Forgiveness Set Me Free

By Kelli Beaucage

A friend wrote me an angry e-mail the other day. After her letter opened with the usual cheery greetings and newsy updates, the words turned sour as she began to share what was really in her heart.

My friend was having parent problems. And even though she is a grown woman, her parents, particularly her father, were still trying to "control" her life.

"Obviously I haven't reached [their] level of acceptance and excellence," she wrote, adding, "every time I see my parents, whatever level of confidence I feel . . . gets destroyed".

I sympathized with my friend's anguish - I know what it's like to have people reject my views as invalid, and then manipulate me into doing what they want.

Still, though I could empathize with her frustration, the root of her anger became apparent as I read.

I knew I had to respond. And I knew I needed to be careful to not add "fuel to the fire". Still, I had to be honest and give my friend advice that would help lead her on the path of healing.

That path is called forgiveness. It's not an easy path, but it is the only path to freedom.

I don't think many people truly understand the power of forgiveness. Instead, we justify our angry feelings and when someone wrongs us, we seek revenge. Sometimes that revenge is reflected in our words and actions. Often, it plays out in thoughts as we fantasize about the other person getting humiliated and punished in some way.

I remember an incident when I was in high school, when my friend said some things that were totally out of line. I responded with the silent treatment for three months. Years later I realized that although I felt justified at the time, my hurt feelings were not worth losing a good friend. I regret that I did not forgive a lot sooner, for I could have saved a friendship.

So how do we learn to forgive and live a regret-free life? Over the years I've come to learn that forgiving others is first of all a choice - a deliberate act of our will. Believe me, when someone has wronged you, you will never "feel" like forgiving them!

But I've come to realize that I can't order my life according to my feelings. Moreover, if I choose to do what is right, despite how I "feel", my feelings will eventually change. When I forgive, it's not just a matter of letting someone off the hook. Most important, I free myself from the pain, hurt, bitterness and resentment that inevitably accompanies a refusal to forgive. I set myself free to experience peace and fulfillment. The power of forgiveness is truly amazing.

So in answer to my friend, I had to make this message clear. I shared with her what Jesus taught about those we call our "enemies": bless, don't curse them. And then He added something else - pray for those who do you wrong! That's quite a tall order when you think about it.

But I know it works. I experienced Jesus' forgiveness firsthand when I entrusted my life to Him. He forgave me of every wrong that I had ever committed. And by receiving His forgiveness and love, I was empowered to forgive others. It really is a wonderful way to live. And His forgiveness is available to anyone, anytime. All you have to do is ask.

Kelli Beaucage is a freelance writer and ordained minister. She and her husband, Leonard, pastor a church in Saskatchewan, Canada. If you would like to interact with her about this article, e-mail: bfordsvictory@sasktel.net

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