Forgiveness: Putting the Ghosts to Rest
by Sloopy

Am I just imagining things or have some people just pulled the short straw when it comes to life’s little situations and irritations. I mean, some people’s lives seem to go through the grinder on a daily basis. It’s just one thing after another.

When you think about it, there are many things (and people) that can irritate or offend us. And there are many ways that others can hurt us, even if they really don’t mean to. One episode. One action. One word - just seems to flow into another. In such circumstances these acts aren’t really crimes, they are more often than not errors of judgment. On occasion, irritating errors of judgment. And errors of judgment aren’t something that we do intentionally. We more often than not just do them without even thinking about how our actions can affect others, or how our spoken words could, and can, destroy relationships. These are not things that we ‘plan’ to happen. They ‘aren’t’ calculated. They just - sort of seem to happen at the heat of the moment. Such behaviour sometimes being down to our own lack of sensitivity; our naivety; or our lack of experience within the world in which we live. And I think that such unintentional acts require both our understanding, and our forgiveness.

Having said this however, lets turn the coin over and lets say that the hurt inflicted upon us ‘was’, and ‘is’, calculated. It was inflicted upon us to cause pain, misery and anxiety. Such actions without a doubt are, ‘sinful’. Some might even go so far as to say ‘darn right wicked’. In my opinion, there really is no excuse for such malice. No excuse that can be given for the distress that might be caused. And yet, we have to also remember that within the hearts and minds of each and every one of us are the seeds and spores of both hatred and wickedness (Rom 3:23). Not one of us is free from our own worst enemy – that being ourselves. And the question therefore is, can we forgive such calculated acts? Can we even sometimes forgive ourselves for the things that we do to others?

I think that the problem can be within the very act of forgiveness itself! For if we leave the offence to fester within, the longer the mind dwells upon what has happened, the harder it is to go to the one who has offended us and seek some sort of recompense, thus perhaps renewing the relationship. But if we try to think on the terms of:

a) How much ‘we’ sometimes hurt others without even meaning to do so.

b) If we try to understand where they (our chastiser) may be coming from, and how in the past they may have been truly hurt, and the anger and hurt is still festering within, it might help us to come to some form of understanding as to why they react to us in the way that they do.

c) Very often, people are what they are because of the thoughts, actions and reactions of others, i.e.- what, love, joy, happiness, hate and despair, and all the rest of the emotions and experiences that they, and we have encountered, as we all journey through life.

If we try to understand that because of some ‘hurt’ or ‘pain’ within our past, it sometimes makes us react towards others the ‘hurtful’ way that we do, it can help us get to a point of understanding that, even if we aren’t able to totally forgive at this moment in time, we are at least on the road to forgiveness, and that’s a good start.

Did I say a good start? Well, what about those times when we have tried and tried to forgive, and we have made moves towards our offender in a positive way and they still treat us in a maliciously? What then? Do we just shrug our shoulders and walk away, telling ourselves that we have done our best and they just aren’t interested. Do we just count our losses and call it a new day? After all, time moves on and so does life.

Lets admit it. In a situation such as this, all that we want to do is make a new start and have a brighter future. We just want a bit of peace and happiness within our life and all of the sadness and madness to go away. Yet, even if we do venture to break away from our past, without the act of forgiveness, the shadow of our former existence is still there; it hasn’t really gone away; nor has the hurt been made null and void, no matter how hard we may have try to put it to the back of our mind. Putting the ‘ghost to rest’ just hasn’t really happened. The past always seems to be there to haunt us. We aren’t free; we’re still the victim. For our own spiritual and mental well being therefore, we have to try and turn the situation around. We have to turn our present darkness into light, because the question is: “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt 6:23b.)

So where do we go from here? I think that this is only something that we can answer for ourselves when we have been on the blunt end of such acts and actions. After all, we are all so very different – and yet – so very much alike - one from another. But having said this, forgiveness sometimes takes time; a long time, to materialise. But if forgiveness is to work, as with any other conscious action, it has to have a starting point, and that starting point has to be within ourselves, not within others. We have to recognise the fact that without forgiving - we will go on despising, and perhaps even hating those who have mistreated us. It really is a never-ending vicious circle of destruction from which there seems to be no escape. So having said this I’m going to end with a quote, I’m afraid I can’t remember where it came from, but its quite simple, and I think its worth remembering:

“To forgive is to give – forgiveness means freedom.”

Thanks for your interest!


© 2004 Sloopy

This article has been reprinted for The Epistle with permission from the author.

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