Don't Underestimate the Power of Forgiveness
I come from a large family and both of my parents came from large families. This means I have lots of relatives – uncles, aunties, cousins, cousins-in-law and, of course, brothers. Conflict is a natural part of living in community and when your ‘family community’ is a large one, conflict is inevitable. You see, the conflict that occurs in families is not just about the day-to-day, it can have historical roots and there are hurts and misunderstandings that we are often unaware of. So significant can the hurts and perceived slights be that they can fracture families.In cases such as these, communication, understanding and forgiveness are all necessary for reconciliation and healing.
I was led to reflect on forgiveness after listening to the parable of the Prodigal Son. If you haven’t heard this story it features in Luke’s Gospel 15:11-32. Without spoiling the story, Jesus had been accused of welcoming sinners and actually eating with them by a group of Pharisees.Pharisees were a Jewish sect who, in Jesus’ time, emphasised strict interpretation and observance of the Jewish law. They also spent a lot of time time trying to find fault in Jesus’ teaching and his interpretation of the law.
Jesus tells this story, which is well known and is played out regularly in families. A thoughtless and selfish child leaves home to live life in their own way, fails and comes home again seeking forgiveness. The remaining faithful child is upset about the welcome given to the younger child after their misdeeds and so the story goes on. If you think about it, parents deal with these sorts of situations pretty regularly. However, the point Jesus was making was that no matter what we do, if we are truly sorry, our loving Father will forgive us.
The big question is what is forgiveness and what does it look like? The Greek word for forgiveness is aphiemi and it literally means ‘to let go’ as when a person doesn’t demand payment for a debt. It doesn’t mean condoning behaviour, pretending that nothing happened, allowing others to take advantage of you or pardoning when there is no contrition. I know this is sounding complicated, however, there are very good reasons to forgive when we have been hurt if there is true repentance.
The benefits of forgiveness are not just to do with being good people and letting others off the hook. There are tangible benefits for our own health and wellbeing. Letting go of our hurt, anger or disappointment and forgiving others provides the following benefits:
1.Forgiveness lowers our stress levels
2.Forgiveness is good for our heart
3.Forgiveness lowers pain, both emotional and physical pain
4.Forgiveness lowers our blood pressure, and;
5.Forgiveness extends our life – so forgive and you will live!
Buddha once said that “holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal and throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Forgiveness on the other hand is good for your body, your relationships, and your place in the world. That’s reason enough to convince virtually anyone to do the work of letting go of anger and working on forgiveness.
Have a great week.
Dr Frank Pitt
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