mind. If I eat too much and do not exercise, Christian, Buddhist, or atheist I will gain weight.

Forgiveness is the law of the universe, hatred never ends hatred. Hatred is only ended by love. Vengeance leads to endless blood feuds, whether the participants are Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, Mafia clans in Sicily, tribes in Africa, families in West Virginia, or nations the Middle East. Hatred and vengeance it is not the way of the universe. As you work with your heart, keep this in mind. Whether you pray directly to the God who is, or whether you seek to align your life with the way of the universe, as you forgive your enemy, you will move closer to personal peace, joy, and greater success.

Jesus had so much to say on the subject of forgiveness that it is difficult to select a scripture. This seems like a pretty good example.

Matthew 5

[43] Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
[44] But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
[45] That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
[46] For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
[47] And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
[48] Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

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