31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 11: Forgive the Unforgiving

confessionalI love my job, working with authors to help them express themselves with eloquence and creativity. An editor is part coach, part taskmaster, part encourager, part critic, and part intercessor. At its best, the author-editor relationship is based on trust and mutual respect.

Of course, once in a while — thankfully, only rarely — something goes wrong. A misunderstanding occurs, or an ego gets bruised. In one memorable instance in my career, an author complained to my boss about me so vociferously, I could have lost my job. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so shocked and betrayed; just days before, we had been together and she had thanked me for the work I had done on her project.

For weeks I puzzled over the injustice. How could I have so completely misread the situation? In the end, I decided to forgive; the author’s actions, though ignoble, had ultimately induced me to try something new. I wrote her a note, letting her know that I harbored no ill-will. (She did not reply, but I was at peace.)

Choosing love and choosing forgiveness is never a wasted effort. Life isn’t always fair. Good guys don’t always win, and bad guys don’t always get caught right away. But forgiveness levels the playing field in important ways. We may never know how that choice affects other people, but we can be absolutely sure it will help us.

To be honest, I haven’t always taken the high road. I’ve harbored resentments and wasted hours of precious sleep, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out how to make the best of a bad situation — at work, at home, or with relationships with extended family members. Each time I’ve decided to “forgive the unforgivable,” God has changed the landscape of my heart, forging paths, building bridges, and leading me beside peaceful, rejuvenating waters. I’ve also discovered . . .

*  Forgiveness is a journey, not a destination. Every day, another step.

*  Forgiveness is best expressed in words. Hearing the words spoken aloud (to the one you’re forgiving, in confession, or reading a letter aloud to an empty chair) often “breaks” the power of resentment or bitterness in a way that simple mental assent may not.

*  Forgiving ourselves can be the most difficult part of the process — and the most necessary. Try to give yourself as much latitude as you would give your best friend, if she had done the same thing.

*  Forgiving and feeling goodwill toward those who have hurt us are two very different things. Yet feelings are not facts, and sometimes negative emotions like resentment and bitterness need to be forcibly uprooted. Praying can be a good way to release residual anger. If that is not possible, try praying to be willing to pray for that person. Spiritual health, like physical health, is a matter of small choices, made daily.

Whom do you need to forgive this week?

 

 

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