RELIGION COLUMNIST

OPINION | BRENETTE WILDER: Practicing forgiveness

Brenette Wilder
Brenette Wilder


There is a proverbial closed door that many of us have constructed within our hearts that separates us from someone or something. Some doors are massively forged under pressure with stacks of unresolved hurt. Year after year, we fortify that door with anger that enhances the strength of the door to protect and prevent forced entry.

Much like a castle door that is constructed from thick heavy wood and iron, it would take a battering ram to knock that sucker down.

The door represents unforgiveness: the inability to release a harm caused by an offender. The door size and material type represent the gravity of the offense. The fact that the door is closed represents a form of blockade or protection from an unwanted intrusion.

Smaller doors are the most common. Usually, they are built using simple materials and take longer to construct. Using my human imagination, the door is fabricated with weak particle board material that can only withstand weaker attacks. Consequently, if an olive branch is offered early in the fabrication process by the offender, the door can easily be collapsed.

Consider a simple misunderstanding of who said what. By addressing the miscommunication early and explaining your intentions, you have a greater chance of resolving it. But, when unaddressed, the misunderstanding starts to fester and the particle board material fossilizes into a stronger material preserving it within your heart.

As time passes, it becomes the foundation for the next harm, and the next, until an unforgiving fossilized door is erected and the strength of an olive branch loses its power.

Why is it so hard to forgive? For an impartial answer, I read an article found in Harvard Health Publishing, entitled, The Power of Forgiveness.

From that article, I want to share two excerpts that caught my eye. The first states that "there are two sides to forgiveness: decisional and emotional. Decisional forgiveness involves a conscious choice to replace ill will with good will. This is often quicker and easier to accomplish."

The second excerpt points out that "emotional forgiveness is much harder and takes longer, as it's common for those feelings to return on a regular basis. This often happens when you think about the offender, or something triggers the memory, or you still suffer from the adverse consequences of the action."

But there was one solution in the article that resonated with me: "Practice forgiveness." I love this idea. The article suggested that most of us do it without noticing that we are practicing forgiveness. It can be anything like forgiving someone from taking your parking place that you waited several minutes for. Although you were annoyed and said a few choice words under your breath, you intentionally decided to let it go.

We also forgive people when they accidentally bump into us on a crowded street. Each time we say sorry to random offenses, we are practicing forgiveness. Each time we choose to allow the effects of what someone said or did roll away like water off a duck's back, we are practicing forgiveness.

But don't take it from me. Read your Bible. Forgiveness is part of Jesus' character. In John 8, we read about Jesus forgiving a woman caught in adultery. He forgave and restored one of His disciples, Peter, for denying Him three times, Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17. He even taught us to ask for forgiveness for our own sins, Matthew 6:12.

Jesus' practice of forgiving led Him to the climactic act on the cross; where he said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing," Luke 23:34.

Keep in mind that He said this after being lied on, spit upon, beaten, and scourged. Yet, He still forgave their/our ugly sins.

And, when He spoke to the crowd while dying on the cross, it was not words of unforgiveness that were spoken. He asked God to dismiss their sins, and place them on Him. In other words, charge their guilt to His account; and impute His righteousness on them. His decisional intention to forgive replaced our ill will with His good will. What love! What sacrifice!

I know that it's hard to do, but Christians are called into a ministry of forgiving. Jesus's family business is now our family business. We forgive not because it is easy; we do it because God sent His only son, the Wonderful Counselor, the Powerful (Mighty) God, the Peacemaker, to be born, to die, to save us, and to teach us to forgive.

So, no matter what you have done, His forgiveness is unconditionally available to everyone that repents of their sins, and believes upon Him. And, it is available for you to give to others.

Brenette Wilder, formerly of Altheimer, Ark., is a blogger at wordstoinspire105953116.wordpress.com and author of Netted Together, https://nettedtogether.org.

Editor's note: Pastors, ministers or other writers interested in writing for this section may submit articles for consideration to [email protected] or [email protected]. Please include your phone number and the name and location of your church or ministry. Writers should have a connection to Southeast Arkansas.


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