"Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future."

Spiritual Wellness

You've been wronged--now what? When you have been victimized, what does your response say about forgiveness? How do you react to someone who has committed an offense against you? Is it really possible to take the advice of spiritual quotes that try to encourage us to forgive and move on? For example, sometimes it may be harder than we might think to take the advice of Lewis B. Smedes when he said that:


"Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future."


Everyone finds themselves on the receiving end of an offense from time to time. When that happens to you, your first option is to cling to feelings of betrayal, anger, and pain. However, this inevitably leads to bitterness, a loss of joy in life, the potential for health complications, and spiritual bondage. The second option--the better option--is to forgive the offense.


Most of us would sure like to be able to live our lives with a willingness to forgive, but we often find it pretty difficult to do. This is because many people have a misunderstanding about what forgiveness is and what it requires. If you would like to change that and to take control of your resentful feelings in order to have a better future, then you've come to the right place. Here are four clarifications of what it actually means to forgive.


1) Forgiveness does not excuse a wrong; it puts it behind you.


Contrary to popular belief, offering forgiveness does not excuse or condone an offense. Rather than saying, "What you did is okay," forgiveness says, "What you did is not okay, but I am going to forgive you anyway."


The benefit for you as the forgiver is that forgiveness frees you from bondage to the wrong. Otherwise, you could never move beyond it. Withholding forgiveness ties you to that moment in history, whereas forgiveness enables you to leave the wrong in the past. You can be set free to move forward in life.


2) Forgiveness depends on the forgiver, not the offender.


Ideally, the person who committed the offense will approach you to seek your forgiveness. This is the standard Jesus set in Matthew 5:23-24. Even if that does not happen, however, you can still choose to forgive and reap the benefits of forgiveness. You can still move forward in life unhindered by the wrong that was done to you, regardless of whether or not the perpetrator seeks forgiveness. "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13, NIV).


3) Forgiveness is a sign of strength, not weakness.


In 2006, a gunman in Pennsylvania took the students of a one-room Amish schoolhouse hostage. Before the ordeal was over, the gunman had fatally shot five children and then turned the gun on himself. In the aftermath of this tragedy, the public was shocked to learn that the Amish community had extended forgiveness to the family of the gunman. To many people, this was seen as an act of weakness.


In truth, however, offering forgiveness in such a circumstance is extremely difficult. The easy thing to do would have been to remain angry and hostile. In choosing to forgive, the Amish displayed great strength.


4) Forgiveness is an act of mercy, not trust.


The old cliché says, "forgive and forget." In reality, that is neither possible nor advisable. You can forgive, but it is unlikely that you will ever forget. At best, the wrong that has been done to you will fade until it is a distant memory. Since you will not forget, forgiveness is really a display of mercy. You are choosing to not use the wrongdoing as a weapon against the offender.


This display of mercy, however, does not mean you have to leave yourself vulnerable to a similar offense in the future. Forgiving does not mean you allow the wrongdoer to repeat the offense. Instead, until the wrongdoer regains your trust, you can and should take the appropriate precaution to prevent a repeat offense.


Forgiveness is not always easy but it is always worth it. Not just because of what it means for the offender, but because of the benefits it holds for you.


Spiritual Prayer 


Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Abraham, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.” When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” He called down famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food; and he sent a man before them—Joseph, sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true. The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples set him free. He made him master of his household, ruler over all he possessed, to instruct his princes as he pleased and teach his elders wisdom. Then Israel entered Egypt; Jacob resided as a foreigner in the land of Ham. The Lord made his people very fruitful; he made them too numerous for their foes, whose hearts he turned to hate his people, to conspire against his servants. He sent Moses his servant, and Aaron, whom he had chosen. They performed his signs among them, his wonders in the land of Ham. He sent darkness and made the land dark—for had they not rebelled against his words? He turned their waters into blood, causing their fish to die. Their land teemed with frogs, which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers. He spoke, and there came swarms of flies, and gnats throughout their country. He turned their rain into hail, with lightning throughout their land; he struck down their vines and fig trees and shattered the trees of their country. He spoke, and the locusts came, grasshoppers without number;  they ate up every green thing in their land, ate up the produce of their soil. Then he struck down all the firstborn in their land, the firstfruits of all their manhood. He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold, and from among their tribes no one faltered. Egypt was glad when they left, because dread of Israel had fallen on them. He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night. They asked, and he brought them quail; he fed them well with the bread of heaven. He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed like a river in the desert. For he remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham. He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy; he gave them the lands of the nations, and they fell heir to what others had toiled for—that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws.

Praise the Lord.