Have you come across individuals or people who easily forgive you?
Or have you faced people who haven’t forgiven you for some days, months and even years? Was it easy for you to forgive the person who hurt you? Or was it difficult to forgive them?
Forgiveness is a challenging issue and it’s not easy to approach at first.
We all know of individuals or families who find it difficult to forgive each other, while there are some people who seem to be able to forgive easily.
But have you ever looked at forgiveness from a health perspective?
I used to live with the idea and teaching that forgiveness was a spiritual principle, rather than looking at it from a health point of view. That was until I attended a health summit in February of this year, which gave me a wider perspective about forgiveness through the eyes of health.
So, I decided to bring a programme called “Forgive to Live” to a women’s retreat held in Aitutaki from August 25-27. The speaker for the weekend was Adrielle Carrasco, a health director. I thought bringing this programme to the ladies and men would be challenging in that they would be required to talk about their personal challenges involving forgiveness. I thought it would be especially difficult for women who were going through hurt and pain.
However, it was a relief. It brought about peace, the ability to reconnect with each other, joy and the rebuilding of relationships.
I would like to share three simple principles of “forgive to live”.
My life is your fault - the blame game:
Issue: When you have worked hard and believe you will get a promotion, it doesn’t happen and you end up disappointed. You become resentful to your boss and colleagues and you become slack in your work. This affects your performance and you start using the blaming game.
The natural response for human beings in the blaming game is that we tell others of the injustice, hoping the circumstances will change. We start to fantasise about revenge or we withdraw from the person who hurt us and maybe even from life in general, all the time blaming the other person for our current circumstances.
Blame says: What happened is your fault, therefore, the misery in my life is your fault and my life is your fault.
Solution: When you blame someone, you are in fact giving them control over your life, or at least over your emotional life. You need to put yourself back in charge of your life and not give control to the one who already has demonstrated he or she does not care about your happiness.
Living rent-free in your head: The high price of your grievance story
Issue: Our lives are largely the result of the stories we tell ourselves. If you continue to tell yourself that someone has ruined your life, then you will probably allow the story to replay in your mind, which will destroy you and affect the way you say negative things about others. In so many ways, our body reacts to what is going on in our mind more than to what is going on in reality. So we develop a grievance story when we suffer some kind of wrong, a negative event, and frequently retell the story in our minds and to others. This kind of behaviour is not healthy to your whole being and it does not heal your injury. It consumes your life and hold anger towards the person who hurt you.
Solution: If you want to move from a bitter life towards a better life, you need to understand that past hurtful experiences exist only in your memory. The bad events trap your reality at the present moment. Therefore, take the courage to forgive so you can be free and move towards a more hopeful future. But it is a process to forgive, and it isn’t easy.
Choosing Forgiveness: Choice, not chance, determines your future
Issue – How would you feel, your best friend decided not to invite you to his/her wedding or birthday? The common responds would be hurt and angry. Too often we hurt more than is necessary, simply because we would rather suffer than forgive. For some reason, we believe that staying angry is better than getting over our anger.
Solution: Every time someone hurts you, you have a choice to make. And the choice you make, whether to forgive, or not to forgive, determines which of two distinct pathways you will travel. Choosing to forgive is choosing to stay in control and not letting someone else have the keys to your life. Do not give up your choice to forgive for the false imitation of blame. The story of Adam and Eve is a story of suffering and loss. Both Adam and Eve chose the blaming game to deal with their circumstances rather than choosing forgiveness.
Friends, I hope these three lessons of forgiveness may give you a simple tool to start your journey of healing to forgive, so that you live with healthy bodies. Choosing to forgive reduces stress levels and high blood pressure and improves mental health.
More importantly it heals your relationship with others. And interestingly, it can even save your life. It is the Lord’s design for us to live on a daily life of repentance, confession and forgiveness to one another, and more importantly, to him. Matthew 6:14 says: “For if you forgive others their trespasses your heavenly father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses.
There are more lessons about forgiveness. Next year the Forgive to Live programme will be conducted in the community. Those with questions or who need help should enquire at the SDA Mission office.
May the blessings and grace of God filter your life today.
Pastor Sarah Aratai
Adventist Health/Women’s Ministry
Note: Resource adapted from Forgive to Live by Dr Dick Tibbits