Recently the pastor of my church preached on forgiveness. It brought back some old memories when I was hurt very deeply by family that I loved so much. For years I held on to that resentment and bitterness until I realized the only one that was hurting was me. It was then that I forgave those who hurt me. I tried to reach out to them, but they were not willing. I decided that was their choice but my choice was forgiveness. It was from that point forward that I felt a sense of peace in my life and a release of the anger I had harbored for so long.

I knew I couldn’t change what happened in the past, but I had the choice over how I would live in the future.

All of us, at one time or another, have been hurt by the actions or words of another. When someone hurts us, these wounds can leave us with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness and even vengeance. When we are hurt by someone we love and trust, we become angry, sad or confused.

If we dwell on these hurtful situations, grudges filled with resentment and hostility can take root. Allowing the negative feelings to crowd out our positive feelings we then find ourselves swallowed up by our own bitterness.

Holding on to bitterness and being unforgiving can bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. It can, at times, make you feel anxious and depressed. You can become so wrapped up in the wrong that you just can’t enjoy the present. I was watching a movie on TV recently when a mother asked her little girl to define forgiveness. What the little girl said was beautiful. Her answer was, “It is the fragrance that flowers give when they are crushed.”

We have all been thoughtless, insensitive and selfish at times toward others, even if that was not our intention. We must realize that we need to treat others the way we want to be treated. Romans 12:21 says, “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and bitterness. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen the grip on your life. When you forgive it doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it does not justify or minimize the wrong. By forgiving the person you are not excusing the act. Forgiveness can bring peace that helps you go on with your life.

When you forgive those who hurt you, it can bring happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to less anxiety and stress, healthier relationships, greater spiritual and mental well-being and higher self-esteem, just to name a few. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “He who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.”

As you let go of grudges, you will no longer define your life by how you have been hurt. I recently read, “No one ever gets to the end of their life and thinks, I wish I stayed angry longer. They generally say one of three things: I’m sorry, I forgive you or I love you.”

Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” In other words, if you don’t forgive, it harms your relationship with God.

I urge you if you are dealing with past anger and hurt make it a point to work on forgiveness. Forgiveness means you rub it out not rub it in. “Let Go and Let God” is my motto. God wants us to love others as He loves us. If you can learn to forgive you will feel a huge weight lifted from your shoulders.

At our homeless shelter in Culpeper we see so many women that have been hurt so deeply and just can’t find the strength to forgive those who hurt them. Years ago I read a quote that I have referred to often in my life and have shared with many in our shelter that are dealing with past hurts and forgiveness issues.

“Always pray to have eyes that see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that never loses faith in God.”

Who do you need to forgive today?

Cheryl S. Carter regularly writes on a variety of topics for the community. This article was originally published by the Culpeper Star Exponent on 10/28/17.

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