The older I get, the more I appreciate the importance of forgiveness. When we tell God we’re sorry for a particular sin and will do our best not to do it again, He mercifully forgives it and forgets it so much better than we humans can ever do.
Nonetheless, if we claim to be God’s children, we have a heavy debt: forgiving others. It’s not always easy. And forgetting can be more difficult than forgiving.
Jesus modeled perfect forgiveness when He was dying on the cross. He forgave the men who were crucifying Him. I feel confident that He could have forgiven his betrayer, Judas Iscariot, just as He forgave the disciple who denied Him, Simon Peter.
So Jesus set the example I needed to follow when someone cheated me out of thousands of dollars some years ago. It took years, and—as you can tell from my reference to it—I’ve not forgotten the incident. What you can’t see is in my heart, though. The resentment is gone, even though the memory isn’t.
So, what’s this “Tale of Forgiveness Denied” then?
Some years ago, I used to walk at lunchtime with a couple of coworkers—ladies. One day I brought my camera to work—this was before the days of cell phones with cameras—to take on our walk that day. I thought it would be nice to have a picture of my walking partners.
Wouldn’t you know one of them was absent that day. I already had the camera around my neck when I learned that, however, so I still took it when I went to walk with the other lady.
She told me not to take a picture of her. I know that some people are really skittish about having their pictures taken, but I’m also aware that some folks just say that because they’re modest about their looks and don’t really mind the picture.
I kept holding the camera up as if I were taking a picture, and she kept protesting. Finally, I snapped a picture, and she blew up at me. Only then did I realize how badly I’d misinterpreted her protests. I felt horrible.
Even though I had several other shots on that roll of film, I rewound it, took the film out, and gave it to her, along with my apologies. I hoped that would take care of the problem.
It didn’t. I lost her as a walking partner, and it was years before she was willing to talk to me again. And when she did, it was as if we’d never had any issues. I suppose that meant I was forgiven.
I’m not judging her, but I’m saying she taught me a lesson. If I fail to forgive someone who’s wronged me, I may not only be destroying a good relationship but adding to that person’s guilt. Unnecessarily.
And grudge holding isn’t doing me any good, either.
Have you failed to forgive someone in your life for a wrong he or she has committed? Just think about Jesus and the soldiers who put him to death. He forgave them, and they probably weren’t even sorry for what they’d done to Him.
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