Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Best Gift Ever: FORGIVENESS

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With the holidays upon us, often times we are forced to interact with people we'd otherwise avoid; simultaneously, we are also bombarded by messages of "gifting". It occurred to me that the combination of these two phenomenons could actually be the solve for a happy, healthy holiday season. Give the greatest gift you can give– forgiveness.

Two years ago, just before the full push of the holidays in 2008, I gave the greatest gift you can give to someone (and yourself), forgiveness. It was a situation where I would've been fully within my rights not to forgive. (Aren't they all?)This person had wronged me and my family. Trust had been violated in the most egregious way. The pain of the situation was so intense that there were moments when I physically felt like I could not breathe.

Yet, my first reaction to this was to forgive. Not the knee-jerk, Christian cliché "I forgive you" sort of forgiveness, but the brokenhearted, "what else will bring me peace" brand of forgiveness.

I was angry, hurt and broken down in spirit just as “the most wonderful time of the year” was starting. How could I possibly face the holidays in my brokenness? and How was I going to live in the same community with this person? were a few of the questions that swirled in my head almost constantly. And all the while, my heart was telling me to reach out to this person and offer forgiveness. I was even moved to invite this person to my house for Thanksgiving dessert. I remember it like it just happened. The few weeks leading up to the invitation - I was certain would be declined - were strangely calm. Our marriage and family counselor advised me that I could rescind the offer because I had "nothing to prove." I tripled checked with my husband that he was comfortable with my decision, which he was although it was clear that he did not understand it.

Finally, the doorbell rang on Thanksgiving day just after we'd finished eating and right on time for dessert. With no hesitation, I answered the door and invited the person who wronged me and their family into my house. As I greeted them with a hug, I felt an immediate relief and peace come over me.

Not because I was some “saint” who'd done that person a "favor" forgiving them and inviting them to my home after they'd wronged me. Nor was I relieved at the obvious shame and brokenness I felt in their embrace.

I was at peace in the depths of my soul because I'd put action to my forgiveness. I had not only “told” them they were forgiven but I'd displayed my forgiveness in a very real way. Did I instantly forget the damage this person had inflicted? No, of course not. Did we rekindle our friendship and resume where we'd left off before the problem? Not at all, that was actually the last time I saw them in a social setting. We are no longer in contact. That is not the point.

To this day, I am still amazed at how that act of obedience and true forgiveness set the tone for what ended up being a wonderful holiday season and has benefited me over and over again. I am not recommending everyone do what I did, however I throw out the challenge to consider giving someone in your life the gift of forgiveness.  It is truly the best gift you could ever give.

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