Men hold on to the wrongs done them, rehearse those wrongs, make excuses for failure out of those wrongs, and frequently poison their lives with the bitterness they keep circulating through their hearts and minds. It makes them small, blaming, angry souls rather than the large-hearted beings they are called to be. It damages everything they do and makes them wound those they are supposed to protect—wives, sons, daughters, and friends.
The keys to forgiveness are simple but costly, given our pride and self-pity. Someone wrongs us. It hurts. We work against our lesser nature and try to find the hook of compassion. John didn’t hurt me because he hates me; he’s feeling threatened. Or Jenny lashed out but I should remember her background. Or those kids stole from me, but crime is all they know, all they’ve seen in the culture around them.
There are other reasons to forgive. We should cling to any of them that move us to do the right thing. It helps to remember we are sinners and have done a fair amount of damage ourselves. Frankly, it should scare us that God himself will not forgive those who do not forgive others. There is also the negative example of those who have made bitterness their life’s work. Are they what we want to be? Small, angry, at war with life, at war with God, anchored to the past, and apart from the Holy Spirit?
So we forgive. We send away the wrongs done to us. We let people out of the little cages we keep them in while we enjoy our feelings of moral superiority. We hand the feelings of wrong to God and refuse to ever take them back. Then we shut up and never mention the matter again. When the time comes, we put our arm around the offender and we ask him how he is. Usually a hearty meal together helps the process along, particularly if the offender is a he.
This is what it means to be clean of soul, to be a Christian, and to be a man. Anything less and it is the same as setting our manly hopes on fire and living with the ashes.
Challenge: Make a list of those you have not forgiven. Be brutally honest. Ask those close enough to you to know where there is unforgiveness. Then get busy. Forgiveness is not a process of managing emotions. It is an act. You forgive.