When I was doing my graduate work in Criminal Justice, the university held a symposium on the death penalty, which I and some of my classmates attended.
One of the panelists was an older man who had been on Death Row for 17 years before new evidence and updated DNA technology helped to overturn his conviction. When released, he was not given a large settlement by the state. He was not even given an apology. He was given a handshake and a bus ticket. That’s it.
Miraculously, he said he held no ill will toward anyone; he was just happy to be free. You could feel joy emanate from him. He said he’d spent his time in darkness and just wanted to enjoy every day.
Another panelist was a lady whose daughter had been raped and murdered by a man now on Death Row. When asked if she would attend the execution, she emphatically stated she would not.
When asked why, she said, “I have forgiven this man. Yes, I hate his crime, but God will not allow me the privilege of hating him. I guess I can’t reconcile in my mind how killing someone because they killed someone is supposed to even things out. He is paying for his sins and that has to be enough.”
I thought that was amazing. Even as a Christian, I’m not sure I could adapt that attitude.
Here is where most Conservative Christian bloggers would insert a whole slew of Bible verses about forgiveness, but I am not most bloggers. I know if you want to read verses like this, you can do a Google search for “scriptures on forgiveness.”
I am writing this from my personal experience. You have to forgive someone, even if what they did to you was criminal, heinous. Forgiving isn’t excusing what they DID to you. We need to let go of a potentially deadly emotion which, if left unattended, will destroy us. In a previous writing, I detailed my journey of forgiveness with my father. I can tell you from my own life that forgiveness brings healing.
Holding on to unforgiveness plants a bitter seed, eventually taking root, not only destroying your outlook, but your life in general. Forgiveness, however, is a cool, Spring breeze for your heart. It releases the chokehold which bitterness and anger may currently have on you.
I want you to have an abundant life, but it’s impossible to live in emotional abundance if you are harboring bitterness.
Forgive, not for them, but for yourself.
Take the first step; your spirit deserves the happiness only forgiveness can bring.