Imagine your phone ringing one afternoon, and to your utter surprise, it’s a production assistant from a major, national talk show. He wants to fly you to L.A. and book you on the show. You’re flabbergasted. Why in the world would they want you?
“What’s the topic?” you ask.
He pauses for a moment, clears his throat and says, “Mean people.” Not exactly the topic you’d want for your national television debut.
Sound crazy? Something close to this actually happened to a very nice friend of mine.
It turns out she had a childhood friend who’d been carrying a grudge against her for 15 years over the fact that when they were 12, my friend had started hanging out with some new girls, and her old friend felt rejected.
My friend couldn’t have been more surprised. She had no idea that she had even hurt the girl’s feelings. I mean, c’mon. They were 12. But her old friend had been nursing that wound for almost two decades.
As a species, we humans tend to hang on to our hurts. Forgiveness does not come cheap or easy for most of us. Our wounds are personal, so we hold them close. When we get hurt, we want to make someone pay. Ironically, when we hold on to the pain of the past, we’re the ones who usually pay the greatest price.
This spring, my wife discovered a soft spot in the wall of our dining room. I had a sneaking suspicion that we had termites. Fortunately, we caught them early enough before they could do any structural damage, but I couldn’t believe how quickly they could devastate a house. When I popped off the baseboard, I found that it was little more than a paper-thin shell that crumbled in my hands.
It looked fine on the outside, but the inside had been eaten away.
As termites consume wood, resentment consumes our spirit. Bitterness chews at our soul and robs us of peace. And though we may look like we have it all together, inside we’re hollow and fragile.
One of the most powerful words I’ve learned from the Bible is the Greek word “aphiemi.” It’s one of the words used for forgiveness. It is the picture of releasing something completely and never taking it back. Think of cutting a boat loose from a dock and sending it out to sea or a child losing a helium balloon to the sky.
It’s gone forever.
That’s the biblical picture of forgiveness, to just let it go. It’s the grace God extends to us, just as He wants us to extend it to others. Just because someone hurt us in the past, it doesn’t mean we should let them keep on hurting us. When we refuse to forgive them, we do just that.
Forgiveness doesn’t just let our offender off the hook. In a greater way, it lets us off the hook as well. Now that’s a talk show I’d like to see, “Freed By Forgiveness.” All of us are invited to that one.