Guilt, Grace, and Grudges

The thought never occured to me that I would use CHER as a reference in this blog.  Yes, I  mean the CHER of I Got You Babe fame.

As I was giving some thought to the subject of forgiveness, I came across an old hit of hers—If  I Could Turn Back Time.  The lyrics of the song are a powerful plea to forgive and to be forgiven.  Where is the power to forgive?

Some people have an incredible capacity to forgive those who have offended them.  CBS news told the story of Mary Johnson who lives next door to the man who murdered her son—and she is friends with him!  While I know that forgiveness is a defining principle of New Testament theology, I’m not sure that my well of forgiveness runs as deep as does Mary Johnson’s.

Several years ago I coined a phrase,  forgiveness is forwardness liveness, with the idea that we cannot afford to carry a grudge.  This is because the  health benefits of forgiving far outweigh the disadvantages of nursing a grudge.

Fred Luskin, PhD, is a health psychologist at Stanford University, and  he is the author of Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness (Harper Collins 2002).  Luskin says that carrying a grudge raises your blood pressure, depletes immune function, makes you more depressed and causes enormous physical stress to the whole body.  Forgiveness interrupts this downward spiral by purging the toxic mixture of anger, bitterness, hatred, and resentment.

Whenever I think of forgiveness I think of Joseph.  His brothers sold him into slavery; he was falsely accused by a woman and imprisoned by her husband; but, through all of these trials his faith never wavered.

After the death of daddy Jacob, Joseph’s brothers knelt before him and asked him to forgive them.  Here we see the guilt of the brothers and the grace of Joseph:  You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.

Joseph could have wasted his life by seeking revenge and nursing a grudge; instead, he took an eternal perspective.  His life focus was not on past grievances but on future goals.

We can’t turn back time, but we can do something about the here and now.  Like  Bil Keane (Family Circus) said:  Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

I encourage you to use the present to give the gift of forgiveness.  The one who gives will be as blessed as the one who receives.

I hope this thought keeps you thinking.

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