As Easter approaches, I am reminded of one of the key messages of the season, forgiveness. This is something that I have learned to get better at, okay, maybe a little better at, truth be told, I struggle with this! The last words of Jesus as He hung from the cross were to ask for forgiveness of those who had turned against Him. The ultimate act of love. It’s such a powerful image. When I think of that message and what I must let go of, it’s dust compared to what He was dealing with during His final moments.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34
Those words bring it all home for me. During this season of Lent, the message of forgiveness was something I decided to work on and explore in my life. The human condition is filled with reasons to hate, to strike back, seek revenge and stay filled with anger. The furthest emotions from having a forgiving heart. Being angry about being wronged makes me feel convicted, helps me build a case that I am right in my own mind. In reality, it only serves to give the problem a greater hold over my life.
We all have a role to play in forgiveness, even if the other person does not see their own actions, it is up to us, to let go. Self reflection on the matter can feel uncomfortable. When I’m wronged, or hurt, I want to hit back, but when I do this, it just gives more fuel to the argument and puts off reconciliation and forgiveness.
How important is forgiveness to God? Very. When we don’t forgive, it robs us of the full potential God has planned for us. We can’t be angry and living freely, at the same time. We are reminded repeatedly to forgive. In His final hours on Earth, Jesus preached about forgiveness, during the last supper He reminds His followers, “this is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28).
Other examples, the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12), and when Peter asks Jesus, how many times should we forgive someone, Jesus replies seventy times seven.
What I am practicing during this season is addressing the hurt of someone’s actions, an event, a disappointment, an unfulfilled expectation, and all other things that can crop up at any given moment. I need to give it way less importance and move on. I am taking it a step further and being kind to those who don’t deserve it. Forgiveness can be a lifelong process, I honestly don’t want to waste a lifetime on it!
Here are some helpful ways I have found to nurture the pain of anger and send it on its way.
- Prayer and Meditation. Turn inward and to God for comfort.
- Smile. Just smiling can reduce hurt feelings.
- Positive Outlook. Focus on what’s going right.
- Taking Note. Write it down, write a letter, journal.
- Stay Optimistic. Shrug it off and move forward.
- Acceptance. Work through the stages of helping yourself heal.
- Exercise. Get the endorphins going and move.
- Good Relationships. Celebrate what is good in the relationships that build us up, and not the ones that tear us down.
- Healthy Anger. Taking emotion out of the response and working towards resolution.
Learning to let go is necessary. After a while it’s just not healthy to continue to hold on to what hurts us, or be around those who hurt us without the situation improving. Letting go with forgiveness and love is a good move, we don’t want it to sour us to the beauty of life.
As this season of Lent draws to a close, I will continue to embrace the act of forgiving quickly and moving on. There is no time limit on this. What’s important for me is not to let the situation fester. I know too, that I must ask for forgiveness, as this road runs both ways. There may be years of grudges to put out at the curb…I am letting that crap go! Letting go may mean, letting go of relationships, or offering kindness even when I don’t feel I should.
Happy, joyous and free is where I want to be. During this season of renewal, I plan on doing just that. I hope that during Easter we all find it in our hearts to let go of the pain and suffering that has been inflicted on us, and come down from the cross and rise again.
P.S. Here’s a fun activity to do during Easter Dinner: Have the kids (or adults) draw or color on paper cut outs of eggs, scatter them around the dinner table. At dinner have everyone pick out a paper egg and write on the back what they are asking to be forgiven for or what they are letting go of, that is a burden. Go around the table and share.