By Karen Steinhauser
Although Valentine’s Day has come and gone, I am still in a “love” state of mind. We can’t speak of love without talking about forgiveness, because they go hand in hand. If you have been in this world for very long, you have had the opportunity to forgive someone. If you have been in this world very long, chances are someone has had to make the choice as to whether or not to forgive you. We all goof up! It is inevitable, because we are all flawed human beings.
My middle son Elijah was a “trying child.” He seemed to know every button I had and pushed them all numerous times on a daily basis. He would misbehave, and I would be very upset with him. Without fail, when I would go to my room, it wouldn’t be long until a piece of paper would come sliding under the door. Sometimes he had used a marker, and other times he would paint with watercolors, but they would all bear the same message, “I’m sorry.” He was quite ornery, but he was always quick to ask for forgiveness. He was adorable with his blonde hair and big blue eyes, and when I would see those sweet little notes, my heart would just melt. I still have a collection of them. If he committed a “serious crime,” sometimes the note contained an “I love you” to go along with the “I’m sorry.” Well, I was just a puddle when I would get one of those. Unfortunately, forgiveness isn’t always that easy.
Many times in life we never get an apology for the harm or hurt done to us. What then? We have a decision to make. To forgive or not to forgive. Someone once said; to not forgive is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die from it. Do you know how many relationships are lost and ruined, all because someone cannot let go of what has been done to them, or many times what they THINK has been done to them?
Then there is the old saying, I can forgive but I can’t forget. Much of the time this translated means, I’m going to find a way to hang onto at least some of the wrong you have done to me. We build walls to keep others out, forgetting that the very walls that keep others out, keep us in! Until we love without walls, we really aren’t loving at all. Love is over the top! It is risky! It takes chances! It goes above and beyond! LOVE WILL COST YOU! To not love with all our being causes us to never reach our full potential, because we live a guarded life. Our relationships and our friendships can never be all they were meant to be when we attempt to “love carefully.” There is no freedom or fulfillment in that.
I have personally had the experience of choosing to forgive someone who hurt my children. However, I have a dear friend that has been the ultimate example of forgiveness that I have witnessed thus far. As with any sensitive subject I write about, I never use someone’s story without getting their permission first.
My friend’s daughter was missing for two years. Her body was eventually found and she had been brutally murdered. She was kidnapped and shot execution style while she pleaded for her life. After a period of time, my friend met with the man who committed this crime. He asked for her forgiveness. She gave it. Not because he deserved it, but because she is a Christian who believes that in order to receive forgiveness, one must give it. I cannot even imagine how difficult this was. I do know that no one could do this in their own strength. My friend told me this gave her some peace in the situation. Suppose she had chosen to hate this man from now until she died, what could be some positive benefits? I can’t think of one! What I can think of are many negatives. She could have become a very bitter person and drove away family and friends who love her. I personally believe that unforgiveness can cause physical issues as well. It eats you from the inside out like a cancer. That’s not a pretty picture; but unforgiveness is ugly. It not only robs you of relationships but your peace and joy also.
I hope that reading my column this week will cause you to evaluate your own life. Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there someone you need to ask for their forgiveness? You always run the risk when you ask someone for forgiveness, they may choose to not accept your apology. You have to walk away knowing you have done all you can do, and it’s no longer between you and them. It just became between them and the Ultimate Judge. Unforgiveness will keep you a victim, while choosing to forgive makes you an overcomer.
Many relationships could be restored if only someone would make the first move. You can’t make peace with a corpse! Don’t wait, be the bigger person. We are all in need of mercy and grace. I find myself needing huge amounts of it. It would be unfair to be a big receiver but not a big giver! True freedom comes when we are able to release those who have done us wrong. This may not be a popular subject, but I assure you it can be a life changing one. The choice is yours! Choose wisely!
Thank you for hearing me out as I have shared what’s on my heart. I hope we will get together again next week as you settle down someplace quiet, maybe with a cup of hot tea, observing the first few hints of spring. As we talk about what’s on my heart, but much more importantly, what can be learned from it. As always, God bless.
Karen Sparks Steinhauser is an Estill County native who currently resides in Richmond, Kentucky. She is a Christian children’s author and speaker. If you wish to contact her or schedule her for an event, you may reach her by email at Karensteinhauser7@gmail.com or 859-893-1758.