1. Forgiveness Removes the Bitterness
“The divorce humbled me. It made me slow down and take a hard look at myself. I saw all the pride that lay buried in my heart. I saw a hard-hearted man who had always lived for himself and leaned on his own understanding. I began to see why Cheryl must have felt so empty and alone.” -Jeff Scruggs, marriage counselor and co-author of "I Do Again"
Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs divorced after Cheryl had an affair. Jeff saw it as all her fault. He had remained faithful. And it was Cheryl who wanted the divorce, not him. Then one night while reading in bed Jeff stumbled across a verse in the Bible from Proverbs 3 that said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.” He realized then that he had done exactly the opposite of that verse. He thought he had it all figured out. He leaned on his own understanding. Once he dropped his pride, he could see where he had contributed to his wife’s sense of loneliness and ultimately to his marriage falling apart. Forgiveness begins with a taste of humbleness. When you truly understand that you, too, are flawed, forgiving the flaws of others becomes possible. Forgiving Cheryl allowed Jeff to escape the bitterness and constant negativity that clouded his life. Forgiveness can do that for you, too. Check out the story of how Jeff and Cheryl reunited after being divorced for seven years.
2. Forgiveness Changes the People Around You
“Usually, I would scare them off at the point of a gun. But Jesus had told me to love them and I decide I’m going to follow Jesus. I asked what they were doing, and they lied to me at first, saying they were just fishing. I told ’em I had good news for them. They could have any fish I had in my trap. All of a sudden, up and down the river, they quit stealing my fish. It didn’t make earthly sense.” -Phil Robertson, from A&E’s Duck Dynasty
Long before the Robertson family became famous for their duck calls, family patriarch Phil made a living catching catfish. But he had a problem with thieves. Someone kept pulling up his fish traps and stealing the fish out of them. Inspired by Jesus’ words to “love your enemies,” he decided to give the thieves all the fish they could take. An act of love and forgiveness towards people that were literally stealing food off his family’s table. What happened surprised even him: they stopped stealing. Forgiveness and love motivated the thieves to change their behavior and stop stealing from him. You may be waiting for whoever has wronged you to change before you offer forgiveness, but you might just find that the first move is yours.
3. Forgiving Yourself Gives You Freedom
“Perfectionism is like a drum. As a gymnast you’re taught that nothing except perfection is acceptable. You’re never thin enough. You’re never good enough. You’re never sticking your landings perfectly enough. But in that moment, I knew I could forever trust in God. I heard God telling me it was all going to be okay.” -Shawn Johnson, Olympic Gold Medalist
Shawn Johnson spent her life perfecting the art of gymnastics. But perfectionism won’t be satisfied even by Olympic gold. If you find yourself your own worst judge, then Shawn Johnson has a word for you: “It’s going to be okay.” Let it go. Surely, if the God of the universe is willing to forgive you, you should be willing to forgive you.
4. Forgiveness Gives You Peace
“I can be redeemed from sexual abuse. I am not that. That’s part of my story, but it does not define me. To be redeemed out of that mentality—that’s powerful. Jesus wants to take your story and make it different. He wants to redeem it. I discovered there was a freedom in that. I didn’t have to hide anymore.” -R. A. Dickey, MLB pitcher and Cy Young Award Winner
One of Major League Baseball’s most unique and talented pitcher, R. A. Dickey, long struggled having been sexually abused and raped as a child. All his life, he held onto that pain and that trauma. The anxiety and sense of guilt that sprung from that pain even affected his pitching. It was only after he was able to let it go and seek counseling to move past it, that he gained a peace in his soul. That peace led to him being able to pitch like never before, winning him the Cy Young Award. No matter how heinous you’ve been treated, holding onto that pain will never grant you peace.
5. Forgiveness Lets You See the Big Picture
“There is a time that you have to walk away and let God cleanse your soul. It’s like when you get a pumpkin and you scoop out all the guts and you put that candle, that light in there. God scooped out all that crap out of me for eight years. He put that light inside of me. That’s what needed to happen.” -Brian “Head” Welch, lead guitarist of Korn
Brian quit drugs and left his wildly successful rock band, Korn, to follow after Jesus. What followed were the hardest 8 years of his life. He got to the point of cursing at God, frustrated that his life’s problems got worse not better. Sometimes the one you think doesn’t deserve forgiveness is God himself because life itself isn’t working out like you think it should. But despite his frustrations with God, Brian held onto his faith and trusted God for the big picture. In so doing, he got to see the pain he had to go through led to something better than he could imagine. What are you needing to trust God for?