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How To Forgive Those Who Offend You

Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury. -E. H. Chapin.

Louis B. Mayer, one of the founders of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), told the story of his boyhood experience. One day, he had a fight with a boy and
came home with bruises. As his mother tended to his bruises, he complained to her about the boy who was rude and unfair and was to blame for the fight. His mother was silent. After she had comforted her son, she took him to the backyard of their home. In the distance they could see the hills that looked beautiful, drenched in sunlight. 

She told her son to call the boy who hurt him all the bad names he could imagine. Louis was pleased at the prospect. In a hate-filled voice he shouted accusations and swear words

The echo from the hills was music to his ears. His mother stood listening. When he finished swearing, his mother appealed to him to shout: God bless you. Confused, Louis stood back for a moment. Then, he obeyed his mother and shouted: God bless you. The hills echoed: God bless you. Louis never forgot the lesson his mother taught him, without preaching on forgiveness.

  • Treat others how you want to be treated, the energy you put out comes back to you.

How do we respond when we are offended? Most often, we want to strike back. We wish harm on the person who caused us pain. We publicize the wrong done to us and continue to malign the offender. Then what? Life goes on, for the offender and for us. Not one wee bit is changed, except that our hearts reek of hate and our minds are sullied with wicked thoughts. Is it worth it? Of course, there is pleasure in tit-for-tat. There is smug satisfaction in putting down the offender. But for these intangibles, there is no tangible benefit in striking back.

However, there is a huge negative that might follow – the blame game might never end. On the contrary, when we forgive there are some positives. What are they? One, the offender is stunned. He expected retaliation; now he receives forgiveness. Two, because of that he is in our debt. That would make him uncomfortable. Which means that revenge through forgiveness is a better option. Three, we do not carry around a load of bad memories and much pain. Instead, we cast away that load and resume our lives with no hint of the incident. Four, without intending to, we grow taller in our own eyes and in eyes of the wrongdoer. Without doubt, the merits of forgiving outweigh those of retaliation. We do not realize the benefits because we do not reflect on them. On an impulse we react, to regret our fallen ways.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, during which time he suffered painful persecution and abject humiliation. When he became President of South Africa, after his release and a massive mandate from his people, he could have struck back and had his vengeance. Instead, he forgave his enemies and begged his compatriots to forgive the wrongdoers. Real power is when you have it and restrain yourself from using it. That was Mandela’s response. With that act he became an even taller leader in the eyes of the world. Like him, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi led by example. The example Jesus gave from the cross is the most edifying of all.

Even ordinary people, in their ordinary lives inspire us. During the days of Apartheid, in South Africa, a black woman and her two children were walking down a street, when a white man passing them spat at her. Unfazed, she wiped her face and said: Thank you, Sir; now, for the children. In the face of such an unexpected and brave response, the white man stood shamed and motionless.

  • Ask God to help you. There is limitless love in the spirit.

Forgiveness does not come easy. Only the courageous can forgive. Not the cowards. They nurse grudges and wait for an opportunity to get even. Only the courageous and mature see the blessing in overlooking the faults of others. Only the compassionate can find space in their hearts to accommodate offenders in the spirit of peace. Such grace and strength can come only from God, when we ask for help. Ask and it will be given you. Matt. 7: 7. We will need to be asking often because we are persuaded to forgive not once, but seventy times seven Matt. 18:22.

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